County youth nationally ranked snowboarder

Eight-year-old Tristen O’Steen snowboarding in a recent competition at Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Valerie O’Steen
Eight-year-old Tristen O’Steen snowboarding in a recent competition at Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Valerie O’Steen

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

For eight-year-old Tristen O’Steen, snowboarding is as natural as walking. So much so, that he is second in national rankings in slope style and boardercross. His next stop – the national competition in Colorado.

O’Steen’s mom, Valerie, said he started snowboarding at the ripe old age of five.

“I’m a skier from the time I was little, but the rest of the family had never done anything, so when we moved here, Tristen and my husband [Chuck] both took up snowboarding, and me and the other two kids [Jared and Leah] took up skiing,” she said. “He was very natural as soon as he got on his board. He took off like it was nothing.”

This year, O’Steen joined the Snowshoe Snowboard Team and began competing.

“All together there’s been nine competitions and he has eight gold medals and one silver,” Valerie said. “In his age group nationally, there are 34 in slope style and 47 in boardercross. He is ranked second in both.”

The competitions – slope style and boardercross – are much more than simply riding down the mountain.

“Slope style is everything in the terrain park, so doing tricks, going over rails, over jumps, doing grabs, sliding your board sideways over a rail, things like that,” Valerie said. “Then boardercross is when you have four competitors line up and you go through a course that’s all downhill. They might have rollers and turns. It’s just a race. Whoever can get to the bottom the fastest wins which is difficult when you have jumps and turns to go over.”

One of Tristen’s gifts that has propelled him to the top is his fearlessness and ability to take a fall and get back up.

“He has no fear,” Valerie said. “He falls – he gets right back up. He keeps his spirit. We had a scare with him the very beginning of the season. He went over a big jump at Silver Creek and landed completely wrong. He was taken to the emergency room by ambulance on a back board. I thought for sure, ‘gosh, he’s never going to want to get up and do this again,’ but no, he was sitting on the hospital bed watching videos on my phone of snowboarding tricks.”

Tristen’s family and supporters on the mountain are very excited for his chances in Colorado and in the future.

“We’re super excited,” Valerie said. “I’m excited for his potential. He’s very well-known on the mountain by the ski instructors because they’ve trained him from day one and, of course, employees of Snowshoe, but he’s also well-known by repeated guests on the mountain. Guests come back and know who he is. That, to me, is awesome. A lot of them are saying that he’s the next little Shaun White. If he keeps going he’s going to be so awesome. He’s very much supported by his coaches on the snowboard team and other kids on the mountain. It’s nice to see that encouragement because it keeps him going. We want to see him go really, really far.”

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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