Bound for B.C.
Big Sky local returns to the Freeride World Qualifiers
Big Sky local Chance Lenay was busy recently, packing up his gear and snowboard and heading to Revelstoke, British Columbia to compete in the Freeride World Qualifiers held on January 10.
The competition has two regions: Europe and the Americas. Last year, Lenay earned the distinction in that competition of being the top snowboarder in North America, but second for the Americas.
“So, there was one other guy who cut me out. Getting that close gave me the confidence to go for it again,” said Lenay. “There are only eight snowboarders who compete in the world tour. So, you are competing against the top snowboarders in the world. You have to requalify, they cut two and keep six. Some competitions will have some wild cards, so there’s always eight or nine,” he said.
Perhaps late to the game, Lenay started snowboarding when he was a lift operator at 18 years old, never stepping foot on a snowboard before that. He’d spent his high school years playing soccer, baseball and skateboarding near Seattle. What he calls the “Seattle influence” got him into trouble. He was heavy into street racing as a teen.
“Full-on ‘The Fast and the Furious’ stuff: cops and helicopters. I got arrested,” he said. He took that need for speed to the mountain and hasn’t slowed down since. Snowboarding allows him that adrenaline fix he craves.
Lenay admits his parents are happy he’s chosen legal means to get his adrenaline rush. They’re proud of him, he said: Proud he found what inspires him.
What really kicked-off his dream was getting second place in the local freeride competition called the Headwaters Spring Runoff when he was a lift operator at Moonlight Basin. It was his first time competing.
“That boosted my confidence in being able to be a competitor in some of the upper level competitions,” he said.
Still, he would tell other lift operators his dream of going pro and riding technical lines. He says their response was almost always the same: “No way, dude. You’re already 20 years old. You’ll never be a pro.”
“So, it’s nice to go back and hit those lines I talked about,” said Lenay.
Nowadays, he’s competing at an elite level and is sponsored by Big Sky Resort, Venture Snowboards, Caliber Coffee, Flylow Gear, Beehive Basin Brewery, Big Sky Trout and Nikwax. Averaging about six competitions a year, at around $1,000 each, he’s glad for the help.
One of Lenay’s “zen moments” from competitions occurs when he sees his name listed as one of the top three riders of the day, “on a steep, gnarly venue.”
Those steep, gnarly venues often take place in terrain that requires a hike to access lines. So, there’s added inspiration for getting to the world tour. “You get helicopter drops and untouched venues. It’s a whole different world,” he said.
It seems persistence has paid off for Lenay, no matter what age he started riding and competing. He’s never stopped trying – never let up on his dream of being on the Freeride World Tour. Snowboarding represents freedom to him: the freedom to shred; to get that rush without the risk of handcuffs; to prove people wrong; and to ride where and how he wants to ride.
“The kid in me would be pretty excited to grow up if he saw what was happening now at this age,” he said.