By Scottie Williams Explore Big Sky Contributor

BIG SKY – Big Sky Resort and the Subaru Freeride Series canceled the final stop of the season, March 24-27 on the Headwaters Cirque venue, for the safety of the competitors. Leading up to the scheduled competition, southwest Montana experienced unseasonably warm temperatures and received little snow, making conditions undesirable for riders and SFS officials.

With the final two series stops being canceled – including the Alyeska, Alaska event – due to snow conditions, the champions were crowned based on their performances at Snowbird, Utah and Telluride, Colo. Big Sky’s Chance Lenay, a 26-year-old Lone Peak Tram operator, took third place in the SFS men’s snowboard division during this abbreviated season.

Lenay moved to Big Sky from Gig Harbor, Wash. in 2007. He’s been competing at a high level for four years and has pursued podiums on the Subaru Freeride Series and the North Face Masters of snowboarding. Lenay began competing in 2011, finishing second in the Headwaters Runoff. Four years later he now shares the podium with Canadian Jonathon Pennfield and Harrison Fitch of Salt Lake City, Utah, in third place for the 2015 SFS overall point standings. The SFS is now one of the most prestigious big mountain competitions in the U.S.

“I am beyond stoked with the third place finish,” Lenay said. “The podium finish, honestly, re-instilled my confidence in competing. I am more motivated than ever to throw down next season and go for a [Freeride] World Tour spot.”

Lenay has been fine-tuning his snowboarding skills on Lone Mountain since Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin merged in 2013. He spent previous years hiking the Headwaters Cirque with daily dedication, giving him an advantage during competitions held on the north-facing venue. When Big Sky and Moonlight became one resort, Lenay changed jobs from a Headwaters chairlift operator to Big Sky’s tram.

After spending very little time on the south face of Lone Mountain in the past, Lenay says he improved his skills by finding new lines with creative features all over the mountain, and they’ve made him a better rider.

After sending a large air in the direction of the high-energy crowd, Lenay finished 16th in early February at Snowbird. In March at Telluride, Lenay rode in control during both days of competition, and launched one of the biggest airs of the final day, landing in fourth place.

The final two stops of the season were each canceled a few days prior to the scheduled start of the events, where Lenay would have been battling for second place overall, with first place already secured by Pennfield.

Family and friends encouraged Lenay throughout the season, cheering him on at home through the live, online broadcasts.

“Being able to watch him express his talent and passion while competing, is both a gift to me and an emotional roller coaster,” said Chance’s mother Cyndi Lenay. “I probably don’t even breathe until the next day [after the competitions].”

Lenay says he appreciates Big Sky’s Lift Operations Manager Ross Smethurst for allowing him the time off to pursue his passions, as well as the rest of his support network.

“I can’t go without also thanking my mom Cyndi, my girlfriend Amy Viers, and my wonderful family, as well as the Big Sky community for all their support,” Lenay said.

Lenay picks his way through the Headwaters Cirque during the 2014 Subaru Freeride Series competition. PHOTO BY MITCH CASEY

Lenay picks his way through the Headwaters Cirque during the 2014 Subaru Freeride Series competition. PHOTO BY MITCH CASEY