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Big Sky’s world-class snowboard brothers

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Left to right: Elijah, Isaac and Ethan Singer at Mt. Baker in 2021. Young Ethan is a skier, for now. PHOTO COURTESY OF JILL SINGER

Isaac Singer plans to go even bigger than he did in last year’s world competition in Austria; now eligible, Elijah hopes to qualify for 2024.  

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

It’s a big deal for any athlete to rank among the top five in the country. As members of the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation’s Freeride Team, the Singer brothers are making it look normal.  

Isaac Singer and his younger brother Elijah grew up trying to best each other on the slopes of Big Sky. Three years apart, they have always competed in different divisions. Finally old enough to compete in the Junior division of the International Free Skiers Association, 15-year-old Elijah hopes to prove his worth this winter and qualify for the Freeride Junior World Championships in Austria. For the past two winters, 18-year-old Isaac has done exactly that; in January 2023, he’ll travel to Austria for his second consecutive go at an IFSA world championship.  

In a phone interview with EBS, Isaac said he’s been dressing in full snow gear and running sprints in his backyard to build stamina for this upcoming second attempt. Last January, he placed sixth in the world, but he knows he could have done better.  

“[I was] definitely nervous,” Isaac recalled. “The run is a lot longer; it’s 2,000 vertical feet that you’re dropping in one run. By the time I got to the second half I was winded.” 

In Europe, Isaac explained, he doesn’t get to practice on the competition terrain. He just gets one run, one shot to rank atop the world.  

Isaac and Elijah’s mother, Jill Singer, said that last year, Isaac entered the world competition confident he could win. He had been studying the venue, Ski Resort Kappl, from home and had an ambitious line in mind based on the winning line from the adult competition.  

“I ended up choosing the line I didn’t really want to do because I thought it was safer,” Isaac said. “[This year] I want to do the ‘A’ line that I was thinking of last year.” 

Left to right: DeWolf, Isaac and Elijah scope competition lines in Kappl, Austria before last year’s Junior Freeride World Championships. PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW DEWOLF

BSSEF head snowboard coach Drew DeWolf said Isaac is going all in this year, possibly sending a 360 and some big grabs on 20- to 30-foot cliffs. 

“There were a lot of moving pieces to line selection last year,” said DeWolf, who will join the Singer family in Austria again this year. “He was unable to hit some of the features he wanted to hit… Variable snow conditions, bulletproof ice, and 3-4 inches of sunbaked snow.” 

To earn a second consecutive invitation to represent the United States in “worlds,” Isaac needed to be nationally ranked in the top five last winter. He ranked third. DeWolf said it’s a big deal to qualify twice. 

“It’s really hard to do,” DeWolf said. The only other snowboarder from Big Sky to qualify back-to-back was Holden Samuels, now a pro snowboarder on the Freeride World Tour who improved from seventh to second place between the 2017 and 2018 IFSA Junior World Championships.  

Isaac’s coach for six years, DeWolf described him as a progressive big mountain rider.  

“He can ride park but it’s not necessarily his focus. He likes cliffs, he likes wind lips, he likes to backflip big features. He backflipped ‘big rock’ last week—probably a 30-foot backflip. He’s got an aggressive riding style. Not so flowy but driven, trying to go as fast and big as possible.”  

On Isaac’s upbringing in Big Sky, DeWolf said, “you can just tell that he’s been in technical terrain for most of his riding career. This mountain develops skiers and riders that are able to ski in technical, steep terrain responsibly.” 

DeWolf still coaches Isaac privately once or twice per week, to keep his technique and control sharp with big competitions ahead.  

After competing in worlds from Jan. 23-26, Isaac is planning to enter the adult circuit and move on from juniors. His goal for this season is to familiarize himself with competition against adults.  

DeWolf said it’s great to see driven athletes like Isaac take snowboarding into the adult years. 

“He’s a very fit kid, minds his Ps and Qs and stays out of trouble, and gets the job done,” DeWolf said. 

Isaac plans to enter IFSA qualifier competitions including Kicking Horse, BC on Feb. 13, Crested Butte on Feb. 28, Crystal Mountain on March 7, Grand Targhee on March 9, and Snowbird on March 30. If he earns enough points across those events, Isaac could qualify for the Freeride World Tour.  

“That’s everyone’s dream,” Jill said. “He doesn’t feel like he’s too far off.”

“I’m super excited,” Isaac said. “I guess I’d say, it’s something I’ve been working toward for a really, really long time… I’ve been training to get into this circuit since I was 11 years old, so I’m excited to take the first step.” 

He graduated from high school this past spring, and he’s been working to earn his personal training certificate—a career he said will be helpful with snowboarding. He works for a painting company two days a week, and having aged-out of the BSSEF program, he rides the other four or five days with groups of friends and locals.  

Isaac said he’s working to secure some sponsorships, but he couldn’t share any more information yet. 

Elijah a ‘typical 15-year-old kid’ 

Coach DeWolf said that Elijah Singer is motivated by his love for the sport.  

“He’s your typical 15-year-old kid,” DeWolf said of the prequalified national athlete who won a freeride competition at Palisades Tahoe in February 2022. “He’s a good kid for sure.” 

Elijah takes the podium after winning at Palisades Tahoe last winter. PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW DEWOLF

DeWolf said that unlike Isaac’s calculated, focus driven style, Elijah is more into freestyle with flowy lines and tricks on urban features. The younger kids at BSSEF look up to Elijah, DeWolf said. 

He’s entering his first winter in which his points will count toward a junior national ranking. If he winds up in the top five this season, he’ll punch his own ticket to Austria for early 2024.  

“[Isaac and Elijah] are pretty neck and neck in terms of skill, and they push each other a lot,” Jill said. She explained that Elijah doesn’t want too much pressure on him. Both he and Isaac have always been nationally ranked near the top for the last few years. 

“My main goal is to qualify for worlds,” Elijah said, expecting to compete against roughly the same crop of young athletes amongst whom he’s ranked in the top five for the last few years. “That would have been enough to get to worlds.”  

He added that the junior division will open up more challenging terrain on bigger venues.  

“I’ve kind of wished I could compete in [juniors] for the past couple years, but that’s not how it works,” Elijah said.  

Singer vs. Singer 

On Jan. 6 in Whitefish, the Singer brothers will open their 2023 season by competing against each other in a fleeting age-group overlap before Isaac moves on to adult freeride competition. 

The Whitefish comp will be the one of the earliest-season events they’ve ever signed up for.  

“We’ve been competing in freeride for five or six years now, and never got to compete together,” Isaac said. “So we are pretty excited. In a competitive setting, I think it will make us both go bigger. It’s all fun and games though, we’ve both been pushing ourselves.” 

Elijah (left) and Isaac drop into the Hidden Gulley at Bridger Bowl. PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW DEWOLF

Elijah agreed, adding that it should be a small event with familiar competition from Montana.  

“They’ve never held a freeride event in Whitefish,” he said. “I’m really excited for that competition because I love the Whitefish mountain.” 

DeWolf said that as a coach, it’s a full circle accomplishment to watch the Singers compete against each other.  

“They started as 10-year-old kids, and it’s been amazing to watch them progress to absolutely ripping it,” DeWolf said. “It’s a testament to what a team culture can do, having positive influences in their life. It really shines through with those two, and it’s been a pleasure to coach them.” 

Isaac and BSSEF Head Snowboard Coach Drew DeWolf. PHOTO COURTESY OF JILL SINGER

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