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Tail grab for the ages. Chance Lenay at Big Sky Resort where he honed his snowboarding skills on his down time as a tram operator. PHOTO BY SKYLAB MEDIA HOUSE

Q&A with local snowboarder Chance Lenay

By Doug Hare EBS Staff

BIG SKY – Seattle native and Big Sky local Chance Lenay continues to accrue sponsors, fans and podium spots on his quest to qualify for the Freeride World Tour, the world’s most competitive freeride circuit. After finishing last season as the No. 1 ranked male snowboarder in North America on the Freeride World Qualifying Tour, he narrowly missed being selected to the top tier of the sport but remains hopeful for good things to come.

Explore Big Sky: You finished fifth at Revelstoke in the first competition of the year. What did you take away from that competition?

Chance Lenay: One big change to the competition format this year is that we are only competing one day—one run instead of two days with a qualifying day—which is how the Freeride World Tour is ran. So, it’s much less strategy and it’s more about throwing down as hard as possible on your one run—which is something I enjoy much more.

EBS: Since finishing first last season among male snowboarders in North America on the FWQT, you have acquired a few more sponsors. Can you tell me more about those opportunities?

C.L.: I have definitely had more local support since last season. Small local businesses like Caliber Coffee and Big Sky Trout have been a huge help with travel costs.

EBS: For those who have never watched a freeride competition, can you give a rundown of a typical competition weekend and how the athletes are judged?

C.L.: The athletes are given a certain venue, usually very steep terrain with cliffs and chutes. There is one start gate at the top and every athlete drops one at a time with the judges at the bottom of the venue with binoculars and score sheets. You are judged on five different categories: technique, control, fluidity, air and style, and overall impression.

In his first freeride competiton of the season, the Revelstoke FWQ 4*, Chance Lenay (far right) took fifth place. Big Sky rider Holden Samuels (second to right) placed third.

EBS: What are the next competitions you plan on competing this year?

C.L.: I am heading to Crested Butte on Feb. 9, then onto Taos, Kicking Horse, and Crystal Mountain … the championship event will be at Kirkwood in California. I will also be competing in the Big Sky 2-Star Freeride [Competition] on the 29th of March.

EBS: Your goal is to make it on the Freeride World Tour to compete against the most elite snowboarders in the world. How can you accomplish that this season?

C.L.: Out of the six 4-Star events, they only take your top three finishes and apply points depending on what place you finished. They add up the points and give you a ranking. I have to be the No. 1 snowboarder in “The Americas” region. Last season I was first in North America and second in “The Americas”—one spot away from my goal of competing on the FWT.

EBS: You had never ridden a snowboard before you moved out to Big Sky in 2007 when you were 19 years old. How were you able to pick up the sport at that age so quickly?

C.L.: I had snowboarded maybe five times in Washington before moving to Big Sky at the age of 19. I did a lot of skateboarding growing up and that definitely helped transition into snowboarding. Another huge factor was operating the tram at Big Sky Resort. Having the access to Lone Peak on an everyday basis helped exponentially.

EBS: Do you have a coach? Someone that you rely on for advice?

C.L.: Erik Morrison has been a huge help in getting me on the Venture Snowboards team and I always go to him when I need advice on the business side of snowboarding and sponsors. Not to mention he is a phenomenal snowboarder. I always learn something just sitting back and watching him ride. He is also an awesome role model and he always tries to motivate me as much as possible. Huge thanks to you Erik!

EBS: You’ve had the chance to compete against Holden Samuels, who after numerous successful results on the Freeride World Junior Tour, is now making waves on the adult qualifying circuit. What do you think the future holds for Holden?

C.L.: The future is definitely bright for Holden. The rookies on the FWQT are stepping up the game big time which is making the rest of us not ride as conservative and send it. Having Holden next to me on the podium at Revelstoke was pretty awesome. Big Sky represented big time in Revy.

EBS: If you could compete on any venue in the world, which would you pick and why?

C.L.: The Bec des Rosses in Verbier, Switzerland, would be my top pick. Not only because it showcases the gnarliest big mountain riding in the world, but the Freeride World Tour Championship is held there.

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