Boarder headed for the big time

There's a long and venerable tradition, in American sports, of watching gifted athletes giving their all on television and thinking, "Hey, I could do that." There's even a phrase for it: armchair quarterbacking.

And then there's local snowboarder Elaine Supp, who takes it to a whole other level. The 28-year-old Cherry Valley native, who's a frequent flier on the slopes of Plattekill, was watching a fairly new sport called boardercross on the televised X Games this January, and thought she could do it. And, mirable dictu, she could. From Plattekill's blog, Winter in the Catskills:

As Elaine explains it, she texted her sister saying, “I’m going to try this.” Her sister understandably thought she was joking. After all, the sport is intense, competitive and dangerous – few women decide to start in their early 20s. But Elaine was undaunted. She went to the USASA website and found an event in Windham the next weekend. “I wanted to see if I could do it,” she says with a laugh.

Just a few months later, she's the top-ranked boardercrosser in the Catskills region. Next month, if her fundraising efforts pay off, Supp will be headed to Copper Mountain, Colorado for the USASA Nationals. She'll be up against some stiff competition: women who started the sport much younger than her, with coaches in tow and dreams of Olympic glory. (Boardercross was added to the Winter Olympics just recently, in 2006.)

Bob Basil head of the Catskill Mountain Series of the USASA put Elaine’s win in context. “Most girls her age are pros already,” he said “but with the sport’s size and her dedication she could go forward. It’s amazing to see someone in her age group up for riding and racing girls younger than her. She’s clearly a strong athlete.” He also said that the sport itself favors athletes in their late 20s. “You’re facing downhill going fast and making on the spot decision about obstacles. That takes intellectual maturity, but few women in her age group would decide to just go out there and try this – and win. Particularly after combining her group with another age group to make it more competitive.”

As its name implies, boardercross is sort of a mashup of snowboard racing and motocross, with four racers at a time competing on a course loaded with jumps, turns, berms, drops and other challenging terrain. It's a tough, competitive, adrenaline-infused sport -- Wikipedia notes that "it's not uncommon for racers to collide with one another."

While Supp is out there on the cutting edge of winter sports, her dad, Steven Supp, has two skis firmly planted in the past. Around Plattekill, he's known as Vintage Skier Man:

the one in the Carhartts, safety glasses and 200 cm long skis with a pink florescent price tag proudly emblazoned on the front. $2.99 it says as if he were some Minnie Pearl on planks. (He’s also got Rossi 198s and Fischer 193s). To see him skiing these is a thing of beauty. And wonder.

If you're looking to get a few more runs in before the snow melts, all four local mountains -- Plattekill, Belleayre, Windham and Hunter -- are still open for business. We're guessing Plattekill will be a-swoosh with skiers and boarders tomorrow -- they're giving away free lift tickets to their Facebook fans, if they come in with a printout of the promo from their Facebook wall.