Steamboat’s Cody Winters carries on a family tradition in hard-boot snowboarding
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cody Winters’ snowboarding destiny was realized before he was born.
In 1982, his father, David Winters, became the first snowboarder to ride a chairlift at Steamboat Resort. He’ll tell you it’s not as special as it sounds. He simply woke up early and was the first in line the day the resort first allowed snowboarders.
Back in those days, David rode in hard boots, which are now less common in the recreational snowboarding world. They’re reserved for Alpine snowboarding, which allows boarders to carve turns with precision by tilting their entire bodies at such sharp angles that their hands reach the ground.
“If you do it for fun, free carving a whole run on perfectly groomed slopes and really grippy snow is our powder day, especially if the sun is out,” David said. “You can really can feel the G’s of the turn.”
You can no longer find hard-boot gear in snowboard shops, he said.
“They’ll look at you like you have two heads,” David said. “I can never understand why it lost its popularity.”
Cody begrudgingly tried skiing first at the request of his parents, but he took to snowboarding at age 7 in hard boots, just like his father and his older brother, Billy.
He tried other disciplines, too, and as a young freestyle grom for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, he earned his nickname, “Shrimpy.”
Young Cody was asked to carry a pile of gates to help set up for a competition and nearly toppled over.
“I can’t carry these with my shrimpy arms!” he said.
Now at 18, Cody is not so shrimpy. A growth spurt last summer shot him up 4 inches, now measuring at 6 feet tall. He’s also a member of the U.S. Development Team for Alpine snowboarding.
“One of the big reasons is Thedo Remmelink,” Cody said about his Winter Sports Club coach. “He’s really talented and people from all over the U.S. come to Steamboat. I was born into it and was able to start training with him Day One.”
Cody’s breakout year
Cody elected to take a gap year after high school to focus on snowboarding, and the results have paid off.
Starting with the Dec. 8, 2018, NorAm competition in Steamboat Springs, Cody had a second-place showing in the parallel giant slalom and third-place showing in the parallel slalom.
“As an Alpine snowboarder, you need to feel speed and how to gain momentum, and he can do that very well,” Remmelink said. “And you need very solid technique for it. You need to be a fighter because, in our discipline, you compete parallel, so you got to have the drive to win.”
Cody went to Buck Hill, Minnesota, a week later on Dec. 14, 2018, to take home his first NorAm win in the parallel slalom and a junior victory the day after. He won the NorAm parallel slalom again two days later.
The trend continued until Cody received a second overall placing on the NorAm tour, establishing himself as one of the best in the U.S. and Canada as well as the top U.S. finisher.
He also competed at the World Championships in Park City, Utah, and the Junior World Championships in Slovenia.
“I got to go to World Champs in Utah. … That was crazy. The best in the world, not just juniors, you know?” Cody said. “All the eyes and all the people watching, the crowd and the big cameras on booms. And we’d go back to our hotel room and turn on the TV, and it would be the highlights of the day. It was just a new thing.”
The World Championships were an opportunity for Cody to see the best in the world and how they competed. Remmelink said the experience can be stressful for someone that young, but he felt Cody’s maturity was there.
“You see top-level athletes you can learn from and emulate what you see and see them as a role model,” Remmelink said. “Being the top guy in the NorAms is a measurable thing, and looking at him and the way he has been riding and behaving, all those things together made me think he was ready for a World Championship experience.”
Cody placed 22nd in the parallel slalom, a standout performance for his first go-round. But the biggest benefit was being observant. Cody watched how the best prepared, rode and even waxed their boards.
He turned around two months later to take seventh in the parallel slalom at the Junior World Championships, the best of any U.S. snowboarder and his best finish out of his three appearances.
“My whole year leads up to this event and all the success I had this season. I was really looking forward to that better result into Junior Worlds,” Cody said. “It’s an eye-opener to go there, and being with the Europeans makes me realize even though I’m having great success here (in America), I need to keep my head down and keep getting better.”
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