GLOVERSVILLE — Kyle Johnston has been on skis since he was about three years old and just having fun conquering the slopes at Royal Mountain and other local venues.
He then took his skills to a new level by skiing competitively at 11 but still wanted to face new challenges on the snow.
That challenge proved to be the competition of Slopestyle in which athletes ski or snowboard down a course including a variety of obstacles including rails and jumps and judges award points for amplitude, originality and quality of tricks.
The Gloversville resident has been successful enough to qualify for the national championship six times and made the trip to compete three times.
The third times was the charm for Johnston as he went to Copper Mountain in Colorado and brought home the United States of America Snowboard and Freestyle Association National Championship for the 18-22-year-olds.
“I have actually competed four other times and qualified six times but one year I didn’t go out and the last time I got hurt just before the competition,” Johnston said. “Before that I struggled and never even landed a run out there before this year. It felt good just to do that and to win was lucky.”
The event drew over 1,900 competitors from 32 regions and 40 states to compete for USASA National Championship titles in 14 different age groups. ranging in age from 5 to 75.
Johnston competes in the Catskill Mountain Series and won three out of four regional events this year including the Royal Mountain Fools Gold Rail Jam to qualify for the nationals.
A freshman at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Johnston said that thanks to Mother Nature, he was more relaxed this time at the championships.
“I was a lot more confident and the conditions were definitely a lot better this time,” he said. “I usually struggle because it is really warm out there, so the speed isn’t very good, but this year it was really nice. And we had a lot of fun skiing. They got like 30 inches of snow in two days just before the competition so we were able to have a lot of fun up on the mountain before the competition and that definitely helped.”
Johnston averaged a score of 84.33 in the April 9 competition to finish well ahead of Parker Shell of Dillon, CO and Haakon Zander of Truckee, MT.
He also picked up the bonus check for successfully performing the Best Trick during the 18-22 competition.
“It was a Rodeo 540, which is a flip while spinning a 540,” he said. “They jumps were nasty out there.”
Being able to perform stunts safely takes practice, something that Johnston does on a year-round basis.
“During the summer I do a lot of training on the trampoline and at my house,” he said. “I have something set up called a summer set-up just so I can practice throughout the summer. But we have a great set up at Royal and I am able to practice on them a lot and I take a lot of trips up to Vermont to ski at Killington and Okemo.”
Johnston does not have to look far for inspiration as he follows in the footsteps of his uncle, the late Jumpin’ Jack Johnston, a three-time Aerial Freestyle World Champion and a world class Mogul competitor who died on June 11, 1990 from a pulmonary embolism a day before his 34th birthday.
“He is completely an inspiration. It is so cool to watch what he was able to do,” Kyle said. “He kind of paved the way for people who compete in aerials. He was a trailblazer.”
Johnston has had help from many people to get to this point in his career.
“I definitely have thank my parents and family and Jim Blaise and Jared Goderie at Royal,” he said. “[Goderie] helps me out with my skis all the time. There are a ton of people.”
Johnston plans to continue his education but may change course when it comes to his future plans in competition.
“I am not sure if I am going to continue in the USASA or move to the bigger competitions,” he said. “I am hoping to get into the bigger competitions but I have to see how everything goes this summer training wise.”