Created: 05 February 2020

After graduating from high school, USASA Western Washington Series Alum, Cali Carlson found her home to continue snowboarding and her education at Sierra Nevada University. Nestled in the heart of the Lake Tahoe snowboard and ski scene, Sierra Nevada University offers the students passionate about that winter sports lifestyle a place to play and pursue careers in outdoor and entrepreneurial leadership as well as liberal arts. As a sophomore enrolled in SNU’s marketing program, Cali compliments the professors and the tight-knit SNU community with supporting her endeavors on and off the hill. Before she dropped back into a busy semester, we caught up with Cali, the 2017 USASA National Slopestyle Champion, to find out all the good, better and best of USASA, snowboarding and SNU.   

What’s your favorite part about competing at USASA?
The community and friendly vibes you get from everyone there is the best. I'm always running into old friends as well as making new ones year after year. USASA gives off the vibe that doesn't make me nervous or feel as if I'm under pressure because I know even though I'm there to compete it's all for fun and friendly competition.

What is your home series community like?
The community is very friendly and it feels almost like a mountain family. Everyone knows everyone and everyone is friends with everyone- always pushing each other to try new things and go bigger and do better. Even though we were all competing with/against each other,  we all wanted to see everyone progressing.

What is your experience with USASA at Nationals —you won nationals in 2017 what was that experience like and which event and age group did you win?
USASA Nationals is probably one of my all-time favorite weeks out of the season. I've made some really good friends out there at Copper that I am still in contact with today and we all ended up progressing together and making our way into Rev tour contests as well. Being able to come back to the same central location once every year for a full week is awesome. Riding even outside of the events during the week are so sick because it's just a bunch of boarders and homies shredding together.

Winning Nationals in 2017 blew my mind. I was not expecting to win at all because my first run I knuckled one of the jumps and messed up my knee pretty badly. But it was Nationals and I wanted to just land the run I knew I could do to prove to myself that I could perform under pressure. I battled through the pain to take my second run, landed it and was so stoked on myself. When I found out the results, I really didn't think they were true, but I feel like that really taught me what snowboarding and USASA as a whole is all about- have fun and do it for yourself to make you happy and proud. When you do that you'll always come out on top- who cares what anyone else says or thinks. I thought it was a really cool lesson I received from that experience. 

What are your goals in snowboarding for the future?
I would like to start reaching out of my comfort zone a little bit in snowboarding and start hitting and filming urban/street spots. I want to start filming and working to make my presence in the snowboard industry larger by filming and expanding my contacts in the industry. I'm really excited to start down this path and reach away from the large competition scene a little bit. 

How does Sierra Nevada University support those goals?
Most teachers at the college understand my situation, goals, and aspirations and being lenient with attendance while I'm traveling and attending big events like those above. Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point that the professors understand where I'm trying to go and how important events like these are, but when they do understand they generally will give me assignments/exams ahead of time or while I'm away to ensure I can stay caught up. I have yet to struggle in a class due to absences from snowboarding.

The class schedules here also help so that I can block my classes into 2-3 days a week and not have to worry as much about missing so much school if I'm gone for a long weekend or something. It also allows me a lot of free time to finish my school work and snowboard almost all week which is awesome.
How did you find out about Sierra Nevada University?
I used to ride with a snowboard team/club called ASC that's based out of Boreal and Truckee, so when I started looking for colleges I was searching for mountain schools in the area. I saw the community college in Mammoth and Sierra College in Truckee, but that was it. One day I searched up colleges in Lake Tahoe just to see and Sierra Nevada University popped up. I had never heard of it before and neither had any of my friends or family. 

What is your snowboard and school schedule like?
This year I figured out a really cool way to snowboard as much as possible while still taking a full load of classes. I took 19 credits (mostly core classes) in the Fall when snowboarding hadn't started up yet. For the spring semester, I am taking 18 credits again, but most of them are electives. I'll only have classes Monday and Wednesday besides one on Tuesday. I'll be able to ride almost every other day of the week & this also allows me to have a job.

You're studying marketing, are you looking to parlay both your career in snowboarding and a marketing degree into a snowsports industry job? 
Yes, I'm studying marketing. The goal is to put my degree to use in the snowboard/snowsports industry for sure. I have a few sponsors currently that help support my snowboarding and supply me with gear. One of the companies, GNU snowboards is a really awesome company with morals that I believe in and highly support. I have a few connections within the company and it would be a dream come true if I could ride and help grow this company and the industry as a whole and make a career out of it because what's better than working with rad people who love all the same things you do and being able to shred as well?

What’s the best part of the Sierra Nevada University and its community?
I really enjoy how SNU is a small, friendly community. Everyone knows everyone here- even the staff. It's so nice being able to go into a classroom where the professor knows you by your first name and knowing that you can talk to them with questions or concerns pretty much whenever you want or need.

How important is it to be able to pursue your education while continuing to pursue your career in snowboarding?
Snowboarding is a huge part of my life and means a ton to me. That's why I knew right after graduating high school that I needed to go to some mountain school where I could ride all the time. SNU was the perfect choice to be able to study and ride with Diamond Peak being 5 minutes up the road. Tahoe is also a place where there are a lot of "big name" people that you can make connections with and get your name out there in the snowboard community- another large reason why I chose to come here for school. 

The snowboard team here is dope. It's a bunch of homies shredding and having a great time together- in the sun, in the park, and on pow days. I normally get out to ride 4 days a week. I'm normally riding between Diamond Peak, Boreal, and Squaw/Alpine depending on conditions. The past few years we haven't really had a professional coach- they've been students who have just graduated that offered to take up the position. I just think there isn't a ton of exposure to this school and our snowboard team in general regarding how talented our members are because I feel like any coach would kill to coach out in Tahoe. Our team has performed very well at USCSA Nationals the past few years fighting between first and second place in almost every snowboard event as a team and as individuals- our biggest rival being Westminster. 

The crew is the best group of riders I've ever had the chance to ride with and become close with. Just riding with each other makes us all better. We're always having a good time, laughing, and pushing one another to ride at our highest potential and get better every chance possible. It's the most fun snowboarding with a group I've experienced in a while and I know the boarders I've met out here will be friends of mine for life.


Learn more about Sierra Nevada University 

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