Justin Reiter has a long string of impressive titles to his name; 2014 Olympian, 8 time North American Cup Champion, World Championship medalist and in March of 2015, Justin became the first American to win an FIS Alpine Snowboarding World Cup in over 11 years. But long before he traveled the world racking up titles and before he represented the United States of American at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a young and nervous Justin Reiter dropped into his first contest at USASA’s Rocky Mountain Series and it was all downhill from there.
What was your first race like?
My first race happened by chance. My home mountain was Copper Mountain. I stumbled upon a USASA race and told my Mom I would like to enter. She was on board 100%, I was equally stoked and nervous. Having never raced and no coach I went to the hill by myself and I was unaware of what inspection/or slipping the course was so I waited the the top for the race. Too nervous to ask anyone what to do I waited for my number to be called. I strapped into my Burton Performer Elite, grabbed hold of the start gate and listened to the countdown. The starters voice boomed "Racer ready 3 - 2 - 1 - GO!" I pulled as soon as I heard "Go". I wish I could say my first race was a success but it went horribly wrong as I went around all of the gates backwards. Oops. Nonetheless it was an exhilarating experience, one I will never forget. From then on I was hooked.
How did competing at USASA events shape your career and snowboarding community?
USASA offered the perfect positive platform to grow as a rider. The age groups gave the chance for everyone to compete against their peers and simultaneously see the next step by comparing where you, as a young gun were at versus the group above. I loved comparing my times to that of the older boys and even the open class. It fueled my fire to be as good as them one day. USASA's structure also encouraged community by having the young race directly next to the pros. We would cheer on the top riders and they would come to cheer us on. There was nothing more exhilarating than having your role model take interest in your riding and cheer you on.
What are some of your best memories from USASA when you were an up-and-coming rider?
Growing up USASA was key to my development as a rider and person. It introduced me to lifelong friends and the art form of being an all around rider. "Back in the day" riders competed in all the events and it was a blast to learn new tricks and learn how to go fast with my friends. Progression took place because of my friends not just the coaches. In that is part of the soul of snowboarding development through camaraderie.
What was it like to compete at Nationals your first time?
My first time at Nationals was a whirlwind! I was a wildcard qualifier and disqualified or fell in every event. While many people would have been sad I was beyond excited just to have made it. What an incredible experience to race the best in the country. I couldn't wait to practice and come back the next season for redemption. I met the heroes I looked up to from the US Snowboard Team. I met other young amazing riders, and I learned that snowboarding was to be a huge piece of my life. The love I felt there has carried me through a 20 year career.
Follow Justin on his path to PeyongChang and beyond on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And if you’re lucky enough to earn a spot to USASA Nationals this April Justin just might be handing out a few of those coveted medals.