Gold ruggie: Dylan Henricksen, a first grader at Baldwin Lane Elementary, takes to the top of the podium at Copper Mountain, to receive his gold medal for the halfpipe in the boys seven and under division at USASA Nationals.

Like Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who started his snowboarding career in USASA competitions on the slopes at Snow Summit at age seven, local seven-year-old Dustin Henricksen has also scored a gold in snowboarding competition. Henricksen and 30some other snowboarders and skiers from the Big Bear Valley competed in the National Championships of the United States of America Snowboard Association, which took place on Copper Mountain, Colorado last week. The USASA SoCal team, which participated in seven events at Big Bear Mountain Resorts this season, traveled to Colorado for the April 4-9 championships and, all told, brought home 23 medals, as well as many special distinctions, such as a 12th place national ranking for 10-year-old rider Drayden Gardner. Those who made a podium finish and brought home medals include an overall gold for Val Stepanchuk in the men’s open class snowboard championship, and a silver for Tim Mack; Aubrianna Dunn also brought home gold for the women’s overall snowboard in the senior bracket (for females ages 23 to 29), in addition to four golds and a silver in specific disciplines; in the master women’s competition (ages 30 to 39), Melissa Spillman took silver in the overall, in addition to a gold in the slopestyle, a silver and two bronze medals, while master Lemee Nakamura took bronze in half-pipe and slopestyle. Skier Kim Walker placed second overall in the women’s over-19 competition, and Michael Shea took third overall in the adaptive men’s bracket, as well as two more medals in specific disciplines. Our younger USASA competitors also did Big Bear proud, given Dustin Henricksen’s gold in the half-pipe for “ruggie” boys ages seven and under, plus a silver in the slopestyle. Nine-year-old Hailey Langland earned a silver in the grommet girls half-pipe, and a silver in the slopestyle. Local organizers tell KBHR that many of the other young riders did really well, even if they didn’t bring home a medal from nationals; in the meantime, the USASA SoCal team is cheering on 11-year-old Sammy Swanson while he heals from a clavicle fracture, and 17-year-old Evan Hickman, who had to drop out of the national championships after injuring his knee. Local USASA competitions return to Big Bear Mountain Resorts next season, and are open to skiers and snowboarders of all ages.

Our local USASA team of riders and skiers were amped up for the opening parade at the USASA National Championships in Colorado--and this was before they scored 23 medals, including eight golds! (Photo courtesy USASA SoCal)