Lenoir City will be represented on the national stage in April when Alex Michel competes in the 2019 United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association national championships in Copper Mountain, Colo.
This will not be the first time Michel has been on this stage. He is ranked 13th nationally in the men’s 14 and over halfpipe and rail jam.
“I was really stunned to figure out that I qualified,” Michel said. “I’ve been practicing all season and riding pretty much every day. I’ve been progressing a lot. I definitely feel like I’ve worked for the spot in nationals.
For halfpipe, it was really unexpected because I didn’t get too much practice on the pipe this season, but I was still riding pretty strong toward the end of the competitions. With rail jam, I knew I was first in the region, so I was expecting a spot in it.”
Michel’s best event is the rail jam, which is where a snowboarder descends a ramp and performs tricks.
“I’m really looking forward to the rail jam part of it,” he said. “I think that’s where I’ll do really well at nationals.”
His passion for snowboarding began as a child when his family visited Wisconsin.
“I remember he first skied when he was around 5 years old,” Anne Smith, Michel’s mother, said. “I think he was 8 years old and for Christmas, we went to Big Sky, Mont. I was a skier at the time and we learned how to snowboard together. It’s just something that we’ve always done together and I’ll be going up to Copper Mountain, too. I’ll be bringing my snowboard to get some runs in.”
When Michel was not competing, he attended Lenoir City High School and practiced at Ober Gatlinburg or ski slopes out of state.
“Most of the people that go to nationals are from the West Coast,” he said. “They have a lot of mountains up here to ski on and my closest mountains were Ober Gatlinburg. Their park is free rails and I can jump sometimes, so I feel like I have to put in more work than everyone else because I don’t get the same amount of good snow like they do out here. This year, I’ve felt like I’ve definitely taken advantage of all opportunities.”
Michel currently lives in Ogden, Utah, and consistently practices with friends.
“I used to have a coach,” he said. “At the moment, I have a lot of semi-pro friends that I ride with and we all push each other.”
The snowboarding season began in November and Michel has performed well in events leading up to nationals.
“Alex got first place in his age group at the November Black and Blue Rail Jam at Ober Gatlinburg,” Smith said. “The boy that won the open division did not register for the USASA event. He was supposed to compete in two other rail jams at Dollar Mountain (Idaho) and Snow King (Wyo.) but the weather made it too hard to travel.”
Michel also won first in the Snowbasin Utah Rail Jam in January and at the Grand Targhee Rail Jam in February.
As nationals draw closer, Michel will continue to practice and hit the weight room to stay in the best possible shape.
“I’m boarding at least five times a week,” he said. “If I’m not snowboarding, I’m doing yoga or working out, trying to get my body as ready as possible. I’ve been skateboarding, too, because it helps with the balance. Really, I’m just doing anything that will get my body as ready and as strong as I can to compete really well.”
He is also working to prepare his mind for the events.
“There’s some really good kids out there, so I’m going to do the best I can,” Michel said. “I probably won’t make it into the top top, but with the rail jam, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be in the top 10, if not the top five.”