Marion Balsamo, 16-year-old Peñasco resident and student at Taos Academy, took home open class gold at the USASA National Championship Open Class Rail Jam on …
Marion Balsamo, 16-year-old Peñasco resident and student at Taos Academy, took home open class gold at the USASA National Championship Open Class Rail Jam on April 6 at Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Young athletes are allowed to compete at age level for as long as they wish. When they're ready to step up their level of competition, they enter the Open Class competition, as Balsamo did this year.
She also won best trick of the night among all competitors for what the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association webpage called "an incredible double switch up front-to-front on the quad kink."
"It was just a blast," Balsamo said of the competition. Based on her sessions April 6, she was invited to her first USSA Big Air Competition two days later.
"It's a pretty happy-go-lucky sport," said Balsamo. "You have to put in a lot of work and then be willing to go out there and have fun."
As with all competition, mental preparation is an important part of slopestyle skiing and boarding. Athletes practice difficult and sometimes dangerous tricks and then try to repeat them with a lot of people watching. A willingness to have a great time seems to be the key to top performance for Balsamo.
"If I know I've put in the practice, I just have fun and it goes how it goes."
Balsamo started skiing when she was 4 years old and started slopestyle around 8 or 10, she says. Her family saw a competition at their local ski area, Sipapu, and thought it looked fun, so they gave it a try.
It stuck. Marion's father, Sam Balsamo, is the coach of the Taos Winter Sports Team, and the whole Balsamo family participates. Younger sister Tallee won the under-9 division at Nationals and her 15-year old brother Sammy qualified and competed as well. Including her older sister, Juliet, and her mother, Nora, the whole family skis.
Marion also competes in 4H and high school rodeos and has her eyes on a college with a strong rodeo team and skiing program.
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