Diversions

Good as Gold: Catching Up With Slopestyle’s Reigning Olympic Champ Red Gerard

It was the tail end of Colorado’s biggest storm of the year. The morning was an all-time powder day for the books. Yet there was Red Gerard, composed without any sign of having ridden that morning.

His reason for the uncanny restraint had less to do with preparation for the Dew Tour finals to come the following day. Red was simply exhausted.

“I have ridden every day since the first of last month,” Gerard said. “I took today off to just rest.”

The willpower paid off. This weekend, Gerard won his first-ever Dew Tour event in front of family and friends at his home mountain, Copper. The slopestyle win came almost exactly two years after his Olympic gold medal victory in the same discipline at age 17, when Gerard burst into global prominence as the youngest snowboarder to ever medal, as well as the youngest male winter Olympian to win gold in nearly a century of the games.

Despite the instant notoriety from PyeongChang 2018, Gerard says he would prefer not to be remembered as the kid who won the Olympics. Though he openly admits interest in earning another opportunity to do it all over again, he’d prefer the win be considered just one of the many things that he’s done.

“Straight up, rolling into the Olympics I had no clue that it was that big of a deal. I think that is part of why I would like to go again, to just take in more of everything that goes on,” Gerard explained of his first-ever Olympics. “There are so many cool things that are happening, and so many things that you don’t support as well—but I feel like that happens with anything.”

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Celebrating Dew Tour slopestyle gold. Courtesy Dew Tour/DODDS

What is Gerard supporting? For the time being, it’s more snowboarding. And last year, he had already added more to his plate than ever before. Not only did he keep up with his crazy contest schedule, which requires regular travel around the world, but he also put in the time and effort to film a video part entirely in the backcountry for the independent snowboard movie, Joy.

“It was so gnarly trying to balance contests and filming,” Gerard said. “It was the most hectic season I’ve ever had, for sure. But, it was really addicting. I liked it a lot and I am doing it again this year. I’m going to do contests and film.”

To add to the accolade pile, last week Joy won the Movie of the Year category at the inaugural Snowboarder Awards. In addition to being on the set of featured riders, Gerard was also nominated for the Rider of the Year award alongside legendary riders Travis Rice and Sage Kotsenburg (Kotsenburg being the only other Olympic gold medalist in snowboard slopestyle).

Dew Red3Gerard with the ‘Joy’ crew at the Snowboarder Awards. Courtesy Dew Tour/kanights

Then came the Dew Tour slopestyle win two days later against a stacked field of competitors, including fellow Olympic medalists Mark McMorris, Stale Sandbech, Max Parrot and many more. Despite conditions making for a difficult jump section only allowing a few riders to land triple cork tricks, Gerard stood apart by landing the only switch backside triple cork 1260.

Whether you call it home-field advantage, Gerard has put in the time on his snowboard, starting at age 2 and influenced by his brothers. By 7, his parents decided to split their time between Ohio in the summers (where Gerard was born) and Colorado for the winters. Before he was even a teenager, the move to Colorado became full-time. Now at 19, he’s shooting marquee film segments and winning contests against the world’s best. Suddenly he’s not some kid, but rather a stakeholder in the sport thinking about the next steps in how to shape its progression. That look ahead starts with the current contest structure.

“It’s so hard because half of the contests we do are the FIS (International Ski Federation) contests, and they really can’t do anything,” explained Gerard. “They have guidelines, or something, and it’s not even worth trying to talk to them about it.”

Then there are the other mainstays in snowboarding competition.

“Dew Tour, X Games and the [Burton U.S.] Open—I have always been a big fan of their courses,” said Gerard, acknowledging that creativity in course design is still present in today’s contests. “Those three contests, every time I go to one, I show up with no clue what is going to be in the course, I just know it is going to be crazy.”

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Dew Red5Gerard’s winning run at the 2020 Winter Dew Tour mens slopestyle final. Courtesy Dew Tour/DODDS

To the question of developing a slopestyle course: “If I were to do it, it would be identical to the Half Park run that [Danny Davis] designed at Peace Park. I was a massive fan of that. A [major] contest like that is going to have to happen, with slopestyle and halfpipe reaching this peak. That is something I am fully in support of.”

Perhaps Winter Dew Tour 2021 will be Gerard’s opportunity to show the world his vision of a marquee snowboarding contest. After all, he does ride for the event’s two largest sponsors, Mountain Dew and Toyota. Regardless of what Gerard does as an individual, he has a message for all of the elite snowboard athletes competing at the sport’s highest level.

“One thing that I think we can do as riders is be more involved,” Gerard expressed when reflecting on some of the Riders Meetings he has attended during existing events. “That is one of my priorities: to get more involved.”

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