Mt. Shasta alpine snowboard racer Robby Burns returned home from the World Cup racing circuit in late January after learning that he was not named to the US Olympic team. His fellow SG Snowboard teammate, Mike Trapp of Massachusetts, was one of two American alpine snowboard racers to earn a spot.
Burns competed in eight races on the World Cup circuit in December and January in an effort to win an Olympic bid. His best finishes were 31st in parallel giant slalom in Bansko, Bulgaria on Jan. 26 and two 14th place finishes in two days of racing in Pfelders, Italy in early December. He traveled with coach Justin Reiter, teammates Mike Trapp and Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic, and wax technician Vinnie Poch.
“The fact that two of my teammates are going [Trapp and Ledecka], that truly brings me so much joy in spite of my own feelings of disappointment for not going… It’s a testament to our team, our commitment to each other and the support we gave each other throughout this process,” Burns wrote in an email last week. “Two years ago, long before any potential Olympic selections were mentioned or talked about, we set out together with a common goal: to snowboard to the best of our ability and go to the Olympics. I set out on this journey 5 years ago with the best intentions of going… I was confident in my ability to do so, and I provided my best effort day in and day out to see the Olympics to fruition. In the end, that didn’t happen in 2018.”
Burns and Trapp learned of the US Olympic Committee’s team selection while in between races in Bulgaria. The US Olympic Snowboard Team selected 26 athletes for 10 events. Only two alpine racers where selected to the team – Trapp and AJ Muss – with the rest of the spots going to athletes competing in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and snowboardcross.
Burns’ post to Facebook on Jan. 24 conveys the emotions of the time: “Yesterday I was informed that I would not be representing the USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics. While that fact is met with sadness and disappointment, I am overwhelmed with joy that my teammate, and dear friend Mike Trapp will be representing the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Furthermore my dear friend and teammate Ester Ledecká will also be attending the Olympics! We trained hard, we fought a good fight, and most importantly we did it together the whole way. I will not lie to you and tell you that this is not devastating, because it is. But this journey has enriched my life in innumerable ways, and I am proud to say I tried my best, and I was fortunate enough to do so in the company of good friends, and the support of so many loved ones near and far. Justin Reiter, my heart is full, you stepped up in a huge way to support this team, I am so thankful for your presence in my life, and your unwavering support. In sum, this journey is not over, just another stop along the way, and moving forward I ask humbly for you to join me in doing so gracefully.”
Since returning home after the last race in Bulgaria on Jan. 28, Burns competed at Nor-Am Canadian Nationals Feb. 5 and 6, where he finished 4th in parallel GS and 14th in parallel slalom. He’s currently assisting friends in preparations for the Olympics and will compete in North American Cup circuit races in Toronto, Canada, on Feb. 20 and 21.
Trapp, Muss and Ludecka will compete in the parallel GS at the Olympics on Feb 23.
10 races at seven ski areas in four countries
During the months of December and January, Burns and his team completed 10 races (two were not World Cup races) in seven different ski areas in four countries. The logistics of racing in Europe involve international flights, continental flights, long drives, living out of suitcases and loading all the gear for four people into two vehicles. They carry all of their racing gear, tuning equipment, clothing and a spin bike between locations.
“So much planning and preparation goes into performance. Then in the blink of an eye you step into the start gate, pull out, and just like that the run is finished. It can be a very tumultuous process because of this,” Burns wrote in describing the experience of traveling on the World Cup. “We usually spend four days or less in one place, moving from hotel to hotel, living out of the bags we brought to Europe, laundry is a myth, and the schedule is very intense. There are a lot of highs and lows, we work hard, we move fast, we train and workout, and then we also have days where we do absolutely nothing except rest and recover.”
Burns is focused on supporting his friends who are competing in the Olympics, maintaining his current level of fitness and race readiness during the Olympic break and then finishing the World Cup season at the end of February to race in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany.
“It’s important to consider that many elite level athletes dedicate their athletic lifespan to the pursuit of greatness, whatever that may be, and at 27 years old, this is my first Olympic cycle, and I finished runnerup to making the team,” he said of the experience. “For me, that in and of itself is a huge accomplishment, along with all the goals that I had the good fortune to see through in the process. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to put so much effort into something, and not see it happen the way you wanted it to. But that does not and cannot mean that all is lost.”
Center of support circle is Mount Shasta
After the World Cup season, Burns will consider his next steps. He is a wildland firefighter during the summer and may return to Mount Shasta, where is family lives.
“There is a long list of folks I would like to thank,” he wrote. “Firstly, my family near and far whose love and support helped me get to where I am. I am very thankful for my team, and there is no line that clearly distinguishes where my team starts and ends, because so many people have been a part of this and continue to support me in such beautiful ways. I would like to thank Vinnie Poch of Just Tunes Mount Shasta for his wonderful work on my equipment all season. I would also like to thank Doug Carter for his continued support near and far of my dreams. Also Kristen Stroud, whose work has uniquely enriched my process in snowboarding and life.”
“It takes a village to create opportunities like this, and I am blessed to have a big village, and the center of that support circle happens to be Mount Shasta. That’s not a coincidence, special people come from, and come to our little town, and I hope that we continue to cultivate that through our daily lives,” he wrote. “When I try to think of the countless life changing experiences I have had over the last 5 years, I am overwhelmed in an instant, and that, Olympics or not, is worth its weight in gold. Memories are what we take forward, and I’ve been blessed with so many through this process. A process I hope to continue into 2022.”