Two top 15 finishes in Italy for Mount Shasta snowboarder Robby Burns

Renee Casterline, for Mount Shasta Area Newspapers
Robby Burns of Mt. Shasta, shown racing earlier this year, is in Italy preparing for a series of Olympic qualifying races. Submitted

Mount Shasta native Robby Burns finished 14th on both days of FIS alpine snowboard racing in Pfelders, Italy, on Friday and Saturday.

The son of Mike and Donna Burns, Robby grew up racing on Mt. Shasta and is currently ranked 30th in the world in FIS Alpine Snowboard racing and is aiming to compete in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea in February.

Burns arrived in Italy Nov. 26 along with fellow SG Snowboards sponsored athlete Mike Trapp, coach Justin Reiter and wax technician Vinnie Poch of Mount Shasta.

They are preparing for the first World Cup race of the season on Dec. 14 in Carezza, Italy. It is also the first Olympic qualifying event of the season.

“Training has been great,” Burns said in a recent text from San Vigilio de Marebbe in the Italian Dolomites, where they’re training. “We recently competed at two FIS races in Pfelders. It’s always interesting getting back into the gate for the first time.”

Burns will be completing in 10 FIS World Cup races in Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Bulgaria through January, five of which are Olympic qualifying events.

The US Ski and Snowboard Association’s governing body is scheduled to select the US athletes who will complete in the Olympics the fourth week of January based on their current point standings and performance.

Burns said he learned a lot from the two races in Pfleders, which he used for training and preparation. “I now get to really start pushing the limits in training these next two weeks. A lot will happen between now and the World Cup races here in Italy. I am excited to keep working, keep ironing out the kinks, find what isn’t working and polish what is.”

Burns competes in the field of alpine snowboard racing, which gets far less attention in the United States than the world of big air, half pipe, slopestyle and boardercross. Alpine snowboard racing includes two disciplines, parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom. At the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, parallel giant slalom will be the only event offered for alpine racers and only 32 starting positions are open in the men’s event.

Over the next two months, Burns will be competing with racers from all over the world to win one of those 32 spots. He has already met the Olympic qualifying criteria, with several top 30 World Cup finishes and has more than the required 100 FIS points.

“What it comes down to for making the Olympic team, is performing better than the other US athletes in contention for the Olympics during the five Olympic qualification events,” Burns said regarding his aims for the next two months.

He finished the 2016-17 season strong with a win at the North American Cup Championship in Canada and his best Word Cup finish was 17th place at the World Cup Finals in Winterberg, Germany. He had several top three finishes in North American Cup events in the 2016-17 season.

“There’s a whole list of people I want to thank for where I’m at today,” he said before leaving for Italy in November. “A heart felt thank you and gratitude to the number of people who have supported the race community in Mt. Shasta over the last 20 years.”

Burns, who raced for coach Dennis Weathers on the Mount Shasta High School snowboard team and competed in four state championships during his high school career, credits the local community and his family in his success. Weathers got Burns on his first alpine race board when he was young, and coached him through his high school years and at College of the Siskiyous camps.

He said he’s excited to have Poch with him in Europe this season to tune his snowboards, which he also did during the 2016-17 season and during Burns’ high school career.

Poch, who owns Just Tunes Sublime Ski and Snowboard Tuning, has been part of the local race community for 20 years. He also tuned skis for the US Paralympic team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and in the two seasons leading up to it.

Burns began racing on the North American Cup circuit four years ago after graduating from University of Idaho with degrees fire ecology and forestry. After graduation he worked on the US Forest Service Hotshot Crew out of Shasta Lake until the 2016-17 racing season, when he began training and racing year-round. He is supported by SG Snowboards and private sponsors.