Snowboarding phenom Red Gerard — from backyard to biggest stage at PyeongChang Olympics

Ed Stoner
Slopestyle snowboarding finals 2017 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix - Snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain, CA Photo: U.S. Snowboarding

For a 17-year-old on the brink of his first Olympics, Red Gerard isn’t thinking too much about the future. Actually, not at all, according to him.

“I just think day by day, so there was never really a time when I was like, ‘I want to be an Olympian,'” said Gerard, a snowboarder from Silverthorne, Colorado. “It just kind of happened.”

But many think there could be a day soon when Gerard could win an Olympic medal. He already has taken a big step toward PyeongChang — last February, he won the first Olympic qualifier in the slopestyle competition at Mammoth Mountain, California. It was his first major win. He has a couple of top 10s at the Burton U.S. Open in Vail, and appeared in his first X Games last year, finishing 14th.

Gerard started snowboarding at age 2, but really got into the sport a few years later when his family moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to Silverthorne.

“My mom actually had, I don’t know what you call it, like a midlife crisis,” he said. “Like, ‘I’ve got to get out of Cleveland.'”

After their move to Silverthorne, Gerard and his brothers decided to install rails in their backyard. The next season, they used an old dirt bike to build a rope tow for their terrain park. It became a perfect place to hone his rails skills — along with as many as 30 of his friends in hours-long sessions.

“When I first got the rope, I was on this routine for two months where I’d go snowboarding and then I come home and just ride the rope tow till night time,” he said. “It was insane. I never really thought I’d actually learn tricks in the backyard. And I actually ended up learning a lot, which was amazing.”

Gerard is one of seven siblings — five brothers and two sisters. His sister, Tieghan, is a food blogger with more than 400,000 followers on Instagram. (Red has a mere 34,000.)

Red and his brothers began making YouTube videos featuring Red’s riding, which led to a sponsorship from Burton for Red before he was even a teenager. Red attended Frisco Elementary School and Summit Middle School before leaving traditional schools to focus on snowboarding. He now attends Penn Foster, an online school.

Gerard is excited to get back on his snowboard for the qualifiers leading up to the Olympics. But he wondered how big of an event the Olympics is compared to other events that have a deeper field. Each nation in the Olympics can only send four snowboarders per event — whereas deep teams like the U.S. and Canada can have many more Olympic-caliber competitors.

“It really isn’t an ordinary Olympic event,” Gerard said of snowboarding. “We’re not like any other Olympians. A lot of Olympians look at this event two years out like, ‘I’ve got to be there.’ I’d say most of us snowboarders are like, X-Games X-Games and then Olympics is a month out, let’s start training for it. We’re just so free and just love to snowboard, which is so cool about us.”

Would he rather win X Games or Olympics? Gerard said that’s a tough call.

“Don’t put me on the spot,” he said. “It’s tough, for sure. Right around 50/50. We’ll call it a happy medium.”

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