Wheels turning for Snowden | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wheels turning for Snowden

Now that local mountain biker Trevor Snowden is sitting down, he’s standing taller than he ever has before.

“It’s not always physically standing, it’s spiritually standing,” said Snowden, a South Shore resident and two-time winner of the unofficial national championship for four-wheel mountain bikers.

Before a snowboard accident injured Snowden’s spine two years ago, leaving him paralyzed below the waist, he was building his career as a pro snowboarder. But after completing his final season on the national championship circuit this season, Snowden is eying bigger projects and loftier goals for his new sport.

“Snowboarding, I was just doing it to make something of myself,” Snowden said. “Now I can do things to make something of a lot of people.

“That’s the goal, is to be on the same level as anybody else, in our own league,” he said. “Some people say it’s more extreme to get hurt and come back, but maybe they don’t understand, because they can’t comprehend what it’s like because they’re not hurt.”

Snowden has landed on his feet, literally and figuratively. Toward the end of 1997, he took off from a jump preparing for a snowboard competition, but overshot the transition area. Even though he landed on his board, the shock of his feet hitting the flat transmitted through his body to his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. While Snowden’s recovery was long – six months – his return to competition and an active lifestyle seems quicker.

With the help of friend Shaun Palmer, Snowden soon was racing again, in the four-wheeled bicycles paralyzed athletes have adopted and ridden to a new level of competition. Palmer had seen the wheelers on the World Cup mountain bike circuit, and offered to buy one for Snowden.

Snowden recounted Palmer’s visit to his hospital room: “‘You’ve got to get one,’ that’s what he said.

“I just pinned it up on the wall, and as I was healing, I just started to look at it, asking God if I should do it or not ….” Snowden said. “And God said, ‘It’s all right, my son.'”

It took Snowden a couple of rolls in his bike to realize he could crash and emerge without further injury. Soon after, he started racing, and moved up to the sport’s elite level. This year, he already has wrapped his wheeler-division title with wins in Deer Valley, Utah and Big Bear, Calif. Some observers of the wheeler circuit see Snowden as the Palmer of his sport.

“It’s kind of true, because that’s how we do it in South Shore,” Snowden said. “We just think alike: Palmer, how he can dominate all sports, I want to do that for wheelchairs.”

Snowden sees himself leading the sport’s metamorphosis with his company, Trev-Air Chairs, which is designing racing chairs and chairs for everyday use to take technology to the year 2000 and beyond. He’s also trying to make chaircross – like boardercross for wheelers – part of the Gravity Games, and replacing dual slalom on courses for two-wheel bikes with chaircross. If leading innovation means being outspoken, so be it. Snowden is prepared, because he found himself in a similar position before.

“Who were we?” he asked. “We were just a bunch of punk kids, biking and skateboarding.”

Now those disciplines are part of ESPN’s X Games. And snowboarding, once banned from many ski areas, is pushing snowsports in new directions. Chaircross could do something similar for the wheeler bikes. Snowden has been in contact with the Boreal Ski Area on Tahoe’s North Shore about starting the event. It could transform itself from possibility into reality as early as next year.

“I think it’s a very likely (thing), especially if we have somebody like Trevor Snowden who wants to get it organized,” said Boreal summer operations manager Sam Harris.

Boreal already has adapted chairlifts so they can lift the four-wheel bikes to the top of the courses, and has a precursor of the courses wheelers could use. The resort will play host to a all-terrain boardercross race over Labor Day Weekend, and the course the mountain-boarders will use is similar.

As he essentially wrapped his second title by winning four races this season, Snowden is skipping the NORBA finals in Mount Snow, Vt. Snowden said the association with NORBA has been good for the sport, but he contends wheelers have different requirements for slalom courses. Chaircross already has its own website (chairx.com), and Snowden is optimistic it will be part of cycling’s future. But if changes don’t happen soon, don’t look for Snowden to continue along the current circuit.

“I learned,” he said. “I thank them very much for the experience. Either they accept our terms and our proposals for having our own courses, or I’m out.”

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