Cement to snow

How this junior went from skating to snowboarding on varsity


Photo courtesy of Scott McMahon.

During a practice at Mt. Hood Meadows, Ashley Chon tests out her skills on the slops.

Varsity snowboarder, Ashley Chon, has been on a board since fifth grade when she lived in Chicago. Now, she’s off the streets and on the mountains doing speed runs for the women’s snowboard team. Chon quickly joined varsity and has solidified herself as an essential member of the team. Below is the conversation with Chon about her place on the women’s snowboard team.


[Gillian] When did you first start snowboarding?


[Ashley] I first started snowboarding in eighth grade, and it was just a month program. We would go up on Saturdays once a week and that was my first experience snowboarding. And then freshman year I did the same thing. I didn’t do it for the high school. Last year I started doing it for high school. 


[G] And, what inspired you to get into snowboarding? 


[A] A lot of my friends really enjoyed it and I wanted to try a different sport and kind of broaden my experiences.


[G] So did you do other sports before then?


[A] It was mainly just soccer.


[G] And, did you ever go snowboarding with other people?


[A] Yeah, I usually go with my boyfriend and my friend Gabe and it’s just a bunch of people on the varsity team. So we would just hang out and do stuff like that.


[G] When did you join the snowboard team?


[A] I joined as a sophomore. 


[G] Are there any team traditions that you guys have?


[A] Not really, I guess the kind of fun part is just going up on the bus altogether. That’s pretty good bonding. We don’t have any specific activities that we do together. 


[G] Who do you think is your favorite celebrity snowboarder?


[A] I probably don’t have a specific one I follow a bunch, I really like Burton snowboards, like I like, I have [Jake] Burton [Carpenter] snowboards. He’s probably the snowboarding celebrity that I followed the most before he passed away. 


[G] Okay. Is there a favorite mountain?


[A] I’ve only ever been on Mt. Hood, but I have visited Timberline, I think it’s called Timberline?


[G] When does the season start?


[A] We have the first practice coming up in a week, on Wednesday. And the competitions, I think we have three or four practices and then the competitions start?


[G] And, what are the competitions like?


[A] You have four different kinds. You have the half pipe, slope style, and then you have the speed ones. And then if you do well on the timed ones, you go onto the next competition where you go against three or four people at the same time. 


[G] What do you do?


[A] Last year I went to state for the speed competition, and I think I made the slopestyle but I didn’t get to do that one for state because of school.


[G] Do you have a funny story from snowboarding?


[A] Yeah. I was doing one of my first competitions for the speed one and I wasn’t that good and I was going up against like three people, and I accidentally caught an edge and I like fell but I also took two people out too. So it was just like, whoever could get up the fastest and just go. So I think that one I got like second or third.


[G] Because you took out everyone else.


[A] Yeah, exactly.


[G] Was there ever a challenge you’ve had to overcome?


[A] All of my friends have had years of experience so when I first went up I didn’t know how to do anything, I couldn’t carve and I was super slow. And they kind of pushed me to be better than I am. They didn’t even teach me to do the bunny slope, they just took me directly to the main lift. It took me about three or four tries to start carving, but it came pretty naturally to me because I skate board so it wasn’t super hard to learn, but yeah. 


[G] When did you start skateboarding?


[A] I started skateboarding in fifth grade, and it was easier to do in Chicago because it’s super flat. 


[G] Is that where you’re from?


[A] Yeah, I’m from Chicago. And here, I kind of stopped because I don’t really like going fast on the skateboard. I went back to the park and did some stuff for this summer, but not too much.


[G] What would you vote is the best aftercare for after snowboarding? Like, you’ve been snowboarding all day and you’re tired.


[A] Sometimes I’ll be really cold for like hours after, so I’ll probably just wrap myself in blankets, take a shower, take a bath, and then probably just watch Netflix. 


[G] In your opinion, do you think snowboarding is a ‘guys’ sport?


[A] Oh my gosh, it’s definitely heavily dominated by the guys. I started snowboarding out with a guy group and then we met new people, like new girls, but last year there were barely any. This year there’s definitely more representation, but you can definitely tell that the boys are probably double the size. 


[G] If a snowboard brand could sponsor you, what brand would you like?


[A] Oh my gosh, I’d love it if Burton sponsored me, that would be amazing. I’ve heard that Arbor boards are super good, especially the Arbor skateboards. Skateboards and snowboards, they do pretty good jobs making them. 


[G] What are the similarities between skateboarding and snowboarding?


[A] I think it’s a lot about the balance factor, and when you’re skiing you’re facing the mountain with your face towards the mountain, but when you’re snowboarding it’s like the side of your body is toward the mountain and with skateboarding, you always practice being in [the side] position and I think getting used to being able to be in that position without being too uncomfortable it definitely takes some getting used to.


[G] Are there any differences?


[A] Oh differences, probably the control you have over your [board]. [For snowboard] your feet are bound to the board so you definitely have more control over the direction and where you’re going with the board. The snowboard is, of course, a lot bigger and [with skateboarding] it’s harder to learn, gain that control using your toes and your heels, while with snowboarding you’re flat on the board.


[G] Do you think that Asian representation matters in snowboarding? 


[A] I definitely don’t see that many Asians snowboarding, but especially here, it’s like Oregon so there isn’t too much representation. I don’t see that many professional Asian snowboarders and I would not say that there’s too much diversity. It’s dominated by mainly white males. 


[G] So, Chloe Kim won gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics for snowboarding at age 17. What does that type of win mean for girls like you?


[A] It’s definitely amazing. I couldn’t think of anyone earlier but yeah she’s definitely one of my favorites. I literally love her so much. She’s absolutely amazing and to think she would go up to the mountain almost every day and practice since she was a little girl and how she’s gotten so far, that’s just amazing to think about. She’s definitely an excellent role model for not only girls but just Asian representation and she definitely pushed the boundaries to what people thought was possible.