Written by: Emma Brice
With winter on our minds, we can’t help but daydream about the return of steep & deep powder days, soaring through the snow-capped trees, and reuniting with our mountain community. Everyone has their goals for the upcoming season; whether learning to ski or snowboard, advancing on steeper terrain, improving technique, or landing a jump. For 16-year-old Haley Hetzel, the upcoming season will push her limits as she prepares to compete in the Freeride Junior World Championships and takes on her role as the first Crystal Junior Ambassador.
Haley’s passion for snowboarding began when she was 8 years old after receiving a Crystal Mountain multiweek lesson package for Christmas. Ever since then, she has spent every weekend possible at the mountain snowboarding and working hard to improve her skills.
“Growing up at Crystal Mountain shaped me into the snowboarder and person I am today. I fell in love with Crystal through the memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family in B-lot, getting cookies at the deli in the Elk at night with my friends, and exploring the vast terrain Crystal has to offer” Haley said.
Haley’s strong connection and time spent at the mountain grew her desire to seek out more challenging opportunities to see how far she could go in the competitive freeride world. When she turned 12, Haley became involved with the Crystal Freeride snowboarding program, and with the encouragement of her dedicated coaches, she began to progress, and impress.
“I started to get sponsors and travel to compete. Last season I placed 1st in three competitions, and 2nd in one, which qualified me for the North American Championships in Big Sky. I ended up placing 3rd for the 15-18-year-old snowboard girls in North America which qualified me for the Freeride Junior World Championships next year in Käppl, Austria,” said Hetzel.
When asked what stands out to her about Crystal’s Freeride program as unique, Haley said that learning to ride on Crystal’s expansive terrain gives her an advantage in competitions. “Being a snowboarder has given me an advantage since there aren’t that many in competitive freeride, but Crystal’s terrain has also given me a significant edge. Getting to practice on a variety of features and different types of snow have made me a stronger rider.”
Being only one of 15 girls in North America in her age bracket involved in competitive freeride snowboarding, Haley is passionate about sharing her love for the sport and wants to encourage other young girls to get involved.
Haley said, “there aren’t many young girl snowboarders at Crystal, or in general, and I want to change that. I want to find a way to encourage more girls to snowboard and get outside.”
As a Crystal Junior Ambassador, Haley will set a leading example for young athletes interested in becoming involved in snowboarding; whether competitively or for fun, Haley’s goal is that all girls feel empowered to go after their dreams.
You can keep up with Haley’s progress throughout the season on our blog. For more information on Crystal’s freeride programs, please visit the Crystal Ski & Ride School webpage!