Student to watch: Nolen Johnson

Kai Kanzer

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The Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the best winter sports athletes in Colorado and Glenwood Springs High School senior, Nolen Johnson, contributes heavily to this. At just 17 years old, Johnson is already competing against athletes from around the world in freestyle skiing, and winning.

To keep up with the competition, Johnson trains year round. He makes the trip from Glenwood to the Utah Olympic Training Center, which is a winter sports park built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and is located 28 miles east of Salt Lake City near Park City, Utah.

“I have been competing for eight years, and podiumed almost every time,” Johnson said.” Out of all of those competitions, my biggest accomplishment came when I won nationals for Rail Jam.” 

Rail Jam is a competition where skiers follow a course with rails, jumps, boxes, stairs, and other obstacles. From a group of over 40, Johnson pushed his way through the competition and eventually found himself in the finals. He advanced through each round according to the judges perspective. 

“Especially on the rails, I try to be very creative and consistent” Johnson said. “With all the skilled athletes i’m facing, pleasing the judges can be difficult. That’s why I try to keep it original and have fun”

Not only did he win Rail Jam, but also came first overall in Slopestyle for Aspen Snowmass. Slopestyle is similar to Rail Jam, only it is more trick heavy. It has most of the same obstacles including rails, jumps and other terrain park features, but lacks the emphasis on the rails.

“It was surreal to realize that I won,” he said. “All the hard work [that I put in] feels relieving.”

But it’s not over for Johnson. Skiing is a huge passion in Johnson’s life and this is just the beginning for him. He is planning to go to school in Oregon upon graduating Glenwood Springs High School, where he will ski and train year round.