Not everyone finds what they want to do in life before they hit high school.
Carrie Uren, the 2006 White Pass High School graduate and World Cup snowboardcross competitor, is one of the lucky ones.
Uren is currently in Europe, heading for Switzerland after racing in a World Cup snowboardcross event at Valmalenco, Italy — the culmination of a wild month that included competitions in Utah, Quebec and a scheduled race for Korea that was cancelled due to an unsafe course.
Snowboardcross is racing; groups of four competitors start at the top of the course and race to the bottom. Competitions are divided into heats, with top-seeded athletes matching up against those on the bottom. The top two from each heat advance, until the field is narrowed to four finalists.
Uren, of course, didn’t immediately jump on a board and start speeding. She started skiing at age 3, moved onto a board in fifth grade and started working as an instructor’s aide at the White Pass Ski Resort in junior high.
“I think a lot of it was my dad has a passion for skiing, and my mom encouraged us to go up and have fun,” she said, of getting into the sport early. “I took lessons, and whenever it’d snow we’d go ride around on the snow in the inner tube or whatever, and build jumps in the yard.
“I wasn’t really that interested in any sports at all in high school, but was really good at snowboarding and loved it.”
She started racing competitively in high school, attending Nationals three straight years and finishing third during her senior year of high school.
After graduation, she wasn’t quite sure what to do next.
“I knew I could do better racing, and I didn’t have that much training in boardercross,” she said. “I found a team that specialized in boardercross in Colorado, and moved there to train. I just started doing better, and here I am.”
She finished fourth this year on the North American Tour, which led to an invitation to the World Cup. She competed in a World Cup race in Quebec, where she finished tenth to qualify for the final events in Italy and Switzerland.
“I was surprised to do well over in Quebec, as well as I did,” she said. “Usually when an athlete does their first World Cup they don’t even qualify.”
She wound up 23rd in at the finish of Friday’s World Cup race in Italy — not a bad finish for her second time on the big stage, as one of just five U.S. racers competing. Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis — who Uren actually roomed with in Quebec — finished first.
There’s two races left in this season’s World Cup, both set for this week in Switzerland — one of which is a makeup from the cancelled Korea competition. Jacobellis is second overall, behind Quebec’s Dominique Maltais. Uren is 26th overall in the women’s standings, after competing in just two of the six events so far this season.
“I’m really proud of myself for acquiring the skills I have in the sport, because it’s really rare,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and in high school I wasn’t as good as I am now.”
Her advice for any aspiring racers out there? Go for it, of course.
“I mean, it takes a lot of dedication,” she said, adding that schools with skiing and snowboarding programs in Washington state are rare. “If you have the support and really want to do it, go for it.”