Local snowboarding legend Jamie Rizzuto is gearing up for his third year on the Swatch Freeride World Tour (SFRWT) and after achieving a second ranking in the overall men’s snowboarding category last year, Rizzuto has some even bigger shoes to fill this time around.
“This year I’d like to improve on that,” Rizzuto, who began snowboarding at the ripe age of 10, said.
With the tour beginning in Chamonix Mont Blanc, France on Jan. 23, Rizzuto said he has been spending seven days a week riding and training in Fernie powder.
But for this self-proclaimed Kootenay Kid, riding Fernie Alpine Resort’s (FAR) mountain isn’t something new to him.
“I was born and raised on the ski hill,” noted Rizzuto. “I’m just a mountain baby. I get to ride in a lot of places in the world and it just seems to snow a lot more here [in Fernie].”
He added, “I found where I fit in.”
This season, FAR presented Rizzuto with a $1,000 Summit Fund cheque to assist him with expenses in the Freeride World Tour.
“We are proud to support Fernie local snowboarding star Jamie Rizzuto who has been killing it on the world tour,” Matt Mosteller, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Resort Experience said. “He is training hard for this season right now on the slopes of Fernie Alpine Resort and we are honoured to be able to support him.”
Rizzuto said he is thankful for the community support he has received from Fernie Alpine Resort, Rizzuto Construction and Fernie Chiropractic.
“Every little bit counts,” he noted.
But despite this support along with the product sponsorships Rizzuto receives, with five events in four months, spread across five countries, the unsponsored athlete said he finds it difficult to get by.
“It’s a huge challenge,” he admitted. “Everyone knows Europe is not cheap [and] the reality is that I can’t afford hotels out there.”
The resourceful athlete relies on the support of European athletes, mainly for rides and places to stay.
A lack of financial support doesn’t hold this professional back though.
Rizzuto is among two Canadian athletes competing in the SFRWT and he is the only Canadian snowboarder riding the slopes of Europe on the tour.
“I’ve ridden so long in Canada and I know so many amazing riders,” he said, “but not everyone has the drive or direction to do this.”
– K. Dingman
Rizzuto added, “It feels really good, I love representing Canada.”
Snowboarding what’s known as ‘big mountain’ slopes during the SFRWT, Rizzuto said he always has to be paying attention to where the snow falls, especially in Europe where the amount of snow coverage is limited in comparison to Fernie.
“Experience is everything,” he said. “It’s not something a young kid can come and throw himself off of, because you could get hurt really fast.”
He added, “You learn to know where snow’s going to be.”
Luckily Rizzuto hasn’t sustained any serious injuries riding his board. He noted that taking ball classes at Evolution with local chiropractor Paul Attalla has helped his body recover throughout the riding season.
“When you think you’re going to fall, you pull back,” he said. “Once I saw [the classes] improve my riding, I became addicted.”
He went on to say, “It’s a long season and it’s hard on your body what we do…people don’t think about it, but the travel is hard on your body [too].”
Despite these challenges, Rizzuto continues to carve through powder in Fernie, inspiring others to do the same.
“A lot of people have told me I’ve inspired them, that’s the best part. It makes you want to keep going,” said Rizzuto. “Everyone knows what it’s like to stand on top of a mountain, so to do it on these massive beautiful peaks all over the world and watch the sun rise, for me that’s where it’s at.”
He added, “It’s why I ride every single day; it’s my passion.”