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Kevin Sansalone on snowboarders working together and aging

Kevin Sansalone has been called a lot of things.



The 1999 X-Games Big Air winner is the Italian Stallion to some people. To others he’s simply a really experienced snowboarder and businessman who lives in Whistler.

But in reality Sansalone is more like the P-Diddy of snowboarding.

When Puff Daddy or P-Diddy or Sean Combs came on the scene in the early ’90s he became the star who knew everyone and was into everything.

When Sansalone won the X-Games, the Westbeach Classic and a silver medal in the Big Air at the 2000 Gravity Games he became a star. Now Option has named a board after him. He’s also working on his own clothing line, and he’s only 28.

While a nagging knee injury stopped Sansalone from competing at this year’s Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, he was still willing to offer an opinion on the snowboarding industry in general and a description of where he thinks competition is headed.

Sansalone made one point very clear and it was in regards to the level of competition and the fact that it had become so fierce, riders had to be careful about becoming too ruthless.

"I grew up in a time when it was tough but it wasn’t so competitive. What’s happening now is that there’s people all back-stabbing each other to be No. 1," Sansalone said.

"We’re in the Mecca of snowboarding here (in Whistler) and there’s a lot of opportunities here for people to help a lot of other people out."

There can be little doubt that the number of elite snowboarders has risen dramatically during the past 10 years, but the industry is not growing at the same rate, which makes sponsorship dollars increasingly harder to find.

"There’s obviously a lot of competition for sponsors, but riders need to make sure they’re coming together because you can learn so much more that way," Sansalone said.

"I suppose, above and beyond everything you have to keep your head level.

"You can’t make it (a snowboarding career) happen, there’s no one special trick that you can go out there and do.

"If you just keep getting out there and doing your thing then guys like me will notice you and you will have a snowboarding career, if it’s meant to be."

A side effect of greater competition is an increase in the average age of a competitor.

Many of the stars in the current world of skiing and snowboarding are teenagers but as tricks become more complicated and sponsorship dollars become harder to find, athletes will need more experience to succeed in the long-term.

Sansalone said he hoped the industry would make way for athletes to compete for as long as they had the desire.

"It’s about taking care of yourself and I think a lot of it has to do with having the confidence to tell yourself to do it.

"This sport is a definitely a head game.

"A lot of people think that the sponsors aren’t looking when they get older but older guys should be smarter than the kids and know how to get around it.

"But sometimes guys, when they get to 24 or 25, they lose the head game and they get scared; they think the jump’s too big or they just don’t want to do it.

"You have to have the mind of a kid because a kid doesn’t know the consequences. A kid hasn’t blown a knee or broken an arm."

Sansalone’s words could not have been more relevant after the results of the snowboard finals in this year’s WSSF were posted.

The winner of this year’s big air competition was Norway’s Roger Hjelmstadstuen and he turned 25 last month.

Germany’s Jan Michaelis, who came second in the men’s superpipe event, turned 26 in January and the women’s superpipe winner, Tricia Byrnes, is 25.