BAR HARBOR — Conners Emerson eighth-grader Zack Zaman fit right in when he competed last year at one of youth snowboarding’s biggest stages. A year later, he’s ready to give it another go.
Zaman will return to Colorado’s Copper Mountain for the second year in a row to compete in the nationals March 31-April 6. Now with a year of experience under his belt, the Bar Harbor native hopes to build on last year’s showing.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but that’s natural,” he said this week. “Since I went through it last year, I’m more ready for the experience this time. I’m really pumped for it, and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Zaman, 14, has been snowboarding for about eight years.
His first experience with the sport came when his family took him to Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn when he was in kindergarten, and he caught on right away.
The family later took a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain, and Zaman became hooked. Before long, he was flying past everyone on the slopes, including his parents.
“After a while, [my parents] couldn’t give me tips anymore because I was ahead of them,” he said. “It was something I knew I loved doing right away.”
His parents later enrolled him in Carrabassett Valley Academy, where he learned to master the technical aspects of riding. His participation in that program called for a weekly trip to Sugarloaf, his favorite place to snowboard.
“We’ve taken him there every weekend since after Thanksgiving,” said Zaman’s father, Jeff. “It’s a big time commitment for everyone, but the joy he gets out of this puts a smile on everyone’s faces.”
Zaman first qualified for the slalom, giant slalom, boardercross and slopestyle events in the 12-13 age group last year. With another solid performance in the Maine Mountain Series this winter, he managed to qualify for the same four events once again.
Now a competitor in the 14-15 age group, he will face a slightly different challenge. He’ll be in the lower half of that age group this time around, but his rankings of 18th in slalom, 20th in giant slalom, 57th in boardercross and 58th in slopestyle have him in position to succeed.
“We’re excited to see how he does on his second trip,” said Zack’s mother, Lynn. “His confidence and ability have grown quite a bit since his success last year.”
With only days left before those events begin, the preparation this time of year, Zaman said, is mental. The hours of practice have all led to this, and he wants to make sure he’s in the right frame of mind before Colorado comes calling.
“I’ve been trying to just think everything through and visualize what’s going to happen,” he said. “Other than that, the biggest thing has been eating healthy. You have to make sure you’re in great shape even outside of working out and doing the physical stuff.”
The competition will bring close to 2,000 athletes from all across the country to the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
When Zaman does take to the slopes at Copper Mountain, everyone from his family and friends to his new sponsor, Winterstick Snowboards of Carrabassett Valley, will be watching. With all of his preparation in the rearview mirror, he’s more than prepared for what’s to come.
“It’s time to show what I can do,” Zaman said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better compared to where I was last year, and I’ve done everything I can mentally and physically to get ready for it. It’s going to be a fun week.”