You never know when the smallest of decisions will have a major impact. One day, Edward Chanod hopped in the car with his dad, Ed Chanod Jr., for the 15-minute drive from their Ridgewood home to Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah. The purpose of the trip was to watch Edward's older cousin Chris Repetto snowboard.
Little did Edward, Ed Jr. or the rest of the Chanod family realize that day five years ago would start an adventure that has included countless trips back to Campgaw and to slopes in New York, Vermont and Colorado, where Edward captured a national championship last April.
No one expects to achieve that level of success when they first take up a sport. But there were early indicators that Edward and snowboarding were a good match. Edward was a good athlete at a young age.
"He always had good balance," his mom, Peg, says.
That first trip to Campgaw lit a spark inside him.
"I like to go fast," says Edward, who recently turned 10.
He bugged his father to go back the next week and try snowboarding. That first lesson had mixed results. Edward, who was already an accomplished skateboarder by 5, quickly took to the slopes. Ed Jr. wasn't as successful; he broke his arm.
Soon, Edward was a regular at Campgaw. He took group lessons and began competing.
There are two primary ways to compete in snowboarding – in the pipe doing tricks like Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, or downhill on a gated course. Edward, or "Shred" as he's known on the mountain, excels at downhill. The trip down the course generally takes 30 to 40 seconds, depending on its length, and the key "is getting close to the gates," Edward says. Cutting off tenths of a second on each turn is the difference between victory and not making the medal stand.
After winning races in the Catskill Mountain Series, competing at Hunter and Wyndham, and also excelling at meets in Vermont, Chanod qualified for the 2012 U.S.A. Snowboard Association (USASA) National Championships last April at Copper Mountain, Colo. He was joined by Campgaw teammates Jamie Davidson of Woodland Park, Carlie Capela of Ramsey, Garret Capela of Ramsey, Matt Morgan of Mahwah and Ania Werocsy of Upper Saddle River, along with coaches Tony Rinaldi of Dumont and Dave Hirschberg of Oradell.
Racing against 8- and 9-year-old competitors from all over the country, Team Campgaw was at a decided disadvantage, with snow having disappeared from the small mountain weeks prior, while the best from the West and Minnesota and Vermont were able to train right up to race day.
Edward participated in two events, finishing second in the slalom and then putting together two runs of 32.86 and 32.31 seconds to capture the gold medal in the giant slalom. His time in the second race was the fastest by more than a second among the 31 racers.
"I felt like I was at the top of the world," Edward recalls. He's not far off – he was ranked No. 1 nationally in his age group even before he won gold at nationals.
His accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that snowboarding isn't Edward's only sport – it's just his winter sport. Fall is spent as quarterback of the town football team, and the rest of the year, he plays baseball.
"The variety is good for him," his dad says.
Plus it's hard to snowboard year-round in Bergen County. Winters can be difficult enough. Even though he's able to get to Campgaw for practice from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and then from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday when the mountain has snow, there are also those early mornings to get to New York and Vermont for competitions.
"That's when it becomes crazy," Ed Jr. says, "when we're driving up to the Catskills at 5 a.m. to make an 8 a.m. race."
It's a routine the family has gotten used to.
"I like the balance it provides," Peg says. "He's a good student, and this provides a challenge." And, as opposed to being part of a team, when he plays baseball and football, snowboarding is all self-driven. "Yes, he's racing against others, but he's really competing against himself and trying to get better."
This season, Edward moves up in competition and will be racing in the 10-to-11-year-old division and Mount Everest Ski and Snowboard Shop in Westwood will sponsor him. The goal is still the same.
"I just really enjoy it," Shred says.
An easy way to introduce your kids to snowboarding and skiing is to take them to the only slope in Bergen County: Campgaw Mountain. Located at 200 Campgaw Road in Mahwah, the mountain is open seven days a week and as late as 8 p.m. Sunday though Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
"There are great teachers and great ratios on instructors to students in the classes," Ed Chanod Jr. says "It's just a great value."
Group lessons begin at $25 or $30 an hour (depending on your child's age), and private lessons are $60 an hour; packages are also available. (All kids younger than 18 must wear a helmet per New Jersey state law; rentals are available.)
Campgaw racing offers three types of programs: Development Team, Race Training and the Campgaw Race Team. All three require the following equipment: helmet, ski/board, poles and goggles. Details at teamcampgaw.com. For more information on Campgaw Mountain, call (201) 327-7800 or visit skicampgaw.com.