Erica Mueller probably won’t have many more chances to make it to the Olympics.
At 28 years old, the alpine snowboarder from Chester, Vt., knows she isn’t far from the end of her professional career.
“I’m ready to kind of settle down a little bit more,” she laughed. “I’m a female. Maybe it’s that maternal instinct setting in.”
So when it became clear her sport — similar to slalom skiing — wasn’t going to receive the funding it once did from U.S. Snowboarding, it only made sense for her to do something with the Vancouver Games looming.
Mueller, Chris Klug, Zac Kay and Josh Wylie formed an independent pro squad, America’s Snowboard Team. Funded by sponsors — notably Hooters — they train on their own, with their own coaching staff, separate from the national team. They’re pretty much the only team of their kind in the U.S.
“We were looking at a season with basically no help from [the national federation] at all,” said Mueller, a two-time U.S. World Championship team member.
“So we banded together, the four of us … That’s where it all started.”
In alpine snowboarding, Olympic berths are earned by placing high in a handful of World Cup events.
Two are finished, with the AST riders placing right up with the other top Americans, but not high enough to punch tickets to the Games.
The next event is being held in Austria and Switzerland in January. In the meantime, it’s training for Mueller, Klug, Kay and Wylie. The four of them against the world.