From November through March, Ethan and Christian Coherd and their mom, Krystal Lucado, make the 1 1/2-hour drive from Baltimore to Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, Pa., five days a week to train in parallel giant slalom (PGS) and parallel slalom (PSL) snowboard racing with the Ski Roundtop Race Club.
The twins estimate that they spend more than 40 hours a week training in addition to their workload at Gilman, where they are equally passionate about excelling at their academics.
But their sport was defunded by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in 2010. Justin Reiter, the only racer who represented the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, chose to live out of his truck in Utah to save money during qualifying events. American athletes who wish to compete in PGS or PSL must find their own means of funding.
American-born Vic Wild trained and competed for the United States until 2010 won two gold medals at Sochi last year, but they were for Russia, the country that financially supported his dreams. American funding for the sport has taken a back seat to other events, such as freestyle halfpipe, that take center stage at the Olympics and are featured in the X Games, and to the world-famous athletes such as Shaun White who are associated with them.
Bud Keene who coaches White and coached Ethan and Christian this year said: “Snowboard racing should be better supported in our country, and a part of that would include some level of funding from national organizations. But the most meaningful support that would make a difference is investing – even a little bit – in more levels of race organization.”
Even so, the Coherd twins are not fazed by the obstacles as they pursue their dreams of becoming Olympic snowboard racers.
“I'm never going to give up on it, never,” Ethan said.
For now, the twins are focused on enjoying snowboarding and using it as motivation in all areas of their lives.
“[Snowboard racing] has taught us to never give up,” Christian said.
Like Wild, they have met athletes from other countries who have a funded team. This summer they were given the opportunity to train with Canada’s athletes men's coach Patrik Gaudet in Chile from Aug. 4 to Aug. 21.
Gaudet said “Watching Christian and Ethan ride and improve gave me the certitude that if they put the hard work at it and set short-, medium- and long-term goals, they have all the chances in succeeding to their dreams -- Junior World Championship being the first step toward the World Cup and eventually the Olympics.”
Their short-term goal is another invitation to the 2016 USASA National Championships and a podium finish. Their medium-term goal is a top-eight finish at the North America Race to the Cup Events and an invitation to the Junior World Championship. Their long-term goal is to follow Reiter's path and compete for the United States in the Olympics.
Reiter stressed how important it is for PGS and PSL snowboard racing to get more funding. Without it, he said, riders won't have the fundamentals to advance their careers.
“[PGS and PSL] is the gateway into snowboarding competition for youths,” he said.
Ethan and his brother are entering their sophomore years at Gilman, but their success on the slopes is beyond their years.
Christian earned a bronze medal in PSL at the 2015 United States of America Snowboard Association National Championships in March in Copper Mountain, Colo. Ethan won bronze in PGS and posted the fastest time down the course in the 14-to-22 age group.
Now 15, they are eligible to compete for qualification into the FIS Nor-Am tour in Canada and the United States, where they can qualify for the Junior World Championships and the Olympics.
Though the twins might look alike, on the slopes they're quite different. Ski Roundtop coach Neil Sunday, who introduced the twins to the sport and coaches them, said Ethan is a natural rider, with a good “feel” for the snow that leads to his awareness of his surroundings. The most impressive part of his style on the slopes is his speed.
“Yeah, I'm fast. I'm really fast,” Ethan said.
“Ethan is all or nothing. He either wins, or he falls trying to,” she said.
Christian, on the other hand, found his success because of his “coachability and drive,” Sunday said. “He understands that he needs to work very hard to achieve his goals, and he's willing to put in the extra work to make that happen.”
Bud Keene, a snowboarding pioneer who also coaches the twins, said: “Ethan and Christian have talent. They have good technique, which is where it begins. Good technique will take you some ways down the road toward achieving your goals in this sport. You will always work on technique to some degree throughout your career, but at some point it becomes more about desire. The desire to get down the course faster than anyone else. It sounds crazy but you can will yourself down the course faster. It’s about living in the moment and even the future. We are told to do this throughout our lives, but it is just as important on a race course.”
Ethan and Christian credit their success to their mom, who believes the work ethic and obstacles of snowboard racing teach the twins to persevere in all areas of their life so they can be the best they can be academically, athletically and in the community.
“She is always pushing us to be the best we can be,” Christian said.
Ethan added, “She is the best mom.”
But role models such as their mom, or Sunday, Reiter, Keene or Gaudet, can help only so much. Snowboarding is an expensive sport, so the twins do whatever they can to raise money.
Ethan, an avid video gamer, accepts small online donations in return for helping rookie gamers advance through the game Destiny.
Princeton Sports, Cohen Clothiers and Apple Honda also provide discounts, but the twins still have a lot of expenses to cover. Lucado said the sport can cost about $30,000 a year per athlete, and without funding young riders will lose hope that they can achieve their goals.
“It's about PGS and PSL snowboard racers everywhere,” Lucado said.
Ethan and Christian hope to raise awareness of the sport and attract sponsors through their website twinsnowboardracers.us.
The twins also have shared their love of snowboard racing with the Gilman community, where they started “The Gilman Snow Club” to raise the profile of snow sports. In the fall of 2014, the Gilman Snow Club partnered with the Burton Chill Foundation to raise awareness of the Chill youth development program, which revolves around a six-week curriculum that uses snowboarding to teach life skills and increase self-esteem for under-served youth between the ages of 10 to 18 in Baltimore and Washington.
Meanwhile, her sons continue their runs down the mountain, winning races and pursuing their passion.
“Trophies tarnish. They gather dust in the end,” Reiter said. “The most important part is these kids follow their hearts and what they love to do.”