Rewind: Snow learned a lot from wild first year

18-year-old professional is ready to bounce back in 2016

Jake Newby
Professional mountain bike racers and Aztec High School senior Josh Snow poses for a portrait on Saturday at his home in Flora Vista.

Editor's note: The Daily Times' "Rewind" series revisits stories we have reported on over the past year. To read more "Rewind" stories, go to daily-times.com.

FLORA VISTA – A string of setbacks and learning experiences have opened Josh Snow's eyes as he prepares for his second season as a professional mountain bike racer.

Snow's first year as a pro didn't go the way he envisioned it would. Now the 18-year-old is working harder than ever to apply what he's learned.

As a big fish in a small pond when racing at the high school level in 2013 and 2014, Snow was humbled last summer when he began facing elite competition. The Flora Vista native kicked the year off by competing as a junior rider at the Enduro World Series in New Zealand before racing all over Colorado as a professional last summer.

Snow, who recently signed a new one-year contract to remain sponsored by Yeti Cycles, was originally set to compete in Europe and Canada after his March stop in New Zealand. But Yeti decided it was best for him to get his feet wet in the pro scene and compete in four Big Mountain Enduro national races in Colorado, lasting from late May through August.

The results were mixed for Snow. In his first race in New Zealand, he took sixth, which wound up being his highest placing of the year. He said the New Zealand terrain was like nothing he had ever ridden on.

"It was completely different from here or Colorado," Snow said. "It rained a lot, and it was super rooty. There was no traction no matter what kind of tires you put on or anything. It was like riding on thick ice; you tap the breaks, you're wiping out."

After returning home, Snow immediately started training for the summer. That's when he suffered his biggest setback of the year in the form of a broken right scaphoid, a small bone in the wrist.

Josh Snow reflects on his first season as a professional mountain bike racer on Saturday at his home in Flora Vista.

"That really threw me off, because the New Zealand one I looked at as kind of a way to shake off rust. It was my first race, and I just came in there out of nowhere," Snow said. "Then I break my wrist, and I don't get to train because I'm in a cast and a sling and all that."

The injury is supposed to take roughly three months to heal. But nine weeks in, Snow got sick of the bulky cast on his right wrist and cut it off himself.

Snow's mother, Katherine, fully supports her son, but worries about his safety while racing. She wasn't thrilled with Snow's decision to forego his last doctor's appointment and cut the cast off, but she also didn't have much say in the matter.

"He was already in Colorado by that point, so I couldn't stop him," Katherine Snow said.

Snow competed at the Keystone, Snowmass, Winter Park and Crested Butte, Colo., resorts during the summer. He said the Keystone race was the high point of his national season because he placed in the top 10 after the first day before a couple of minor crashes dropped him down in the standings on day two.

Then in August, in the Crested Butte race, tragedy struck when 40-year-old William Olson got into a fatal accident on the trail. Enduro officials canceled the race halfway through, and Snow said the incident gave him some perspective.

"It was really a wake-up call for me, that there are more important things than racing," Snow said. "It just kind of makes you realize what you're getting into."

From the injury to his struggles in Colorado to the death of one of his fellow pros, 2015 was a rough year for Snow. But the up-and-down season has only motivated him to make 2016 a great year.

"I learned a lot at every stop and in every trip," he said. "So much has happened. And I think Yeti gave me that first contract to kind of check out my work ethic. A lot of people sign and think, "Oh, I made it. I can take it easy.' But that was just the start for me."

Snow said he can't wait until May, which is when the new season kicks off with a race in Santa Fe.

The senior has been working tirelessly since last racing season ended. He ran cross-country in the fall and is currently one of Aztec High School's top wrestlers this winter. Both sports help keep him in riding shape.

His mom said his dedication to becoming a better racer has been more than impressive.

Josh Snow watches his nephew, Jack LaPlant, 2, play on Saturday in Flora Vista.

"He never chills out. Sometimes I try to get him to sit down and just watch a movie, but he's always out training or running or doing something," she said. "I'm shocked he sleeps."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.