Former Olympic snowboarder hits China Peak

FRESNO, Calif.

The sun was also shining at China Peak and temperatures warmed up into the 40's on the mountain; Perfect conditions for Fresno native and former Olympic snowboarder Andy Finch to return to his hometown resort to discover the next generation in winter sports.

"We had one girl, Meghan. She was pretty impressive. She beat some of the guys. She was doing some solid rail riding and hit the jumps," said Finch.

It was a competition like no other.

"This is what you call slope style. There's very big jumps all the way up to 40-50 feet, there are rails, there are banks, but the big issue is the big air," said Tim Cohee, owner of China Peak Mountain Resort. "The guys that can do tricks in the air, 720's, flips, all that kind of stuff, those are they guys that are the favorites to move on in March.

Saturday afternoon, around 30 local skiers and snowboarders took part in the second annual 'Andy Finch Slope Style Qualifier' for a chance to perform in front of the former Olympian and Bullard High School graduate and to advance to the final competition scheduled for March 16th.

"This is sort of their first opportunity to showcase their talent so for them I think it's a big deal because it's a chance to show him what they can do in front of a world class athlete like Andy Finch who's the best in the world," said Cohee.

Finch, who now lives in Truckee, said the competition allows him to give back to the community.

"Just looking for some local talent that may have a hard time getting out," he said. "It's an invitational. We're going to build features a little bit bigger, so we want to make sure we're safe and the guys are prepared for it."

Finch said some of his fondest memories were at China Peak as a kid, where he'd snowboard and compete against his closest friends. For that reason, he said didn't mind coming back and pitching in to help build the jumps and jibs.

"One thing about Andy is that he's a very hard worker," said Cohee. "He gets here in the afternoon and is in a cat from 4pm until midnight the last two nights to build this course."

The course inspired 19-year-old Sanger skier Alden Moir to sign up for the competition at the last minute.

"I actually didn't think I was going to be in the contest at the beginning of the day," said Moir. "I was here with my friends and we were just going to ski and have some fun, and I took a look at these features and said 'I gotta hit those features' and they won't let you do that unless you pay $15 and enter the competition."

After nailing a few flat spins and hearing about the grand prize, Moir said he was glad he participated for the first time.

"I've skied all over, Colorado, etc., but China Peak is my home mountain, my home resort. I love it. And I think Andy Finch is the same way."

A hometown hero giving back to the community where he got his start.

"We're going to give away a trip to Camp Woodward in Tahoe where they can jump in foam pits, air bags and trampoline and try to progress their riding," he said.

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