by Rob Story
It’s a 69.2-mile journey from UPS to Washington’s Alpental ski area, and Nate Galpin made it often before graduating in 2000. Of a resort with a startling 41 percent of terrain ranked “advanced,” Nate says, “That mountain is a hidden gem—especially the upper flanks. Leave Crystal to the hordes.”
Riding the steeps made him good enough for the U.S. Snowboarding Team, and his raw speed initially made him a World Cup GS and slalom racer. Over the last few seasons, though, he’s earned fame—and berths in multiple Winter X Games—as a boarder cross racer.
In 2005 Nate won two huge events, an FIS contest in Zermatt, Switzerland, and the South American Cup in Valle Nevado, Chile. A third place in California’s JABRA X Jam followed a few months later.
Boarder cross, unlike traditional wintersports racing, throws four to six competitors on course at once. Think of it as a speeding, soaring mosh pit.
Says Nate, “The thing I like most about Snowboard Cross is that it requires you to be a really balanced rider in terms of skills and adaptability. You’ve got to know how to make a clean, fast turn, how to hit 100-foot tables [horizontal jumps] at full speed, how to press features, how to be smooth, and how to be balanced and quiet in the air. It brings together all the best parts of snowboarding for me. It can be disconcerting to have five other people within arms reach 30 feet off the ground, like at the X Games, but everyone there is proven, and we are all moving very slowly relative to one another. So it looks a lot scarier than it really is. Not to say that things don’t get ugly when someone makes a mistake...”
That’s for sure. Nate has incurred so much bodily damage over his career that he’s planning to spend most of the winter healing—before making a push for the 2010 Olympics (to be held just up the road from UPS in Vancouver/Whistler). “Boarder cross tends to injure people,” he says, “so I’m going easy this season.” He’s coaching a little for a local team in his current home of Hailey, Idaho. (Nate was born and raised in nearby Ketchum, host to Sun Valley ski area). And, if the snow gods cooperate, he’ll also shoot some video powder sequences in the Idaho backcountry.
Though his life is relatively entertaining now, you can tell Nate misses school. Describing his last semester at college, he says, “Someone got a hold of my clean script to success and turned it into a tawdry soap opera, replete with useless love triangles, long hours, death threats real and imagined, vandalized cars, and novella-sized confessions of mistreatment. It was awesome.”
Nate tries to get back to campus and walk around at least once a year. He calls his UPS education “perfect—I had great friends and teachers.”
Plus one future wife: Jen Mikesh Galpin ’00 has been at Nate’s side since they moved to Hailey early this decade. It’s Jen who aids and abets Nate’s training, she who took over the family printmaking business “and ran with it,” says Nate, “while I was chasing winter around the world.”