Dagan Schwartz, a 16-year-old who grew up in Paonia and splits his time between Crested Butte and Paonia, recently placed third in the Freeride Junior World Championships 2019 in the Austrian Alps.
Schwartz is a snowboard freerider who loves to challenge himself on extreme terrain, defined by the Freeride World Tour as ungroomed powder snow on dangerously steep, backcountry mountainous slopes.
Schwartz is a junior at Crested Butte Community School, which Dagan says accommodates his rigorous practice schedule. Team members are released early Wednesday-Friday, and have all day Saturday and Sunday to hit the cliffs and try new tricks. "This is definitely a sport where you've got to step out of your comfort zone," Schwartz said. "Competition is tough and you've got to be ready to step it up. It's definitely not easy, and there are definitely things that scare the (expletive deleted) out of me."
Schwartz qualified for the world tour by earning points through regional and national competitions. At the end of the season, the top 15- to 18-year-old freeriders from around the world were invited to the world competition in Kappl, Austria.
The Freeride Junior World Championships website describes the action: "Known well for their mind blowing level of big mountain riding by any standard, more than 60 of the world's top emerging freeriders threw down in the Austrian Tyrol, and once again showed the world the bright future freeride has to look forward to.
"Dagan Schwartz (USA - third place) found plenty of powder and chose a creative and technical lower section line which he greased cleanly."
Schwartz said the world championships are the Olympics of the big mountain freeride. As he approaches the age of 18, he is looking forward to an opportunity to join the world tour circuit, which includes six stops in North America, Europe, Asia and other sites. "That would be an amazing goal," he said.
He's already been picking up sponsors who equip him with snowboards, bindings and outerwear. Dad Jeff, owner of Big B's Organic Juices and Hard Ciders, is one of his major sponsors. Schwartz said as he progresses, he'll be looking for additional sponsors to help fund international travel.