North Van snowboarder rockets to first World Cup victory

Places on the podium - Chris Robanske, middle, celebrates his victory at Blue Mountain.  - Marc Landry
Places on the podium - Chris Robanske, middle, celebrates his victory at Blue Mountain.
— image credit: Marc Landry

After snowboarder Chris Robanske won his first-ever World Cup event a few weeks ago in Ontario he texted a friend, promising to buy him a beer when he got back to North Vancouver.

That friend happened to be his former teammate and coach — and the last Canadian snowboarder to win a World Cup snowboard cross event, Drew Neilson.

Neilson accomplished the feat back in 2007 and has since retired after competing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Along with sharing slope techniques and other trade secrets, Neilson can also be counted on off the slopes. When Robanske moved into an Upper Lonsdale basement suite in April, he helped him furnish the place.

“He had some extra furniture kicking around,” says Robanske, with a laugh.

So, all told, Neilson was pretty deserving of a cold one.

Robanske, an Alberta native, moved to North Van last April so he could regularly train with Anthony Findlay and the crew at Level 10 Fitness.

So far his off-season dedication has paid off.

“That’s obviously my biggest career highlight to date,”  he says of the Feb. 2 victory at Blue Mountain.

It was Robanske’s third World Cup podium finish in just five races.

Winning hasn’t been a problem for the young boarder — but staying healthy has.

In 2011, he broke his back competing in the X-Games when he overshot a jump and last season he fractured his ankle.

Right now, he feels bionic. Since April he’s trained six days a week at Level 10 alongside other high-performance athletes, including the hockey-playing Reinhart brothers and other pro and elite amateur stars.

He credits Level 10 with helping him achieve a base strength that will last all winter long.

It’s also the place where he met girlfriend Micayla Gatto, a pro downhill mountain bike racer from West Van who has introduced him to the legendary North Shore trails.

This season Robanske is focused on finishing top three overall on the World Cup circuit (he’s currently second) and next year’s goal is standing on the Olympic podium in Russia.

On Monday, Robanske departed for Russia along with a group of other Canadians to participate in a test event at Sochi in advance of the 2014 Games.

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