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The Underdog Journey of a Team USA Snowboarder

Lucas Foster of Team USA shares his journey from underdog to pro snowboarder
Credit-Lucas Foster/Joker Mag Illustration

Lucas Foster is a professional snowboarder from Telluride, Colorado. He is on Team USA and is an Olympic hopeful for snowboarding halfpipe in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Lucas a few questions about his journey thus far.

What are your earliest memories of snowboarding? What made you fall in love with it?

My earliest memories of snowboarding were just watching my mom and dad ride when I was a toddler on skis. I had no idea you could do tricks, what the Olympics or the X Games were, I just thought it was so cool since I just wanted to do what my parents were doing.

When I was 8 I finally made the switch. I remember riding anything and everything in front of me, I could care less what it was. If I was snowboarding I was stoked. I sucked at most sports I did growing up and had a hard time finding places I felt “right” in, so snowboarding gave me an outlet to push myself and explore what my body and mind could do. I loved the journey of just becoming a better snowboarder and the community I had around it.

Growing up in the small town of Telluride, Colorado, you’ve said before that you didn’t have many resources to achieve your dreams in the halfpipe. Can you explain more about that?

Don’t get me wrong, Telluride is unreal. It’s one of the best mountains and communities to grow up in to be a snowboarder, skier, you name it. That mountain gave me a great foundation as a rider to go off and do whatever. Growing up, I rode in the park and did tons of freeriding. The terrain in Telluride is some of the most challenging in the country. So that made it easy for me to go off and ride any resort. Some people still think I’m just another pipe jock who rode Copper Mountain all day every day as a kid but the truth is my friends and I were full-on weekend warriors riding everything in sight in Telluride. 

It wasn’t too tough until I got a little older and got the urge to spread my wings beyond Telluride. Unlike most ski towns, Telluride didn’t really have an elite ski/snowboard program supporting kids to go off and take that next step in contest snowboarding beyond the USASA events (the grassroots contest series). I was pretty much on my own with figuring out where to go, what contests to do, all that stuff.

Then when I started having success in halfpipe, it got even harder since Telluride had no halfpipe or anything even close to a halfpipe for me to refine my riding. The backup plan for kids in that position usually would be relocating to other mountains and joining a ski/snowboard academy program at Park City, Windells, Vermont, etc. But my parents were nowhere close to having the money to do anything like that, as nice as it would’ve been.

There were tons of fundamentals I was missing and had to revisit when I was older. I had to get really creative with what I did have access to in Telluride, which worked in the end. It was necessary to have those hoops to jump since it made me own my own mistakes, think outside the box, and in the end, it built character.

Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t have my hand constantly held. It just makes the story better in the end.

Lucas Foster flipping at top of halfpipe on mountain in the snow
Courtesy of Lucas Foster

What was your life like growing up? 

I was always a passionate kid growing up, I absolutely loved everything I was interested in. I was a dreamer and totally obsessive. When I was 3, I loved dirt biking. I’d dress up as Ricky Carmichael (a legendary Motocross racer) and bike around telling everyone I was him. I never looked at life with limits. Since I was so obsessed with these things I loved, I never really cared to fit into a mold at school as a young kid.

I was kind of an outcast, I mean I had a good amount of friends and could get along with most people, but for some reason, it never felt completely right. It was really hard at times since I felt totally overlooked as a kid here and there. I sucked at a lot of team sports and was always the smaller kid in my grade which made me really question myself. I had to totally rebuild my self-esteem and how I viewed myself. Snowboarding and skateboarding really saved me from anything deeper than that. 

I come from a pretty blue-collar family, my parents both worked their butts off to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and all that. My parents loved me, kept me in check, and supported me however they could. They still do to this day. Things were rough at times though. My parents split up when I was 11, which was hard on everyone and lasted for longer than I thought it would. It was kind of a weird situation, but long story short I was in the center of it for a few years.

Watching how it was affecting everyone in my family was super hard, the family was pretty divided. I was 11 years old learning how to deal with heavy emotions and put in tough situations that forced me to grow up quickly. In the end, it made me more mature though. I learned how to deal with people better, I learned how to own my own mistakes, get over my ego and have compassion for my family whether I agreed with what they were doing or not.

In a recent podcast, you talked about leaving school early to pursue your dream. Can you walk me through what that experience was like for you?

That experience was super cool and totally worth it. It’s pretty normal to take that route if you’re a kid with a lot of potential in any sport, but like I was saying earlier most people in Telluride had never really seen kids take that path.

There were definitely some parents and kids giving my parents and me weird looks for the first few months. I remember most people thought I dropped out and when I’d say I just did online school they’d say “Oh well a GED is good enough!” even though I have my legit diploma sitting back at home. Talk about feeling like an outcast. Some of my best friends’ parents would tell my friends I would be screwed and that what I was doing was super wrong. 

The actual decision was amazing for me since I was able to travel more, snowboard more, put in more training off the snow and so much more. Not to mention finishing high school while traveling the world as a 16 or 17-year-old. I also was able to work at this pizza place called High Pie a few nights a week when I was 15 to have a little more money to do stuff in the winter. It really paid off my senior year when I started to really travel a ton, I was on the road for months on end.

I would’ve been screwed if I went to regular school. Looking back, I don’t feel any FOMO from missing my last few years of regular high school. I wouldn’t be here without that and I wouldn’t be the person I am now without some people talking smack.

Courtesy of Lucas Foster

Who’s been your best mentor or person you’ve looked up to along your journey?

There are too many to name. When I was really young, it was my dad. I didn’t know a single pro snowboarder till I was like 11. My dad was the GOAT in my eyes. Anything he did, I had to do. Without idolizing him I wouldn’t have ever touched a snowboard. 

When I was a little older and growing into my own man, shortly after the divorce, I met a guy named Jason Kannon. Jason was a pro snowboarder and is now a Holistic Health Practitioner. He studied with Paul Chek, who is a world-renowned expert in the fields of corrective and high-performance exercise kinesiology and has trained some of the most legendary athletes of all time.

Long story short, Jason really took me under my wing and taught me so much about how to keep my body and mind sharp and the importance of how my actions as a teen will affect my adult years and my dreams as a snowboarder. When I had my first session with him, I found out exactly what was wrong with my body and how it was hindering my mental game and my snowboarding.  We identified all my imbalances physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, addressed them, and built strength and power on that.

Without doing those things I would not be here now, no question about it. He really held me accountable as a teen.  I still work with him regularly, his work and the CHEK approach are superior to most in the field of health and wellness.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced on your journey to going pro?

Honestly, it’s been myself. Looking back at the times I’ve struggled most, the only thing in my way was myself and my head. As I developed as a snowboarder and as a human, it took time for my esteem to catch up and start treating myself like how I should. There were times where I would be hard on myself and not turn my head to the reality that I’m capable of doing what I do.

A simple way to put it is I would be putting in the work, going above and beyond daily, but still thinking and carrying myself as if I’m still a straggler trying to prove myself to everyone. There were times where I had a huge chip on my shoulder and maybe do things with poor judgment. My mind loves the feeling of being an underdog, so sometimes it’d make up false issues to light a fire under my ass.

I had to find that happy medium of using my underdog spirit to my advantage while also treating myself with respect. All I had to do was believe and trust myself and my path and things really turned around. I made better decisions, my riding got way better, my relationships strengthened, I enjoyed myself a lot more and life just flowed better. I still work on this type of thing all the time, sometimes it comes back to me. But I truly feel a day and night difference from a year ago to now.

I’m getting to the point now where I’m realizing anything is possible as long as I get out of my own way and trust every moment. The only thing that exists in the present moment, so screw the past and who knows if I’ll wake up the next day? Just do the work in front of you.

What are some of the overlooked things that go into becoming a professional athlete? Stuff that most regular, everyday people don’t know about or realize.

Most people never really consider their character outside their sport. Especially in snowboarding, a lot of these snowboard teams and new kids coming up only focus on the physical aspect of going riding and “training” on snow, which that approach is kind of flawed in my opinion.

They snowboard a ton which is obviously important, but they never turn their heads to the quality of their character and the choices they make off the snow. I think the real “training” happens off snow, physically but also mentally/emotionally. Who you are off your snowboard, the values you have beyond the snow and the character you possess are what’s going to determine how much you’ll get out of your time doing your sport.

Going snowboarding is the fun part. Yeah, I compete and take it seriously but when I’m on snow I am having a blast. When I’m off the board, I hold myself to a high standard so my quality of life is optimal. Not just for snowboarding, but for life. There will come a day where you can’t compete or film video parts, so you want to make sure you’re someone that can bring something to the table in any area of life.

 You really sell yourself short if you don’t consider the choices you make outside of your sport and the quality of your character in your everyday life. These little things are the big things.

Courtesy of Lucas Foster

What advice do you have for others facing adversity in their own lives?

Like I said earlier, do the work that’s in front of you. The past doesn’t exist, same with the future. No matter how hard your situation is, if you do the work in front of you with a clear head you’re destined to get through it. If you’re dealing with an injury, you’re just thinking about ways to heal faster and stronger and also avoid injury down the road. You can truly dig yourself out of just about any situation by doing what’s in front of you in that moment. 

How has your pro career treated you so far? Is it what you expected it to be?

It’s been pretty cool so far. I’m still in the early phases of it, so I’m sure there’s more to come if I keep it all going. It’s just as fun as it was when I was a little kid riding with my parents, sometimes you gotta get serious and get stuff done if you want to stay relevant, but that’s totally fine with me.

Working hard is cool, if you work hard you get to play hard. If you love the process of landing a contest run or filming the video part of your dreams all winter, it’s a breeze to put in the work. The fun never disappears. The reward is unlike anything else.

What are your dreams and aspirations for the future? In snowboarding and/or life in general.

I’d love to make a statement in the contest scene over the next few years. Who knows if I’ll stick around competing after, but I’m loving it right now. However, the contest format/scene is getting pretty dull in my opinion so I am looking forward to expanding what I’m doing as a snowboarder and athlete. I love exploring what my mind and body can do whether it’s on my snowboard, skateboard, etc., and finding new methods of achieving great things.

Then the long-term goal for me is to share these unique methods I’ve used to get to where I’m at with the world, so more kids from different backgrounds can make it in whatever they choose. I’ve seen so many of my friends get discouraged because they couldn’t take the cookie-cutter approach to their goals. I don’t like thinking or living life in a box, I’d love to see less of that.

If you could put one message on a big billboard for millions of people to see, what would that message say?

“You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe”- Paul Chek 

Where can people find you?

Instagram is usually where I’m most active! @lucasfoster_ on there and most platforms.

Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.



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