Michigan’s Nick Baumgartner worked hard to be the atypical snowboarder
Snowboarder Nick Baumgartner was built for snowboard cross. He’s six feet tall and two hundred pounds. The ideal size to throw around in a sport described as "roller derby on snow." However, Baumgartner doesn’t live the ideal snowboarder lifestyle. The two-time Olympian lives in the freezing cold Upper Peninsula of Michigan instead of near the Rocky Mountains or in Tahoe. He spends time with his son during the offseason rather than going on the year-round search for winter. He’s so far removed from the typical snowboard life he lays concrete when he can to earn money. Baumgartner has proved that working hard pays off and is always thankful for where he came from.
Why do you live in the Upper Peninsula and not in one of the western ski towns?
Everything I’ve become and everything I’m doing now is because where I am now. It’s a safe place to raise my child. I don’t worry about him. He can do what he wants and I am very confident he’ll come home safe. His mom is here. My family is here. Her family is here. I don’t need to take him away from all that. Me leaving to go to those places, even if it does better my chances at winning, it’s not an option. Some people say I’m selling myself short. I don’t see that because if I have to leave my kid anymore than I already have to then I’m selling myself short. I can get a lot of stuff done here. Maybe it’s not the same training or high quality training I can get elsewhere, but I know what I need to do and I can do it from here. This game is much mental as it is physical. If I’m bumming it and not around my son, that’s not going to put me in the right mindset. Being here and training with him is good.
Embedded video_content_type: U.S. Olympian Nick Baumgartner looks to represent Michigan in Sochi
How often are you away form your son?
The winters are pretty aggressive, but I still get time off. [This] year I had to sit down with him and had several talks. ‘Hey buddy, I just need you to make it through this year. I know it’s going to be tough, but hopefully good things will come of this,’ but technology makes it easier. I have my mom and dad here. He gets some time with my family. When I’m supposed to have him on the weekend and I’m not home, my family takes him.
How old is your son?
What’s his name?
Are you married?
Can you share where his mother is?
She lives probably three miles from my house. We have a good relationship, we just weren’t good together in a relationship. We’re great friends. She supports what I do and when I am home and if it’s not our time I just say I want to do this and we’re pretty good with each other. It worked out pretty well. Not how I assumed it would go.
Did your son get to see you compete in Vancouver?
No, he didn’t. It was the logistics of getting it to happen and to do it last minute would have been very expensive. I come from a small community in the UP and don’t have a lot of money laying around. I got to where I am because my parents taught me how to work for everything I got not because it was handed to me.
Nick Baumgartner poses with his son, Landon, after winning the gold medal in men's snowboard cross at the 2011 Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain. (Photo: Getty Images)
I have some. One being Lock Tite. It’s an adhesive company. They fully believe what I’m doing and have given me the opportunity to be able to give some money back to my bills at home rather than just tasting the dream and always pouring concrete.
Is that a side gig for you?
Yeah. Not all my gigs make a lot of money. Truck racing spends money. That will change as I grow as a competitor. Concrete’s always certain. As long as you have a trade you can always make money. When times are tough and when I’m at home I have the equipment because I was starting to work towards having my own stuff when I came across snowboard cross.
You were a big athlete in high school. What drew you to snowboarding opposed to football or baseball?
I played a year of college football at Northern Michigan University – division 2 - but the UP is freezing cold. In the winter you need to find something fun to do with it or freeze your butt off. When I had free time I was working on the ski hill teaching lessons and when I was teaching, snowboard wasn’t huge around here. I would go in and all the kids go do ski lessons and I had one snowboard lesson. When I was done with college football I found myself at the point I didn’t have anything to compete in anymore. Slow pitch softball wasn’t going to cut it.
Did you finish school?
Nope. It kind of sucks because when I now talk to schools it’s one part I have to talk about and be positive about. I went there at the wrong time. I was immature, I wasn’t ready for it. So I took a semseter off to decide what to do and decided to do snowboarding. I put every ounce of energy into it. All summer as a union concrete laborer, pouring concrete and had the winters off. It worked out perfect. I save up all my money all summer and spent it chasing my dream in the winter.
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