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Snowboarder with Massachusetts roots travels the globe

March 28, 2015

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Chris Grenier had a plan after graduating from Algonquin Regional in 2005, and it didn’t include matriculating to college like the vast majority of his classmates.

It was nothing against higher education. It just wasn’t as appealing as higher elevation.

So it was out with the books and all in with the snowboards.

Grenier relocated from Southboro to Salt Lake City a few months after receiving his diploma and has resided there ever since, carving out a career as a fully-sponsored professional snowboarder.

“It feels good to follow your dreams and go for it,” Grenier, 27, recently said during a phone conversation from the home he owns in Utah. “It’s better to wake up every day and go to work and do something you enjoy than follow the straight and narrow sometimes.”

Grenier played organized hockey — he’s a huge Bruins fan; same for the Patriots — and expressed himself individually through skateboarding before taking up snowboarding in middle school.

He started at Ski Ward in Shrewsbury and in short time advanced to steeper terrain at Wachusett Mountain and Mount Snow, where he attended the Vermont resort’s ski school during the winters of his junior and senior years of high school.

Grenier initially participated in half-pipe and other competitions, but found what he really enjoyed was the creativity of being a street or urban snowboarder — doing stunts like sliding down hand rails of a city building, which he often did at the former Worcester County courthouse.

And since arriving in Utah what Grenier and his friends have done is film their extraordinary aerial exploits and market the short segments as training videos to young snowboarders, videos that are sold on the Internet and in snowboard shops across the country.

“Kids buy these videos and are essentially inspired to learn those tricks,” Grenier said. “And we try to invent new tricks and push snowboarding and add our own twist to snowboarding through videos rather than repetition contests where it’s almost like a gymnastics-contest feel of aerial acrobatics where you have coaches and analysts and guys all over.

“We’re just more into going snowboarding with our friends and filming it. I think it’s more relatable to the kids.”

Grenier figures he flies 65,000 to 70,000 miles a year for work. He’s filmed in numerous snowy states in the Midwest and West, as well as Quebec, Montreal, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Lithuania, and Japan.

“Any place that has snow, we’ll chase it down if we can,” he said, pointing out, “The architecture in other countries is often more visually appealing.”

Grenier traveled to Japan earlier this year to star in a film after receiving an invitation to participate in a contest that did inspire him. He was one of five competitors selected to take part in Real Snow 2015, an urban video snowboard contest sponsored by the World of X Games.

“It’s really an honor to be asked to do it because they only take five riders and there are a lot of really talented snowboarders out there,” Grenier said. “So to be selected as one of the guys that is basically one of the top five street snowboarders was just an honor and unexpected, I guess, because I’m just a snowboarder from Massachusetts who likes to slide down some rails. It’s kind of funny to see it on such a mainstream level.”

The contest began Dec. 1 and Grenier and his fellow contestants had until Jan. 15 to produce a 90-second video on a budget of $12,500. That already tight six-week window got further compressed when Grenier suffered a concussion on the first day of filming that sidelined him for about a week. Then there was the decision to fly to Japan because snow was in short supply this winter out West.

In the end, Grenier and highly decorated filmmaker Pat Fenelon, who’s from Rhode Island, produced a piece that was awarded the gold medal by a panel of rider judges during a one-hour special broadcast on ABC on March 7.

“I was really surprised when I won,” Grenier said. “All the other guys in the contest are pretty serious, serious competition guys, but psyched, yeah. We worked really hard on the video, grinding for a month and a half and just working really hard, getting shots, traveling, and beating my body up. So it was a really good feeling to get the award in the end.”

Grenier’s creativity, determination, athleticism, fearlessness, and willingness to work are on full display during 90 seconds of absorbing action that includes one trick in which he snowboarded from one rooftop to another.

“That was easy pretty much,” Grenier said. “It was just scary because if you mess up on the end run you’re dead, basically. That was just a mental game, but the trick itself wasn’t that difficult. The more technical tricks, sliding down rails, those are the ones that took a long time.”

The time will come, as it does for every professional athlete, when Grenier will have to leave the inventing and executing of ever-more chancy and creative tricks to others. It could be he becomes a team manager or works for a company in the snowboard industry or becomes the guy behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Or it could be something completely different.

“I also do a lot of welding and fabricating in the summer, and I build custom coffee tables and custom dinner tables out of steel and wood and stuff like that,” said Grenier, whose clientele includes golfer Jim Furyk.

“I just started getting into that as a hobby to kind of make a little bit of money in the summer, even though I’m employed year-round on salary. And it keeps my mind occupied to do some metal fabricating in the summer.

“I trust my work ethic so much that I know whether it’s a job within the industry or a job in woodworking, I think I’ll be fine.”

Who’d doubt him after deciding 10 years ago to seek out higher elevation rather than higher education?

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