Commentary

Hollingsworth's tricks revolutionizing women's snowboarding

Updated: May 6, 2009, 2:55 PM ET
By Jen A. Miller | ESPNRISE.com

Stratton Mountain School (Stratton Mountain, Vt.) senior Ellery Hollingsworth's brothers used to tell her to get out of their way -- at least when it came to snowboarding. They didn't want their little sister tagging along.

[+] EnlargeEllery Hillingsworth
Courtesy of BurtonEllery Hollingsworth will be gunning for Olympic gold next year.

Now they don't want to ride without her. That's because Hollingsworth isn't just any little sister. At 17, she's the youngest member of the U.S. Snowboarding pro halfpipe team and a strong candidate to medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"She is probably the best all-around rider we have," says U.S. Snowboarding assistant halfpipe coach Ricky Bower, a former world champion. "She has an ability to set her mind on her goal and go for it in a way that is smart -- not just trying the same thing over and over again and getting frustrated. She's very methodical."

But don't mistake methodical for boring. Sponsored by the likes of Nike 6.0 and Oakley, Hollingsworth has the kind of ability that shatters gender stereotypes. As a 15-year-old, she became the first female to land a backside 900 on a quarterpipe during competition.

"With women's snowboarding, it's pretty much limitless right now," she says. "But that's all part of it -- to keep pushing the sport. The guys are pushing it every day and so are the women, but we need to push it even more."

Hollingsworth showed signs she would one day push boundaries even as a 6-year-old when she started riding at Bromley Mountain in Vermont with older brothers Kyle, now 22, and Jeb, now 23.

By the time she was in eighth grade, she was at Stratton Mountain, a boarding school for winter-sports athletes. She's been drawing attention ever since.

Hollingsworth's true breakout season came in 2008. She placed in two of the three legs of the U.S. Grand Prix, a major snowboarding competition that's seen as a precursor to the Olympics. Her best finish was second place at the Killington, Vt., event.

Hollingsworth was also invited to her first X Games last year, where she missed qualifying for the superpipe finals by just one spot.

"I stepped up from being one of the younger competitors," Hollingsworth says. "I wanted to be seen as a fellow professional snowboarder instead of an amateur."

Next up for Hollingsworth's pro career is the 2008 Winter Dew Tour, a new three-part pro event that's an extension of the Dew Tour, the leading pro circuit for skateboarding, BMX and motocross.

Even though a $1.5 million purse is up for grabs, Hollingsworth won't let anything alter her approach at the Winter Dew Tour.

"She just loves to ride and that's apparent in how she rides and the way she approaches learning new skills," says Bower, who thinks Hollingsworth is capable of winning a medal at the 2010 Olympics. "For her, it's not work. It's going out there and having fun."

In late 2008, Hollingsworth applied to colleges. She wants to study international relations, but only after taking a year's break between high school and college to prepare for the Olympics.

"I think that she's going to be doing some really great things here in the next few years," Bower says.

With our without her brothers.

Jen A. Miller covers high school sports for ESPN RISE GIRL Magazine.