Ride for Sam: USASA remembers Jackenthal with award | ParkRecord.com

Ride for Sam: USASA remembers Jackenthal with award

James Kanzler wins annual award at King of Wasatch

A little over two years ago, Park City native Sam Jackenthal was an up-and-coming freeskier. He was involved in a number of ski programs in the area, including the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association Big Mountain West Series, one of 32 series in USASA dedicated to providing competitions for amateur snowboarders and freeskiers.

In 2015 at the association's King of Wasatch competitions, Sam proved he was budding with potential by claiming first in the boys' ski halfpipe competition. He did it all with his signature smile, ability to make others feel welcome and passion for the sport.

"[Sam] was just super passionate about [skiing]," Sam's father, Ron Jackenthal, said. "He just had a really good attitude. It wasn't your typical athlete that they saw. He just stood out for a lot of reasons."

Unfortunately, Sam, the 2015 USSA Junior National freeskiing combined champion, passed away later that year due to injuries sustained in an a crash while training at Perisher Resort in Australia. He was 16 years old.

While his physical presence has been absent from the association the last two seasons, his spirit certainly lives on at the annual King of Wasatch competitions at Park City Mountain Resort. This year's event took place from Thursday through Sunday, with some of the Big Mountain West Series' best youth snowboarders and twin-tip skiers making their way to Park City for four days of slopestyle and halfpipe competitions.

In Sam's honor, the slopestyle course included a number of newly-dedicated features in Sam's favorite color, blue. They were also plastered with an enlarged handprint of Sam's, as well as tinier handprints of family and friends surrounding it.

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They were all vying for the top spots with the ski association's Nationals at Copper Mountain in Colorado coming up the first week of April. The event over the weekend produced a small crowd of supporters and spectators up and down the Pick N' Shovel Park and Eagle Superpipe.

The biggest crowd, however, gathered after all of the competitions when the association took a break from its normal presentation of the day's medals to present one of its most-special awards: the Sam Jackenthal Award.

"One of the reasons why they created this award for Sam was the legacy of kids who are extremely passionate and competitive, but also really team-oriented," Ron said. "[The award is for kids] out there to help others, as well as compete, and show a passion for the sport.

"[The association] approached me just over a year ago if it would be okay to create a legacy award in his honor. Of course, we agreed."

This year, the award went to James Kanzler, a 12-year-old from Park City. Typically a slopestyle skier, James pushed his limits by adding the halfpipe to his repertoire, as well as attended all of the association's regional events this year, including last weekend's King of Wasatch competition.

On Thursday, James captured second place in the Freeski Breaker 12-13 boys' halfpipe competition, as well as taking home first place in Friday's slopestyle competition in the same division. His success, along with his dedication and perseverance, led him to getting this year's Sam Jackenthal Award.

"It's just mind blowing that I have the chance to win this award and be really close to Sam by winning this," James said. "It's pretty cool to have that passion that Sam had. I decided to do halfpipe this year, to be as passionate as Sam. I've been trying to be as supporting as I can."

As he received the award with a picture of a smiling Sam on it from Ron, James, who is just the second recipient of the award, couldn't help but be emotional. Same goes for Ron, James' mother, Jen, and a good number of Parkites in attendance.

"It's just really special that we can continue to remember a lot of what Sam did through others that are coming up behind him," Ron said. "To see the progression that James has made over the last five-plus years is really rewarding as another parent in the community to see this kid on such a strong trajectory. He's just matured. It's been very enjoyable to see."

James is the most recent example of a United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association athlete showing his dedication and passion toward skiing, but he won't be the last. In the end, James impressed his peers enough to earn this award, but he's simply just trying to carry on a legacy.

"I'm trying to spread Sam's passion," James said. "Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it."