Snowboarding coach of the year Chris Waker seems like a fixture in the Vail area, but he’s actually a transplant. Originally hailing from Vermont, Waker made Summit Valley his home thirteen years ago. Recently, Waker was named Snowboarding Coach of the Year by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Congress in Park City, Utah.

Waker was once an elite snowboarder himself. He worked for his father’s heating and plumbing business to save money before moving to Summit County to train. Waker never made the US men’s team. Though he was disappointed, Waker found that he had a knack for coaching. Waker’s own experiences training hard and competing at a high level give him great insight that other athletes have responded to.

Chris Waker’s entry to the world of coaching was paved by his former coach, Ian Kirk. Kirk had trained Waker at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. He helped Waker learn the ropes of coaching with a team from Australia that was based in Summit County. Once he was coaching, Waker’s confidence grew. He realized that this field was a great fit for him.

Over the years, Waker has continued to work under Kirk’s umbrella. Starting in 2013, he worked with Kirk’s Camp. Kirk’s Camp works with snowboarders who’ve adopted alternative lifestyles. Many world-class freestyle snowboarders from all over the world have made Kirk’s Camp their home. Luke Winkelmann, Red Gerard and Nik Baden are among the talented snowboarders who’ve trained there.

Waker has been instrumental in helping snowboarders make the US Rookie Team. Many of his coaching clients have also become world-class snowboarders at the international junior level. Riders who were trained by Waker include big names like Alex Atno, Eli Mcdermott and Will Healy. Waker’s a beloved coach in part because the atmosphere he creates isn’t just competitive. It’s also fun.

People sense is at the heart of Chris Waker’s coaching philosophy. He works with athletes who are driven, fun and have good people skills. They have to be able to motivate each other, and they have to be able to work well as part of a team. Waker has built an impressive career in a short period of time. It will be interesting to watch his career continue to develop in years to come.