SOCHI, Russia -- Bill Enos believes our accomplishments are the sum total of all the people we have met, places we have gone, things we have seen, and the experiences we share.
For Enos, there is no greater example of this than being the coach of the US snowboard slopestyle team at the Olympics, which won two gold medals in the sport’s debut at the 2014 Winter Games.
Enos fits seamlessly into the snowboarding world. His persona fits perfectly into the free-spirited snowboard culture because he and it are one and the same. He can flip between conversations about the latest video game to the philosophy of peak performance as easily as shifting from toe side edge to heel side edge on a snowboard. His passion for the sport connects with teenagers as easily as it does with the “higher-ups” at the US Snowboard Association.
“US Snowboarding lets me be creative, the way I let my riders be creative, and we all work well together,” said Enos, who is from Campton, N.H., and attended the Waterville Valley Academy.
I live in the same town as Bill, and have known him since he was a professional snowboarder in the early 1990s. Seeing him at the bank or the post office brightens my day and always helps me to see the world as a silly, random, and wonderful place.
“He is the pied piper of snowboarding,” said Tom Barbeau, the Alpine program director of the Waterville Valley Ski Academy in New Hampshire. “In the early days of snowboard racing, he and a few others would run gates with our skiers. Bill would get up going fast, crash, and do it all over again and again. He was tenacious. Then when he became a coach, I saw how he masked that intensity behind his personality to motivate his athletes.
“To be a great coach, you have to never forget what it is like to be a kid. Billy has never lost that ability and through that he connects, educates and motivates his riders.”
Sage Kotsenburg is known for his style and progression, and has been a part of the snowboarding scene, but never really on top of the field. He unveiled his signature trick, the “Holy Crail,” to win gold at the Olympics, his first victory since he was a young teenager. His parents started to wonder if he would ever be recognized for his participation in the sport.
“I told his parents there is only one event where Sage needs to be recognized this year, and that is in Russia at the Olympics. His time has come, and it was the perfect time. That is how life is,” Enos said.
Enos had no qualms about Kotsenburg attempting a trick for the first time in a competition in the finals of the Olympics.
“It was the perfect time for him to do it,” he said. “I wasn’t worried, I knew the winner would come out of the semifinals, not the top riders that made the finals into the first round. I told my entire team that the extra rounds were a good thing and to remain positive. And Sage was just getting better and better all day. His runs were fluid and he was so relaxed, it didn’t surprise me he would try something new.”
The day prior to the Olympic debut of the slopestyle event, Enos and Kostenburg hung out together all day.
“We were chilling and we both decided to take a 15 minute nap. Sage set his alarm, I didn’t. He woke me up exactly 15 minutes later and we just sort of walked around some more. We went shopping and bought some chocolate, hit the game room, but the basketball game was broken so we were bummed out and played the motorcycles race game for a while, had some dinner and then we only had two movies, Fight Club and Little Miss Sunshine. We chose Fight Club and went to bed,” he said.
Jamie Anderson, who won gold in the Olympic women’s slopestyle, said she couldn’t sleep the night before her big event.
“I did some yoga and meditated,” Anderson said. “I knew I would never get any sleep if I didn’t. It worked and I woke up feeling great.”
Anderson is famous for her smile and relaxed positive outlook on life. She has four X Games Gold Medals, and also won on the Dew tour, so she is no newcomer to pressure.
“She is a totally different athlete than Sage,” Enos said. “I give her space on top of the course. She is a master at stretching, breathing, and just goes to a different place right before she pushes off.”
Slopestyle kicked off the day after the opening ceremony. The competitors watched the big party from up in the mountains. There were some rumbles about the course not being safe and some riders were injured in training. Snowboarding icon Shaun White pulled out of the competition to focus on his main event, the halfpipe.
“We just stayed positive through all of that drama. It had no effect on us. The jumps needed some tweaking. At all major events the riders have to adjust to the jumps and rails,” Enos said.
The landings were a bit steeper than normal and the jumps were huge at the Olympics. That required the riders to adjust their takeoffs and landings a bit. Anderson was struggling with her takeoffs and spins.
“I just told her what I saw and made a few suggestions. She did the rest,” Enos said.
“It almost doesn’t seem real that both athletes won. At the end of the day you go, hey, not a bad weekend! Blessed I guess. I’m looking forward to developing new riders, I mean how do you top the Olympics?”
He may not be quite sure on what to do next, but one thing is for sure: whatever Bill Enos does, it will be fun, calm, silly, and profound.