SUGAR HILL -- In this season of high-profile triumph for skiers who honed their skills at Cannon Mountain, yet another "Cannon Kid" this week claimed a prestigious title.
Cory Snyder, a 21-year-old Sugar Hill resident and graduate of Profile Junior/Senior High School in Bethlehem, won the men's U.S. National Telemark Championship at Bromley and Haystack mountains in Vermont.
Competing in six races over four days, Snyder won four (a giant slalom, a classic and two sprint classics), finished third in one and place fourth in another. He totaled 118 points, five more than runner-up Tanner Visnick of Steamboat Springs, Colo.
"It was a big 'Yahoo!' moment," Snyder said on Tuesday, after returning to the University of New Hampshire, where he is a junior majoring in exercise science. "There were a lot of fist bumps. There were a lot of smiles all around."
The son of Profile teachers James and Marie Snyder, Snyder grew up in Sugar Hill and on the slopes of Cannon in nearby Franconia.
"I'm a Cannon Kid. Living in Sugar Hill, my parents used to drop me and my friends off and we'd ski all day long," Snyder recalled, elongating the "all" for emphasis. "My parents would have to drag me off."
Famous as the home of World Cup and Olympic champion Bode Miller, Cannon Mountain has seen a number of its skiers do particularly well in 2014 — and the season's far from done.
Franconia's Tyler Walker recently won the overall championship in the men's sitting class at the International Paralympic Committee Alpine World Cup Final in Tarvisio, Italy, and now he and fellow Cannon skier Chris Devlin-Young of Campton will compete in the Paralympic Winter Games, set to begin Friday in Sochi, Russia, site of the Olympic Winter Games.
A 2010 Profile graduate, Snyder follows in the trail of Walker who, graduated from PHS in 2004.
Snyder skied varsity Alpine as well as Nordic at his alma mater, and in his junior and senior years was named the NHIAA Division IV "skimeister" as the state's top overall performer in the two disciplines.
Although he liked both of those types of skiing — as well as soccer and baseball, which he also played at PHS — Snyder said he's always liked telemark best ever since an uncle introduced him to the sport on the slopes of Stowe, Vt., at the age of 7.
His uncle's words — "You're not a real skier if you don't telemark" — motivated Snyder, and, in time, he became proficient.
In 2007, Snyder won an all-comers telemark race at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, and in 2008, he began competing at elite levels, ultimately rising to national and international competition.
For those unfamiliar with telemark, Snyder explains it as being very much like Alpine. Most of the equipment is similar, he siad, with the major exception being that the front bindings are hinged and the heel is free.
The telemark skiing motion, he said, is essentially a downhill lunge, alternating the forward leg and making the wide, arcing turns that are the sport's visual trademark.
"It's just a different way of skiing, and it just hooked me because making a perfect telemark turn is more thrilling than an alpine turn," Snyder said.
"It's totally flow," he said, describing the appearance of telemark skiers gliding over a race course, where, by his estimate, they can hit speeds of up to 50 mph.
Snyder, who hopes to telemark ski full-time after graduating from UNH, said winning the national crown this season was due, in part, to an airline losing his equipment in December.
Somewhere between Europe and Boston, his skis went missing, he said, and he was forced to use his old pair. The result was a "rebirth" that carried him into the nationals.
"This nationals was really special to me because I hadn't been skiing well," Snyder said.
Although there's not much money in telemark skiing — Snyder, who works two jobs during the summer, noted that many of his fellow world-class competitors have to pay their own way to compete — he hopes to stay in it for a long time ... long enough, he said, to see it become an Olympic sport.
In the meantime, he's basking in the glow of a national overall championship, trying to educate people about telemark skiing and enjoying life.
"It's all about having fun, trying to go fast and skiing happy," he said.