Steven Pemberton, now 17, grew up in a town called High River, Alberta, before he and his family moved to Nova Scotia.
Almost immediately after moving to this area, Pemberton picked up snowboarding again — something he had only dabbled in before.
“I arrived here from Alberta in 2013, and I’ve been snowboarding regularly ever since,” Pemberton said. “I knew there was a hill pretty close to me, and I just decided on the first day they were open that season to check it out.”
It’s a good thing he did.
Pemberton has been excelling at it ever since, recently placing first at the 2018 NSSAF snowboard cross provincials.
“I like the exercise, I guess, I try to stay physically active,” he added. “I like to go fast too — that’s fun. I like to do flips and stuff too.”
The Grade 12 Avon View student said he kept coming back to the sport and improving his skills because a lot of his friends were also involved with the sport.
“It’s better than just sitting at home and doing nothing in the winter time,” he said. “I love it; it’s just so much fun.”
Pemberton said he was hoping for a faster time during the recent provincials, despite coming in first place. His time was 30.6, and he was hoping to come in at under 30 seconds, which he managed during practice events.
Still, getting a gold felt pretty good, he said. It was his first time on the podium during a provincial tournament.
“It was awesome, because all of my friends were kind of counting on me to do my best,” he said. “They all helped me with snowboarding and really pushed me to this point.”
The next step for Pemberton is heading to the snowboard cross nationals at the Big White Ski Resort outside of Kelowna, B.C. which takes place between March 21 and 26.
He’s heading up early to train and is scheduled to compete on March 23 and March 25.
“I’m kind of excited and nervous. I’ve been doing pretty well — it’s my best year so far, so I’m hoping I can do as good as possible,” he said.
To get that result, he trains four days a week with regular stops at the gym and Ski Martock.
It’s a lot of work, but worth it.
“It’s March Break, so all of my friends want to go do stuff, but I have training, so it’s kind of hard to do that,” he said. “I really, really like snowboarding. It’s my passion.”
He’s gotten to know his fellow Team Nova Scotia athletes as well, saying they’ve developed a strong bond that will come in handy when they travel to British Columbia.
Outside of snowboarding, Pemberton is also a car enthusiast and likes hanging out at the skatepark in the summer months.
He’s not sure yet what his future holds, but one thing is for sure: he plans to keep snowboarding for as long as he can.
Kristin d’Eon, technical director for Snowboard Nova Scotia, is also Pemberton’s co-head coach. He expects Pemberton to perform well at nationals.
“Steven is the athlete that you always want to have. He’s always looking for feedback and when you give it he’s genuinely willing to apply that and attempt it,” d’Eon said.
“He came to us, either last year or the year before, primarily on the freestyle side and he made the changeover to race. He still likes freestyle, even last night we were going through the park, having a fun night, and he was doing backflips, which a lot of the other racers don’t do.”
Those skills, d’Eon believes, help build on his racing performance.
“That freestyle skill allows him to have a better feel on snow,” he added. “It’s quite abnormal for a rider to go as quickly from just joining the race team to excelling to where he is at the rate he’s done it.”
d’Eon said Pemberton is an equally hard worker off the hill, working hard at the gym and keeping fit with BMX biking, scooters, and skateboarding.
All of Pemberton’s past experience with those sports allowed him to excel at snowboard cross so quickly.
“Steven has great foot speed. In snowboard cross, the start is the crucial part; if you can get out of the start in front, it makes the race a lot easier,” he said. “He has the ability to keep his board on the ground, where others are struggling with start features.”
The coach said he’s been really impressed with Pemberton’s performance at North American tournaments so far, placing in the top 30 in two recent events.
During last year’s national tournament, Pemberton placed 37th in senior and 25th in junior. Based on Pemberton’s performance during this season, d’Eon expects him to perform even better.