Local Mammoth snowboarder Dusty Henricksen is only 18 years old and has just secured his spot on the most coveted roster in sports: the Olympics. But while his journey to the Olympics is what he describes as “pretty easy” athletically, getting him to where he is today took the love, conviction, and support of an entire community.
The 18-year old has already earned himself an impressive list of accolades.
He won two gold medals last year at his X Games debut in Aspen at the age of 17, making him the first U.S. male snowboarder to win the slopestyle competition title since Shaun White in 2009. He won the gold medal in slopestyle at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, and finished fourth in the big air category. He took gold at the 2020 Mammoth Grand Prix, and at the end of February 2020, he finished second in slopestyle at the Burton U.S. Open in Vail.
And now, he is going to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing as the youngest person on the official roster for the U.S. men’s slopestyle/big air team.
Getting Dusty to this point in his career took giving everything- not only from Dusty himself, but also from his family and the local Mammoth community.
“It was everyone. It took our whole family – grandmas, grandpas, everything- to put all that we had into getting to the mountain as much as we did, following all the contests, and getting him to where he needed to be- whether that was Park City rookie camps or training in Oregon,” said his mom Jenny Henricksen during an interview with The Sheet.
Jenny Henricksen has worked in the restaurant industry her whole life. Before Dusty was sponsored by major companies like Monster Energy, she worked many late nights at Slocum’s Grill & Bar in town in order to make the money required to send him around the world to compete.
His father Marko Henrickson operated a detailing business called Professional Mobile Detailing, which involved polishing and waxing RVs, cars, and boats.
“We’re regular workers,” said Jenny. “We aren’t big money people. A lot of the families have a lot of money in this sport. You don’t necessarily think about it, but it’s an extremely expensive sport.”
Marko Henrickson was also a professional snowboarder. As someone who liked to always be at the precipice of emerging trends, he taught many of the people now at helm of the industry how to initially board as an instructor. This included working alongside Tom Sims to invent some of the first snowboards.
“We had so many connections with people who didn’t forget about all of the things that Marko helped them with, so since the beginning of Dusty’s journey it’s been, ‘What do you need? How can we help?’ People have been really generous with providing the right gear,” said Jenny Henricksen.
The family began selling duct-tape wallets, made by Dusty and his grandma, in order to raise money for his competitions. Businesses in town started selling the wallets in their stores- Stellar Brew, Wave Rave, P3, Footloose, Mammoth Liquor, the list goes on. Spike Todd from Mammoth Liquor alone raised thousands of dollars by promoting Dusty’s wallets in his store.
“We did pretty much anything we could do to raise money,” said Jenny Henrickson. “And we truly had fun doing it. The Mammoth community is why we are here today.”
Dusty started snowboarding when he was two years old. His family lived in Big Bear, California until he was eleven, when they decided to move to Mammoth Lakes in order to access a bigger, more dynamic mountain.
“Dusty, his father and his brother Dillon were driving up to Mammoth every single weekend in the winter for contests and training, so we decided to just move here, in order for him to be able to progress and grow as much as possible as a rider,” said Jenny Henricksen.
For the first winter, Dusty and his mom lived in a small condo in Mammoth that his grandparents helped pay for, while his brother and his dad stayed in Big Bear until their house was sold.
The family then lived in a motorhome that they parked behind Wave Rave, with the store’s permission, for about a year while they searched for a home they could purchase in Mammoth.
They eventually found a small A-Frame near Forest Trail, which the family describes as cozy and quaint.
In order to save money and avoid staying in expensive village hotels, the family traveled in their motorhome to many of Dusty’s competitions. “We made it into a family vacation whenever we could,” said Jenny.
Dusty and his brother Dillon attended a special “independent learning center” through the Mammoth schools, which allowed them both to do all of their school work two days a week and then snowboard the rest of the week.
They eventually transitioned to home-schooling when the kids were reaching high school age.
The two brothers say that the journey to the Olympics has made them closer.
“I’ve gotten to travel a lot with Dusty and it’s been a lot of fun. Getting to go to the competitions, meet everyone, hang out, and make sure that he’s doing his tricks right and help him out has been awesome,” said Dillon Henricksen.
The family all rides together whenever they can; it has become a core part of their bond.
“The boys have gotten to grow together and be together through all of this. Snowboarding is so special to me and has brought so much to my family,” said Jenny Henricksen.
The moment when going to the Olympics became a tangible goal for Dusty happened in 2019, he says, when he qualified for his first World Cup Event in Switzerland at age 16.
“As soon as I did that, I also started learning tricks that were similar to the pros’. And so I really started to actually believe in myself then,” he said.
The recent achievement of his Olympic dream still feels surreal to him.
“I’m still not believing that I’m going to the Olympics. I don’t think I will until I’m on the plane,” said Dusty. “I’m so stoked. A lot of people have been telling me for a while that it would happen but now I guess I really believe them.”
Dusty currently works with a non-profit group called Mountain Vibez, which is dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged youth by covering all expenses needed in providing them with fun-filled riding lessons given by experienced riders.
He’s competing in the Winter X-Games in Aspen this coming week before flying to China in a special jet for American Olympic athletes.