New Canaan resident finds national success as a snowboarder
NEW CANAAN—For 30 years, Michelle Orr and her family have been traveling to Vermont to ski.
Her relatives and her all learned the sport by age five, so three winters ago when her son, Sumner, then seven-years-old, asked to try snowboarding, it was a bit of a change-of-pace.
“That winter we rented a snowboard and a set of skis just in case,” Michelle said. “And he’s never touched the skis since.”
Not only has Sumner left skiing in his wake, but also the snowboarders he now competes against every season from December to March.
In just his third year of competitive snowboarding, Sumner placed eighth in the 10-11 age-group at Nationals this past April in Colorado.
THE SUMNER ORR FILE
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Seven medals this past season, eighth overall at Nationals in April
WHAT’S PLAYING: Radiohead
HOBBY: Playing drums
FAVORITE MOMENT: Going to Nationals
“I just thought it was more fun to do and more challenging,” Sumner—an 11 year-old going into sixth grade at Saxe Middle School—said of his decision to switch to the board. “Learning new tricks is the hardest part and going out of your comfort zone.”
What’s hard for many, seems to come easy to Sumner. After winning a Mountain Dew Challenge in his first year competing, Sumner decided to focus on competition.
The result was three medals two seasons ago, and an eye-popping seven in this previous run racing for the Okemo Mountain Snowboard Team.
Sumner was invited to perform in all five events at Nationals—giant slalom, slalom, boarder cross, slope style and half pipe. His aggregate score led to the top-10 finish.
“What I see in him is that he has a really, really good work ethic,” Michelle said of her son’s quick rise to national prominence. “He works really hard at it, he’s very teachable, he loves learning and pushing himself and he loves being out there on the snow all the time.”
In a time where technology is all the rage, especially with the youth of America, Sumner is the rare anomaly that has more old-school interests.
“This is a kid who would rather be out on the trampoline or climbing a tree,” Michelle said. “Instead of being inside on the computer or watching TV.”
Of course, there is no reward without a certain amount of sacrifice.
Because of the hectic schedule, Sumner is forced to miss an abundant amount of school days each year, and Michelle must make the trek to Vermont every weekend to get her son to his competitions.
The task isn’t enviable, but as a proud mother, she hardly minds.
“It’s a difficult decision because he does miss about 25 school days every year due to snowboarding and I have to take him to competitions every weekend and climb up the mountain to watch him,” Michelle said. “But it’s something I derive a lot of pleasure from. watching your child do something they love so much and excel at is really worth it.”
His success and happiness is a driving factor in why the Orrs have opted to purchase a residence in Vermont, and why they’re actively trying to sell their New Canaan home to make the change of scenery permanent.
“He’s not the main reason, but it is a motivating factor,” Michelle said. “A lot of kids in his age range are home-schooled or they go to the mountain boarding schools—he’s what they call a weekend warrior.”
Sumner already has sponsorships from Donek Snowboards and Demon United, and, if he wants to reach his already lofty goals, an unrelenting dedication is necessary.
“I want to get up to higher competition,” Sumner said. “Like the US Open or X Games.”
With the combination of his youth, advanced maturity and natural abilities, the sky really may be the limit for this young athlete.