Michigan Olympian Heads to Snowboarding World Cup

Snowboarder Jake Vedder represents metro Detroit across the world.
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Photograph courtesy of Jake Vedder

Michigan is known for its many winter sports that give residents and visitors an exciting activity to get through the long season. For Jake Vedder, 25, of Pinckney, the winter season means much more.

Vedder is a one-time Olympian with a decorated career in snowboarding. Between October and April every year, he travels from Sierra Nevada to Italy to Austria and beyond to compete among the best snowboarders in the world and to train along the way. And, yes, he was born and raised in metro Detroit.

“You would expect Olympic snowboarders to be from Colorado or California, but I just made an opportunity out of a really small hill in Michigan and somehow made it work,” Vedder said during an interview with Hour Detroit.

Vedder first took to the slopes at Mt. Brighton when he was five. “I started snowboarding just as something to do during the winter to get out of my mom’s hair. I was good locally but never thought I could make a career out of it.”

Although Vedder went on to compete at national snowboarding tournaments throughout his childhood, it wasn’t until he qualified for the Youth Olympics that he realized snowboarding could be a career for him. He brought home a gold medal at the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games.

Since then, he placed fifth in the World Cup and the World Championships. At the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, Vedder represented the U.S. and placed sixth in the world.

“Representing the United States was a dream come true,” he said. “I had the support from my small hometown in Michigan, and then I had support from the whole country. It still gives me chills to think about, but we worked so hard for those moments.”

Most recently, Vedder competed in Cortina, Italy, for the Hydro Flask Men’s U.S. Snowboard World Cup. He was a top finisher and took second place by the end of the competition. At the time of our interview he was preparing for two more competitions in the coming weeks before the World Cup tournament ends, and the snowboarding season comes to a close.

Vedder credits growing up in metro Detroit for his motivation. He keeps the city’s energy with him at every tournament, and he prides himself on being a snowboarder from the area.

“I approach every day with the Detroit energy and support, and I outwork the competition,” he said. “Detroit just has a different kind of grit.”

During his off-season, Vedder spends time giving back to the community that raised him. He often visits local children’s hospitals in metro Detroit, including CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, to talk with children about snowboarding and being in the Olympics. He also works with Wish Upon a Teen, an organization that makes long-term hospital stays more comfortable for teenagers. He said that bringing a smile to these children’s faces is one of the most rewarding parts of his career.

“It costs me nothing to deliver these kids a massive smile when they are going through so much,” Vedder said. “I remember this young girl I would visit, and the amount of needles she got stuck in her every week was crazy, but we would talk and laugh, and you could tell it took her mind off things.”

Vedder’s eyes are set on training for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. He plans on doing as much as possible to stay healthy to reach his goal of “bringing home some hardware” at the next Winter Olympics. He may continue competing after 2026, but he also wants to leave room for up-and-coming snowboarders.

Vedder is also releasing a comic book about his life and his snowboarding career this summer. He hopes the comic will inspire younger snowboarders to live out their passions, regardless of their obstacles, just as he did.

“I was born into a blue-collar family in metro Detroit, a place with no mountains, and somehow made it to the Olympics,” he said. “I want to share my story so other kids know they can do it, too.”

For more metro Detroit news and stories, visit hourdetroit.com