Burson flies high coaching Irish Olympic athletes
By Shelia Kirven
November 1, 2021
Ian Burson is not your typical 25-year-old, as he has already had a lifetime of incredible experiences and is in the process of planning for his next adventures. A Choctaw tribal member who grew up in Carson City, Nevada, Burson currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the epicenters of the winter Olympics for the entire world.
Burson explained, “It’s kind of the place where everyone comes to train no matter what country you represent at the games.” Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the U.S. Ski Team and home to all of the facilities one would need for training.
Burson currently coaches Irish athletes, working with Snow Sports Ireland. He is looking forward to accompanying skier Bubba Newby and snowboarder Seamus O’Connor as their coach to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, walking out in the opening ceremonies with the athletes under the Irish flag.
Burson also works for Park City Ski and Snowboard Club, one of the largest winter sports clubs in North America, and is part of a team that coaches every ski event available. Burson himself works with students who choose to ski half-pipe, a structure used for extreme sports such as snowboarding, skiing, freestyle BMX, skating and scooter riding. Half-pipe skiing has been a part of the Winter Olympic Games since 2002. There are only four half-pipe courses in the U.S.
He says he is excited about upcoming qualifying games in which he will be accompanying the Irish athletes before the Olympics, including Austria and Calgary. Once Burson and the Irish athletes begin traveling in November, they won’t stop until the Olympics in China.
“We still have to qualify, more or less, but we’re planning as if we’re going just for logistics sake,” Burson said. “The Austrian training camp is very important to get the athletes ready for the competition season that will basically make or break their Olympic hopes. We are very much hoping to get some training in and have some decent good results at the competitions and have some fun doing it.”
Both Irish athletes have been Olympian participants before. “I’m very, very excited to be representing the relationship between the Irish people and the people of the Choctaw tribe. It’s a very special thing.” Burson started skiing at the age of 10 but really got into the sport when he was 12-13 years old. That is when he began learning about the half-pipe courses.
“I started skiing at a young age, and I loved going up in the mountains. I grew up in Carson City and around Tahoe, and the surrounding ski resorts were 45-minutes to an hour away, and that’s where I was at every weekend. One year I joined a team and began competing and did pretty well. That kind of took over my life. Until this point, everything I’ve done is with skiing. I competed and eventually made it to World Cup level, trying to go to the Olympics myself and never actually making it, which is totally fine. But as soon as I stopped competing, I got out of it and went straight into coaching, which was really cool. Now I am coaching at the same level I competed at, World Cup skiers and athletes as well as younger kids that are filtering into the program. I am the sole half-pipe coach for our program, so I take athletes aged generally around 13-14 all the way to 25 and travel with them and train and compete at different venues and different levels of competition and try to help them to achieve their goals and have fun with it.”
Skiing and instructing are not the only things that Burson has had on his mind lately. He recently started back to college and is attending classes through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a school that has previously trained astronauts. Burson is working on a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics.
But that’s not all for Burson, as he is also about to begin a flight school program with United Airlines in Goodyear, Arizona. Burson explained, “I have always loved flight.”
According to Burson, it will take about three to four years to get all the licenses and certifications he will need, then taking his turn at flight instructing to build hours. As soon as he meets their hour requirements, when there’s an opening at the regional airlines, he hopes to be pulled in for a job for a United regional carrier.
After Burson returns from the Olympics and starts the flight program, his future in skiing is up in the air. He says he has done a lot of cool things in his life and checked off lots of the boxes. “I have set this goal for myself, and I’m going to do what it takes to reach this goal and become a pilot,” explained Burson. “As for skiing outside of that, I don’t know if this season is my swan song from skiing and coaching. I’ll always be a skier. I will always go ski. That’s just who I am. I have spent my whole entire adult life at the top of the half-pipe in one regard or the other.”
According to Burson, ending his coaching career and ending at the Olympics would be a great conclusion to that chapter.