Snowboard Champ


By Matt Christopher

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While his mother is working overseas, Matt Harper is living temporarily with his uncle in Dragon Valley, where he practices his snowboard technique and contends with a local bully.


Copyright © 2004 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Little, Brown and Company

Time Warner Book Group

Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

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The "Warner Books" name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN: 978-0-316-03049-6


The girl is in trouble. Her red hair streams behind her, blown by the fierce wind. Her arms windmill helplessly as she tries to regain her balance — but it's futile. She is totally out of control, her snowboard rushing faster and faster down the steep, icy slope. She hits a mogul and goes airborne! She's tumbling head over heels! She's headed straight for a big tree! Nothing can save her now.

But wait! What's that flash? That blur, coming straight down the slope at breakneck speed? A strong arm reaches out and grabs her hurtling form, snatching her from danger's grasp! The pair streak down the hillside, the girl cradled in someone's strong arms. Finally, the black-clad mystery man cuts his edge deeply into the snow, sending aloft an arc of ice crystals. With a series of side-slips, he brings them safely to the bottom of the slope.

What amazing skill! What athleticism! What daring! She gazes up at him. "Wh-who are you?" she gasps.

He puts her down on the ground, then unlocks her bindings, freeing her feet from her board. He glances up but does not remove his reflective goggles, or the stylish red and black mask that hides his face. "Just call me . . . Snowboard Champ," he says, then pushes off into the blinding sunlight.

"We're now on our final approach into Dragon Valley airport. Please make sure your seat belts are fastened and your seats are in the upright position for landing."

The voice on the loudspeaker interrupted Matt Harper's daydream, and with a sigh, he opened his eyes to reality. He was no superhero. He was just a thirteen-year-old kid being sent away from home. Sure, he'd be staying with his Uncle Clayton, who was as close to a superhero in real life as Matt could think of. But that didn't change the fact that he had to leave the big city, his old neighborhood, his house, his friends — and most of all, his mom.

His mom. Every time he thought of her he felt a knot tighten in the center of his chest. He hated her so much! Why did she have to go and take that new job with the government — a job where the first thing they do is send you overseas for a whole year to countries where practically nobody speaks any English?

"Can't I come with you?" he'd asked.

She'd shaken her head. "I'll be zipping around from city to city, country to country even."

"What are you doing over there, anyway, that's so important?"

He remembered her patient smile. "Oh, complicated stuff. It would bore you."

"Try me."

"Some other time, honey."

"Why, what are you, a secret agent or something?" She laughed, but there was something phony about it that deepened his suspicions. "You've got some imagination," she said. "Look, I could put you in a boarding school . . . ."

"No thanks," he'd said.

And of course, he didn't want to stay with his dad and stepmom either, in their tiny house, with his three awful stepsisters. No way. So living with Uncle Clayton was the obvious and only choice.

It wasn't such a bad option, after all. Uncle Clayton was his mom's younger brother. He was twenty-seven years old. Whenever Matt had come to visit him in the past, they'd gone snowboarding or mountain biking together. Clay was a master boarder, and last year on Christmas break, he had personally tutored Matt in "the way of the board," as he put it.

Clay always had lots of cool ideas, and he enjoyed a lot of the same things Matt did — like junk food and video games. In fact, Matt's mom was always calling Uncle Clayton "an overgrown teenager."

Well, that was cool with him. But leaving all his friends behind wasn't cool. Not for a whole year. They'd be into all new stuff by the time he got back, and Matt would feel totally out of it. In fact, he felt out of it already. He didn't belong anywhere at the moment. Not back in Chicago, and not in Dragon Valley. The only place he belonged was right here in this airplane, thousands of feet in the air — suspended in space.

He stared out the window at the ski slopes of Dragon Mountain Resort and tried to focus on the positives. This was an awesome place to spend the winter. It was the day after Christmas, and even from up here, he could see that the slopes were crowded with skiers and snowboarders. Matt smiled. They all looked like little ants. Tomorrow, he hoped to be one of those ants. He was sure it wouldn't be too hard to talk Uncle Clayton into taking him. His uncle was always up for a good time.

Matt closed his eyes and balled his hands up into fists as the plane came in for a landing. This part always made him nervous, although he tried to act calm. Only when they had taxied to a stop at the gate did he relax. But when he reached for his backpack in the overhead rack, he felt a sudden queasiness in his stomach. He wasn't sure if it was the lingering effects of the landing or something else. Something about coming here in the first place. Something about it all being a big mistake.

Uncle Clayton met him at the security gate. "Hey, dude! Whoa, you got even bigger! What's Amy feeding you these days?"

"Same old, same old," Matt responded. "You know, gotta supplement it with the occasional bacon cheese-burger."

"I hear ya," Clay said, throwing an arm around Matt's shoulders. "So, you hungry now?"

"Not in the least," Matt said, his queasiness still bothering him. "Hey, what happened to your hair?"

Clay rubbed a hand over his buzz-cut scalp. "Oh. Yeah, I'd forgotten how long it's been since you've seen me. I kinda got tired of the ponytail, y'know? Gotta go along to get along, right?"

"I guess." Matt wasn't sure what Uncle Clayton meant, but he was too nauseated to argue. "There's one of my bags."

"I got it," Clay said, snagging it from between two vacationers who were blocking access to the carousel. "'Scuse me," he told them. "Pardon my reach."

Soon they'd collected all three of Matt's huge bags. His mom had packed everything he owned, it seemed, as if she never expected to see him again. Matt knew that wasn't true, but it still felt like he was begin abandoned, shipped off and out of the way.

"Come on," Clay told him. "My car's out in the lot." Matt followed his uncle to his beat-up old pickup truck. They hoisted the bags into the back and got in. "So, this all's been tough on you, huh?" Clay began as they pulled out of the lot.

"Kind of," Matt said. "I'm okay, though. Just a little airsick."

"Okay, windows down," Clay said lightheartedly. "Can't have you hurling in here." He laughed, then fell silent for a moment. "So, are you really okay with spending the year here?"

"Most definitely!" Matt said, a little too cheerfully. "It was my suggestion, remember?"

"'Cause I warned your mom. I'm new at this parenting game. So if I mess up, don't hold it against me, okay?"

Matt had to laugh. He could see that Uncle Clayton was as nervous about this as he was. His mom had been right. This was going to be like having a teenage babysitter, except that your parents didn't come home at the end of the night.

Thinking of his mom, Matt's smile slowly faded. "I guess I'm a little down about it. You know, leaving my friends and all."

"'Course. Goes without saying," Clay said, nodding as he steered them through the airport traffic. "I'll tell you one thing, though. The schools here are supposed to be top-notch."

"That's kind of what I'm afraid of," Matt confessed.

"As in?"

"As in hours and hours of homework."

"Ahh, it'll be the best thing for ya," Clay said, a little too sure of himself.

"Was it for you?" Matt asked.

He'd touched on a sore spot, and he knew it. He watched as Clay stiffened. "I may've dropped out of high school," he said, "but that was because I was a jerk in those days. I got pulled into all the neighborhood stuff, you know. Fighting . . . partying . . . it was only when I decided to leave all that behind that I put my life together. I haven't gone back to that kind of craziness, and I don't intend to."

"Is that why you cut off all your hair?" Matt asked. "That's for my work," Clay answered. "I'm a new person, dude. I got my high school diploma and my college degree. And now I've got a career going."


"Uh-huh. Didn't your mom tell you?"

"She just said you were doing well, working, you know."

"Uh-huh. I'm doing architecture. It's a big firm, I'm like a junior member of the team, so I've gotta play along. You know, the suit and tie, the short hair, the whole works."

"A suit and tie? You?" Matt said, eyes wide.

"Hey, go easy, okay? Like I said, you go along to get along. You'd do well to remember that when school starts up again after New Year's."

School — ugh. He wasn't ready for that part yet. Not nearly ready. There were still seven days of vacation left, and he knew just how he wanted to spend them.

"Uncle Clayton," he asked, "do you think we could go snowboarding tomorrow?"

Clay smiled, briefly glancing at his nephew. "I thought you might ask me that," he said. "So I took a sick day. You've gotta brush up on your boarding skills, dude."

"Yes!" Matt said. "Thanks, Uncle Clayton!"

"Can't have you falling and breaking your leg first thing, now, can I?" Clay asked, and Matt could see his eyes twinkling.

Clay's apartment looked the same as it did the year before. It was a large, loftlike space in an old, renovated warehouse downtown. On previous visits, Matt had found it hard to sleep at night because of all the neon lights flashing from tourist hotels and restaurants across the street. This time, he would have to do something about that. Maybe black velvet curtains. Yeah, and he could hang black-light posters and get a strobe.

Such were his thoughts as he went about unpacking that night. It was a lot of work, setting up the room just the way he wanted it. But no matter how much he fooled around with the furniture, it was still not going to be like his room at home. Not even with all his stuff in it. Not even close.

Unfolding a pair of jeans, he removed the framed picture he'd wrapped up for protection. It was a shot of him and his mom when he was five years old. She was wearing her hair in a ponytail, like she used to in those days before his dad left. After that happened, she seemed to age really fast. She'd let her hair get wild, then cut it short. Lately, there was even some gray in it.

Matt frowned. His dad would probably never go gray, never look old. Life isn't fair sometimes, he thought. Yes, his mom had had a hard time since then. But this picture reminded him of when she was still young and happy and beautiful.

He put the portrait on the end table by his pillow, facing him, so he'd wake up looking at it every morning. His mom, smiling, with her arms around him.

No, of course he didn't hate her. Not really. But why did she have to go away like this and leave him behind?


Matt woke up the next morning and raised the blinds, only to realize that the sun was already high in the sky. He'd overslept! "Hey!" he complained as he ran downstairs, still buckling his belt. "Why didn't you wake me? The day's half over already!"

Clay looked up from his plate of eggs, which he'd nearly finished. "Sleeping Beauty!" he said with a grin. "I figured you needed the rest."

"Sooo wrong," Matt said. He went to the stove and scraped some egg out of the frying pan into a clean plate. "I need to go boarding, not to sleep."


On Sale
Sep 1, 2004
Page Count
160 pages

Matt Christopher

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the best-selling name behind more than 100 sports-themed books for young readers.

Learn more about this author