Siddhartha Ullah, professional snowboarder, returns to Mountain High where he learned to snowboard. (Chris Mortenson/Staff)

Siddhartha Ullah hasn’t had the typical childhood. 

The 16-year-old athlete nearly qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics on the halfpipe. When he’s not at his Venice home, he’s in Colorado working toward a chance to compete in the 2026 games. 

Ullah began snowboarding in preschool at Mountain High, a nearby ski resort in the San Gabriel Mountains. He began at the resort’s day camp, where his coaches quickly realized the size of his talent. Before long, he was asked to join their snowboard team. 

It wasn’t long after Ullah joined Mountain High’s snowboard team that he outgrew the smaller resort. He moved onto larger runs like Big Bear and Mammoth Mountain. At 9 years old, Siddhartha’s mother moved them to Summit County, Colorado, for the winter so Ullah could train as a professional snowboarder.

“I really felt free when I was doing it,” Ullah said. “When I was little, I used to feel like it cleared my mind. I used to feel like I was flying … And something I enjoy is being able to travel to places that I wouldn’t have been able to go without snowboarding.”

Competing as a professional snowboarder has allowed Ullah to travel the world. He said his favorite place to ride is either New Zealand or Japan. Japan has the best snow, he said, but New Zealand is “just a really cool place to go.”

Ullah competes on the Great Britain Snowboard Team because his mother is Bangladeshi-British. In 2022, Ullah missed qualifying for the Winter Olympics by only three spots. Even though he didn’t make it, Ullah took a positive perspective on his accomplishments, remembering that he is still only a kid.

“I was only 15. I still have plenty more (time). I was somewhat frustrated because I came so close, but at the same time, just getting to compete in these events with all these amazing athletes was such an incredible experience, especially at my age,” Ullah said.

Ullah is the first Black and the first South Asian team member on the Great Britain team. Remembering snowboarders of color who inspired him as a young competitor, he said he hopes his achievements inspire more people like him to join the sport.

“I learned (to snowboard) as a kid but I didn’t really come from a culture or background of snowboarding. Not many Black or brown people do,” Ullah said. “I think it would be wonderful if there were more (kids like me). I feel like the snowboard community now is becoming a more inclusive and diverse space.”

Growing up, Ullah said he snowboarded with a lot of professionals. It’s a tight-knit, encouraging group of people, he explained, with veteran competitors who mentor him. Now, Ullah has become good enough that he is going up against his childhood idols in competitions like the Dew Tour and for places on the Olympic lineup. 

In competitions, Ullah said he has a routine. He wakes up at 6 a.m. so he can begin by stretching and meditating. Then he will get on this hill and do some practice before putting in his headphones. Smashing Pumpkins music gets him in the zone for competing. 

“The best feeling is, after that first round, the adrenaline you feel mixed with the happiness and the relief. This is something I don’t really get from anything else,” Ullah said about competing.

Ullah remembers when he was 7 years old seeing the Olympics on television. He saw the snowboarders riding and thought, “That’s it That’s what I want to do when I grow up.” When Ullah told his mother that, he said she did everything in her power to help him succeed, from researching local competitions to moving him to Colorado for the winters.

“She’s just been amazing. (My mom) has supported me through this whole journey. She was the one that, when I was getting into this and knew nothing about it, researched everything and supported me by making the difficult decisions like putting me in an online school,” Ullah said.

In the end everything worked out for Ullah. In the mornings, he trains on the mountain, and in the afternoon, he works hard in his online classes. Ullah will graduating early as the valedictorian of his class with a 4.3 GPA. The fruits of those efforts? He was just recently accepted into Stanford.

With a bright future, Ullah still has his mind set on the 2026 Olympics, saying his hope is to get on the podium for the half pipe one day. After all, Ullah’s goal in snowboarding, he said, is to push himself as much as possible.