When A.J. Stoffle sees snow his eyes get big and his excitement level jumps just like any other five year old. The difference is that instead of visions of snowmen and snow caves, he thinks about catching some air, grabbing the corners and fresh powder.
"Whenever we receive our first snow, he always gets excited and says, 'We got powder,'" said his mother, Teresa Stoffle. "Almost all he's been thinking about during the summer and fall is getting out on his sled."
Stoffle has been riding snow machines since the age of one when he would sit on the front of the seat and hold on while his dad drove him around. When he was two, his parents were able to find a helmet that was light enough for A.J. and when he was four he got his own sled to drive.
This winter, A.J. entered the 5-10 age division of snocross for the Colorado Snocross Racing Circuit. He won the division with three wins in four races. In his parents' living room sits a trophy that is taller than the young rider.
"It's cool," he said in between hiding from the interview in his mom's lap. "I like winning."
While he enjoys the racing now, it took a little coaxing in the first race for A.J. to hop up to the starting line.
"He wanted to do it when we arrived but it was a long day and he lost some interest as the day went on," his mom said. "But we kind of pushed him out there and said, 'Just try it.'"
In his first race, Stoffle followed the leader around the track and finished second.
After that he never lost again and his first win came at an event in Craig.
At the event in Craig, A.J. met Shawn Crapo, a professional snocross rider and immediately made a new friend. According to his mom, A.J. spent two days with Crapo learning everything he could. The family had planned to go the Winter X Games in February to watch Crapo but A.J. came down with the flu and pink eye.
A.J. hopes to be like his new friend when he grows up.
"I want to race pro," he said. "Just like Shawn Crapo."
The five-year-old is one step closer to becoming pro already with his first sponsorship. He is currently the only rider in the 5-10 age group with a sponsor, Stud Boy. The suspension company supports A.J. but since his sled isn't big enough for their suspension, he gets support by way of clothing and accessories.
While having a national sponsor at the age of five would seem pretty serious for someone just starting school, A.J.'s parent insist they're not pressuring him.
"We did have to push him into the first race a little bit," his mom said.
"But now he just loves it and we'll encourage him as long as he's having fun."
She also said that there are parents on the circuit who take it way too serious and put too much pressure on their children, especially the rider that had never lost until A.J. started racing.
"His dad was just going crazy when he was losing," she said. "It taught Michael and I that we never wanted to be like that. We want to make it fun for him and not a big pressure."
As the snow melts, A.J. returns to the regular routine of a five-year-old, such as riding his bike and helping his mom with her day care all the while dreaming of the next snow.
"When we go fishing he always brings snocross tapes to watch on the boat," his mom said.
"He's always ready for that snow."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org