Snowboard racer Kristian Moen shreds stereotypes. He won a silver medal at the 2015 Para Snowboard World Championships and represented Norway in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games. A competitive spirit propels him to excel at his sport. Cerebral palsy barely slows him.
Growing up in Oslo, Norway, Moen was introduced to snowboarding when he was 8. He didn’t love it at first; like all beginners, he fell a lot. But when a physiotherapist told him he couldn’t snowboard, Moen decided he could and would.
“That was the main motivation as to learning to snowboard,” he says.
His determination has paid off. Moen has competed on the international circuit since he was 14. His athletic and academic talents caught the attention of the University of Denver, and in 2020, Moen came to DU as a recipient of the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Fund (WSSF) for disabled scholar-athletes.
Jimmy Schaeffler created the fund in 1986 in honor of his dad, the legendary DU ski coach. Since then, seven student-athletes have attended DU on the five-year, full-ride scholarship.
“Like every one of his WSSF predecessors, what [Kristian] sets his mind to—academics, athletics or just working well with those around him—he achieves,” Schaeffler says.
DU alumnus Lars Lund (BSBA ’74) agrees. “We found him very motivated to study in the U.S.,” says Lund, a core member of the WSSF Norwegian fund that selected Moen. “We felt he could be a good representative of disabled [athletes].”
According to Moen, the scholarship allows him to broaden his cultural horizons and meet people from different backgrounds. “[The scholarship] has also given me the opportunity to both go to school and compete at the same time, which to me is very important,” he says.
The sophomore, who is studying business analytics and finance, takes classes in spring, summer and fall. Then he takes winter quarter off to compete on the World Cup circuit. This winter will take him to racecourses in the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland and Italy, where he’ll compete in snowboard cross and banked slalom.
Moen has come far since his first international contest in 2014, when he finished near the bottom. “I was very determined that I would never be second to last or last again, so I practiced a lot more and got second [place] in the World Championships in 2015,” he says.
That achievement has opened doors. “The main thing that it did for me was that it allowed me to join the [Norwegian] Olympic Federation and the national team, which made it a lot easier to go to training camps and compete in whatever contest they wanted to compete in,” he says.
Moen returned to Norway this summer, taking his DU classes online, so he could get in shape for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games. Although he medaled in every event he was in last year, his place on the Norwegian team is not assured until he’s met IPC and Norway Paralympic requirements.
He is continuing his studies this fall on the DU campus, which he describes as majestic compared with schools back home.
Since coming to the U.S., Moen has noticed that people are reluctant to ask about his cerebral palsy. “Whereas in Norway specifically, but also in Europe, people don’t care, people just ask,” he says. “I don’t know, it’s very hard to offend me, if that makes sense.”
Schaeffler calls Moen a class act whose attitude is one of the reasons he was offered the scholarship.
“Kristian’s positivity makes our program—and what the WSSF does for his and others’ lives—look better and better. Like every WSSF recipient before Kristian, the WSSF is extraordinarily lucky to have him,” Schaeffler says.