Neither Dave nor Terrie, both avowed beach bums, skied or boarded, so Terrie told Roger he could snowboard with 15-year-old Dustin and his friends on the condition that he never whined, asked for help or got lost. He didn't, nor did he follow the big kids for long; soon they were chasing him.
Roger started competing in USASA events at six; by seven he was winning regularly. He seems to have a knack for everything—in freestyle he has "amplitude," maintaining great height on his jumps on successive tricks, and in Alpine events his quick feet, great balance and reflexes allow him to take chances and still win. "He is on the edge of crashing a lot, so naturally there are a bunch of recovery moves. Or crashes," says Ed McClain, snowboard director at the Heavenly foundation. "More often than not, Roger ends up going faster than everybody else, landing a trick higher and bigger and better than everybody else."
When he is focused, Roger is fun to be around and highly coach-able, "one of the few kids who actually applies what you tell him," says Brown. And he is helpful to younger kids, giving them tips before the start of races. But if he forgets to take his pill, he becomes, well, a pill. He is loud and having more fun than everyone else, wrestling, pulling little pranks, putting KICK-ME stickers on the backs of other kids and starting snowball fights. Says Brown, "I can work with 20 kids or just Roger and burn the same energy."
When he is snowboarding, Roger carries his noon pill in a plastic bag in his pocket, but often he forgets to take it. From his point of view, it makes no difference whether he takes it or not. It's not like taking aspirin for a headache; he gets no relief from anything. He only realizes he forgot when people start getting mad at him.
"It's a big hassle having to take the pills," says Roger. "Kids tease me all the time. They have no idea what it's like. I don't care though. I just laugh with them."
Unless you see Roger in certain moments, there is little about him to suggest he is any different from other 13-year-old boys. He is bright, inquisitive, confident, funny, opinionated and wary of projecting a dorky image. He is good at a lot of things—basketball, skeet shooting, skateboarding, trampolining, driving boats, fishing, shooting pool—but he doesn't want people to know singing is one of them. Crocheting, though, is cool. Since Terrie's mom taught him how to crochet two summers ago, Roger has made several handsome ski hats; last season he sold one to a woman at a ski resort for $10.
During the season Roger trains or competes at Kirkwood or Heavenly—both resorts sponsor him—four or five times a week. Both places are more than an hour away from Placerville. The commute drives both Terrie and Roger crazy because Roger has a hard time sitting still and Terrie won't let him touch the radio. "Getting him up here is a huge effort on the part of his parents," says McClain. "You see a lot of kids with talent and potential who aren't getting that kind of backing."
Says Dr. Barry Lester, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Brown who is conducting the first large-scale longitudinal study of the effects of meth exposure on children, "His parents must be fabulous. Here is a kid who was able to take whatever the drug did to him and channel it into something positive."
That, of course, raises the question that Roger himself ponders: Did the meth exposure make him a better snowboarder?
"We'll never know that," says McClain. "Maybe he would have been even better without it."