boarding in Alaska

Archive for January, 2013

Alpenglow, Alyeska, and Ollies.

Just an update on the last few days of snowboarding. I’ve really been surprised at how great alyeska can be to ride when i think its going to be a bad day. Lately its been so good and really uncrowded. Kelly has been crushing it free riding and I even hit a few lines that I’ve never touched on the South Face this year. I’ve spent some time in the park because Kelly wanted to learn rails and ollies. I know that makes it sound like she’s a super beginner but thats not the case. She really gets after it on the free riding and has an inspiring drive to learn anything she doesn’t know how to do yet.

So rails are first. She had never tried a rail before and she hit the mailbox at the bottom of the small park once. She liked it but the day was over. A day or two later, after riding as much upper mountain as we could, she said she wanted to hit the rails. So off we go and right off the bat she walks up and 5050’s the long rail that is two rails kind of an up flat combo. As she gets to the end she slides off and almost shows why helmets aren’t a bad choice. Unfazed, she walks back up and does the whole rail the next try. Then she goes on to tackle the down flat rail and turns a 5050 into a front board on the up flat rail. This is all within her first hour of riding rails ever.

Next she wants to learn to ollie. I show her a couple, explain the concept, and film some to slow mo later. She tries a couple and can’t really clear a foot high snow chunk. That’s to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the next day when I get a call at noon saying, “I’m done with class and I’m going to Russian Jack to practice ollies. Do you want to come?” Haha, Whaaaat? A girl that’s willing to head to a hill on her own to practice ollies because she’s so excited about snowboarding and learning. That’s amazing to me. It shouldn’t seem so foreign because that’s how I was in high school with Abe and Khris Bombeck. We would go out any chance we could and ride anything just to be on our boards. I have just never met a girl willing to do that and willing to do it solo if she has to. Its awesome. Oh and by the way, within three tries she was ollieing a hay bale on its side the high way (about two feet high).

Kelly Ollie Russian Jack

Today, the 29th, I headed up to Arctic Valley for the first time in years. I hiked there once this season but there wasn’t enough snow to ride. I hopped in the red rocket with the mad russian, Dmitry, and we set out to see how the pow was up there.

Between the wind and the “soft opening” sunday for ski club members, the mountain was pretty hammered. Wait, wait, wait, i forgot to tell you that the 38 year old guy left the 23 year old jui jitsu master in the snow dust on the hike up. Ok now that thats clear we can get back to the day. Haha. Not too much to tell. I slashed some of the cornice lips and we hiked the ridge a bit. It was very wind slabby on the edge of the front cornice. Hopefully the ski patrol doesn’t read this and run up and knock it all down. The slabs would be dangerous if they were more than just the top 2 feet of the small roll-over and if the hill didn’t flatten out fifteen feet below it. For some reason it just doesn’t form the way it did back in the day. Or maybe the more likely thing is that we thought it was bigger because we hadn’t encountered much else at the time. Hopefully it really stacks up and gets some height this season. If not then I’m sure i’ll have to pour into some rant about how it was so much better back in the day. Haha. Either way, it was an awesome day just being back on that hill again. I grew up there and spent almost as much time there as the wind has. Good times.

photo by Dmitry Surnin

photo by Dmitry Surnin

Photo by Dmitry Surnin

Photo by Dmitry Surnin

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USASA Rail Jam!

I headed out to announce the USASA rail jam at Alyeska. I think we had a whopping 11 competitors but we surely had some fun. I got to tell Lance Armstrong and Bristol Palin jokes on the mic and watching some impressive snowboarding and skiing.

I like getting back to AK for some reasons and hate it for others. I enjoy seeing kids make the best with what they have. In that respect its the same as it was when I first started doing local events in 1991. We didn’t have much in the way of parks or pipes. We had a few mounds pushed up here and there that resembled jumps and half pipes. We happily showed up to each and every contest (including alpine events which i raced in jeans some days and a speed suit other days) and gave everything we had to it.

The thing I have noticed is that there just doesn’t seem to be the same amount of participation in events anymore. I think this is one of the negative side effects of the sport growing so large. I know that sounds like it would be the opposite but hear me out. When snowboarding and skating were something frowned upon, when jocks yelled “Go home skater fags!”, when ski patrol clipped your ticket for not having a leash, when girls wouldn’t look at you twice because you wore baggy pants, when everyone hated us it was better. It was better because it wasn’t the cool thing to do. When something isn’t the cool thing to do then you can rest assured that its being done strictly out of love. When something is that uncool it tends to, as we learned from Full Metal Jacket; “Weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved corps.” We skated and snowboarded because we couldn’t live without it, not because it was in every commercial and in every window display at the mall.

I’m really happy to see where snowboarding and skating have gone in the way of providing the athletes with the respect for their abilities and the money they deserve. What I don’t like is the dilution of the heart it took to stand against the grain. Now the sports are inundated with any kid that wants to be cool and maybe have their own line of chewing gum, not to mention hockey moms. The punk rock is gone and when you see a company that tries to say it isn’t then its usually just part of a marketing plan.

So what I’m trying to say is that most of the kids just want to get to the lodge a couple times a year, cruise the park once, drop an Instagram of their new hoody, then go home. I thank God that we still have some kids that will hike tin can, get broke on a rail, ride an icy Aly day and still come to contest hungry to push themselves and their friends. Don’t get me wrong, snowboarding isn’t dead. There are a lot of great people in it still carrying the torch; its just harder to see them through the masses of wannabes.

I’m just an old guy lamenting about the days of old when everyone came to the contests as a gathering of bros. Not frat bros but brothers united by a shared passion. You always saw the shop owners at every contest and every pow day. The Anchorage kids, the Arctic Valley locs, and the Girdwood shredders would all come together and shred, talk shit, and have a blast (and I would probably whine if I lost my division). I hope the AK scene can reconnect with some of that community feel soon. Without it I really worry that the sport will morph into something it shouldn’t be or at least our scene up here will. On that note, I hope to see as many of you as possible at USASA events this season. I’ll probably tease you a bit on the mic but its only because I’m jealous that I’m old and can’t kill it as hard as you can. Just know its all in love.


Birthday Bash!!!!!!!!

My birthday was spent exactly the way i would want to spend it: snowboarding with cool people, getting pow turns, and eating BBQ. haha.

The day started out early as I headed to Mom’s house for home made biscuits and gravy. After that I hit the road and headed to Aly with Kelly B. and Jason Moore. Riding with Moore is like finding Animal Chin if Chin had all the newest gear from pro-form. After refusing to wear the worst bearded face mask bandana and picking up Kelly’s boots from lost and found, we pulled into the parking lot.

After gearing up and heading to the top I was informed that since it was my birthday I would need to do as many tricks as I am years old. I said even in my hay-day i didn’t know that many tricks so we compromised at number of jumps/air/tricks. In case you’re wondering that meant 38 tricks. Good thing the days are getting longer and the quad is open longer huh?

I managed to get a new line off the kitchen wall cliff that pretty much made my day. I’ll try to have a shot of it on here. High traverse also opened and was pretty decent. I traversed to where 3 ski patrollers were posted up (about 50 yards from the opening) and asked if there was a boundary since there was no fencing up. The answer I got was in typical ski patrol fashion: “where you see tracks is open, where there are no tracks is closed.” That seems about right. Ugh.

I got my 38 hits in as we made our way down the last run of the day. Hit 38 was a small cliff below picnic rock: the stuff that goes right onto the trail above brown-shorts (i know, best trail name ever). Pretty much nothing but flat landings but as I always say YORYKO (You Only Ruin Your Knees Once) so I figured I would try to sneak into some transition just below the cliff. But first I had a blast watching Moore slip down until he lost his edge and ended up on the edge of  the drop he wanted to hit as though he was dangling his feet off the dock. After climbing back up enough to jump into the mogul field I was pushed and pulled by Kelly yelling that everything was flat and Moore yelling that it was all good. I think I know who has my best interests in mind and who just wanted to see me splat.

I thought I spied a little pillow of pow to land on so I set forth to do so. I also wanted to ride with my new gopro stick in my front hand. Little did I know that its not that easy to try to edge out and worry about nailing a tiny area while trying to film myself. So I opted for overshooting the sweet spot and sucking up the flat landing like a man, all to the shouts of “THIRTYYYYY EIGHTTTT!!!! THIRTYYYYY EIGHTTTTT!!!!!” from Moore. Good times.

I also have to say its been a pretty amazing season to get to ride with a woman that A) is a good rider, B) wants to improve, C) will ride and search out pow days on her own and D) isn’t scared to push herself. I know there are great female snowboarders out there, Im just saying I’ve never dated one and it’s really awesome to be able to share my joy and passion for snowboarding with someone that I care about. Thanks Kelly.

After the shredding ended we parted ways with Moore and picked up mom for some amazing BBQ at “The BBQ Pit” on Dimond. Its the only place in town to get Sweet Tea, fried okra, and corn fritters. Its truly unbeatable.

Thanks to everyone that made it an amazing birthday. I appreciate you all helping me celebrate the anniversary of my 21st birthday. Haha.

(Kelly, Me, Jason Moore at Alyeska)Image

Shooting the shooter; Turnagain sunsetImage

(Mom, Me, Kelly at “The BBQ Pit”)Image

“Kitchen Wall” photo grab from GoPro at AlyeskaImage

Trick #38; Photo grab from GoPro at AlyeskaImage


Surprise! Surprise!

Today started late. Didn’t get to the mountain until about 1 due to thinking I would be working then getting called off. I was pretty excited to ride but as time lagged a bit that internal nagging started. “Its been a while since it snowed, its probably bullet proof up there.” and “It’s so milky in town, I know i won’t be able to see a thing.”  Luckily Kelly set me straight and we headed out to kick up some snow.

The pleasant surprise hinted that it would be waiting for us at about Potter’s Marsh. I could see the sun laying heavy right around the arm. Sure enough, as we got around the turn it cleared right up. So step one of a great day was complete. Step two came together as I stepped into the lodge and saw my work buddies ready to shred.

For me its nice to ride with people that are new or even if they aren’t knew to snowboarding then they are fresh enough to it that they still have that stoke to just ride, no matter what its like out. These guys have that so it helps me remember the attitude I need to have. So we rallied the troops and headed up into conditions that are as rare as finding a cheap season pass in Alaska: blue bird, warm, and soft snow. That’s right, days and days after the snow has reasonably stopped it was soft and very carveable. Thats step three, soft snow. It wasnt pow but it was soft and it was a good time.

Today was that perfect time where the jumps like half-moon are packed and big but the landings havent been run across by the zamboni yet. I even managed to throw a back flip and a 7 off half moon. I also managed to do my share of late front flips as in right after i land off the jump. All in all a great day on the hill.

 


A Day In The Park (with skiers)

I was at Alyeska to announce a USASA event. That is the amateur competition association for snowboarders and skiers as well. I like to give kids a hard time during events and show them a lot of love too. To be honest i tend to give the crowd a hard time while trying to pump up the kids. As our event went on I was drawn to check out the crowd that passes by the venue. It tends to be beginners, ski school, and a few others passing by on their way to a different lift. As I watched the crown I noticed a ton of skiers and skiers are my favorites when I’m on the mic.

I love giving skiers shit. Its not that i hate them but I love to hate on skiing for all it did to hold snowboarding down. I hate the all the hoops they made us jump through and at times still force snowboarders through. Alyeska used to only allow snowboarders to ride the hill a couple days a week and we had to prove to an instructor that we could turn and stop before being issued our “license to shred” card. That is not a joke. The LTS card was required to buy a ticked and ride on those couple days they felt we were worthy of paying for a ticket.

I hate the fact that guys like Glen Plake refuse to admit that snowboarding saved freestyle skiing. That without our way of dress, our style of tricks, our creativity that they it would have dried up and left the world with nothing more than gate bashers and moms skiing behind 2 year-olds holding them by a leash while yelling “PIZZA!, FRENCH FRIES!, PIZZA!, FRENCH FRIES!”

I love the kids that do the contests, snowboarders or skiers, but I will never miss a chance to call out my previous oppressors when I have a mic in my hand or a keyboard under my fingertips. I will also say that I do have friends that are skiers and I do try to give every individual the benefit of the doubt. That said, if the Greasers (snowboarders) square off against the Socs (skiers) then I think its safe to say which side I’ll be on. Haha.

Since the blog is new and I don’t know how everyone will take my sense of humor or opinions then I guess I better say that I am in no way endorsing violence or being a dick in general towards any group on the hill. Don’t get mad, get RAD!