I’ve driven the Alcan (Alaska Canada highway) in the neighborhood of 16 times, 13 of those have been solo trips. I’ve driven the road in beautiful sun, blasting music, and I’ve driven it in snowstorms. I’ve pulled a sled, a cargo trailer with my life packed inside, and taken the dog a few times. I’ve slept in the car most of the trips unless it was too cold. I’ve woken up to -30F temps. I woke to a flat trailer tire in a tiny town with no tire iron to fit the lugs and I’ve blown a trailer tire in the middle of a snow storm, at night, with no room to pull off the road. I’ve hit a few birds including one about the size of a hawk that smashed the passenger side of the windshield.
In the past, driving the Alcan was always a utilitarian journey. As a matter of fact I can’t even call it a journey because that would lead you to believe that there was some sort of adventure to it. Other than the inherent risks, most of which became a reality somewhere along the years of driving the road, I really just saw it as a way to get my car between Tahoe and Alaska and I usually tried to get it done as fast as possible. Admittedly I am quite a loner so there is some appeal to a week of introspection but that usually wears off around day 3.
The idea to take the Alcan trip, and let it be the journey it begs to be, spawned from a few things. Maybe it’s my version of a mid-life crisis. More likely it’s that I don’t have a rush to be somewhere anymore. More likely it’s that I met someone who’s eyes are wide to what the world holds but hides from those not willing to search for it. Yeah, it’s definitely the girl. I wanted to explore but I also wanted to share. I needed to share. There are certain times in life when I question my self worth. Sharing, teaching, and showing others what I’ve learned help out with that. So I planned a trip where we would drive down the Alcan, hitting all the parks we could find along the Canadian leg of the trip. From there we would go through Seattle, Portland, Tahoe, Vegas, LA, up the California coast, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and back to Anchorage. We had three weeks off of work, skateboards, go-pros, iPhones, an air mattress, a tent, a cooler, sunglasses, and the plan that if it looks fun; stop and do it.
A few years back, the only skatepark I knew of along the Alcan was in Whitehorse, YT. The last few solo trips I made, I decided to do some searching and each trip has uncovered a few more parks. It appears as though Canada really likes skateparks, having one in almost every small town along the way. It also appears that Canada really believes in investing in their youth because almost everyone of the parks is made of concrete rather than the plastic and metal fabrications we consider ourselves lucky to have in Anchorage. A concrete park says that the town believes in the youth and won’t be yanking away the privileges if they don’t like what they see.
The Yukon part of the drive is where most of the wildlife is. Brown bears, black bears, buffalo soldiers, maybe a dreadlock rasta, and moose all made an appearance in the Yukon. We also had a red fox run right across the skatepark in Whitehorse.
As we cruised down in to the lower 48 we managed to hit burnside and work out a meeting with one of my fellow pro shreds from back in the day. Bobby Meeks, who is now the…. well he’s just a big wig at the Nike snow program, met up with us and let us skate the NikeSB skate park! We were all alone, which is bad for seeing the insanity that could go down on those features but good so I didn’t embarrass myself. Aaaaand Mr. Meeks is no slouch on the board, throwing some tre flips up the euro gap (if you didn’t understand that sentence then just go to your local skate shop and ask). It was great seeing Bobby again after a number of years. He is a great guy and super cool to take some time off the greens to let us skate the park.
After that we were headed to Tahoe. Back to the stomping grounds that I called my home away from home for the past 18 or so winters. My old roomie, Jon, put us up in his Reno mansion, which was a nice break from the air mattress. The next morning brought breakfast with all the old crew. There are times when you realize how grateful you need to be and this breakfast was one of those times. The people I shared breakfast with; Jon, Bryce, Mike, and MJ are good people. They are the type of guys that would go to bat for you and drive to the store at 3 am to buy the bat too if thats what needed to be done. As people drift in and out of each others lives it can be easy to overlook how special that is. Having four of those guys, all at one table, laughing and talking shit again, gave me the reminder I needed of just how lucky I am.
We went up to the lake to see my old house, check out the “woodward” at Boreal (which looks like a dreamland), and jump in the water. Lake Tahoe is more than a mile deep so even when it’s melting hot out you can expect to freeze when you get in. It’s shocking how cold it is. After a burger at the char-pit and a stop at Donner Summit we hit the road to Vegas. I played poker for a living for about 5-6 years after my pro snowboarding days ended so I love getting back to the tables in Vegas. The idea, again, was to show Kelly some of my favorite spots and hopefully discover a few new ones while getting to play a WSOP event. For those of you that have some time, Vegas has a lot of concrete parks and they range from decent to amazing. If you go for a skate trip though, make sure you go when the weather is nice, usually late October through April. May through October is just stupid hot and dry. Oh and don’t forget there is a ski hill about 45 minutes from the strip that is open from about late November to the end of March. Its a small hill but they usually make a pretty fun park.
So Vegas was a mix of great food, shopping, a little poker (which didn’t yield a payday), and a last minute ditch skate session before hitting the road to So Cal. The not so funny part about California is how crowded it is. After driving for a week and just being able to camp anywhere or pull over and sleep in the car, we thought it would be no problem to drive up to one of the state park camping spots on the beach. WRONG! WRONG! As I drove from spot to spot I soon found out that these spots can be filled up to a year in advance. The only real lottery ticket you can hope for is if you show up late and there is a last minute cancellation. So no beach camping for us….yet.
Our next adventure waited for us in the mountains, the Magic Mountain to be specific. I grew up going to Magic Mountain and love it. They also have Hurricane Harbor, a water park, so we hit both in the same day. I didn’t mention it but So-Cal was going through a heat wave during our visit. I’m not talking about an Alaskan heat wave where 85 is record setting. I’m talking 107 in the parking lot. But Jason, you’re at a water park, what’s the big deal? That’s what I thought as I put my shoes in the locker and headed out to find comfort in the watery oasis. What I found instead was the smell of burning flesh as I tried to run from wet puddle to wet puddle on concrete that wouldn’t have just cooked an egg, it would have evaporated it.
The heat plays an important role in our harrowing tail and it’s role shall be revealed momentarily. Meanwhile, the fair maiden Kelly, bravely overcame her fears of nearly vertical water slides, water induced wedgies, long lines on hot concrete, and what looked like a field trip from a nike shoe factory in the lazy river (hundreds of kids). What Kelly could not overcome was gravity with a little help from heat. As we stood in line to get tubes for another water slide, Kelly leaned over and put her hands on her knees. There was no shade for the line and she was feeling the heat. She had her head down and her knees locked straight. The knees locked can cut off blood flow and standing up after having your head down can make you light headed. Have you guessed where this is going? When she stood up she wasn’t responsive to me talking to her (nothing new here since I have the same effect on most women) and her eyes glazed over. I put my arm around her just as she fainted! WOW, I’ve never seen someone faint in person. Her face lost all color and her body went limp. She slumped towards the ground and the body that I usually pick up and twirl around with no problem suddenly felt like 200 pounds. I lifted her back up and she came back to life. She asked what happened and I told her Hugh Jackman (her celeb crush) was just here hanging out but she was taking a nap.
On to the real fun; roller coasters. Not much to tell other than we splurged and got the flash pass that lets you basically skip the lines. Pricey. Super Pricey but worth it. Thrills were had and nobody fainted.
We cruised back to our hotel in LA and then to catch the tail end of the night at the Comedy Store on Sunset. If you haven’t been to a comedy club then let me help you adjust your expectations. The general thought is that seeing a comedian is like seeing a Comedy Central or HBO special where the comedian is on top of their game and killing it. When you go to a comedy club in LA or New York, this is where the best comedians live and hang out night after night. These clubs are not where they showcase their best honed act, it’s where they practice. Think of it like a skatepark. Skaters go to skateparks to practice, to learn new tricks, to see what works and what doesn’t so that when the contest or film mission happens then they can shine. An LA or NY comedy club is like a comedians skatepark. They aren’t worried about polish, they are trying out new stuff and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you love comedy then its great to see and you will hear some great material but don’t go thinking you’ll see a polished showcase. That said, we stayed till the bitter end and I mean BITTER end. There were 4 of us left watching the last guy and he was a shock comedian that liked to talk about the rudest stuff you can imagine. I’m a fan of any comedy but that kind of stuff goes over much better when you have an audience of people to ohhhh and ahhhh about what he said. What ever, it was fun.
Venice Beach was our first stop the next day. We cruised around the freak show and played in the waves just long enough to build up an appetite for fried pizza. If you’re gonna go big then go all the way. Might as well deep fry that slice just in case there isn’t enough grease from the pepperoni. Other than my heart actually jumping out and slapping me, it was pretty good.
Someone wise once said that man can not live by fried pizza alone, so we took off to the Dodger game and crushed some dodger dogs and peanuts. Growing up in So-Cal, the Dodgers have been my team since day one. My grandma would take me to games all the time and was even cool enough to let me wait by the player parking area for autographs. Dodger games bring back everything amazing about my childhood and everything I love about So-Cal. It was a really meaningful part of the trip since my grandma has passed. It allowed me to feel a little closer to her through something we loved sharing.
Venice is such a cool place that we decided we had to go back. Actually Kelly decided we had to take a surfing lesson so back to the beach we went. We found Wagner Lima at Jay’s Rentals and he took us out for a bit. An interesting note is that there is a small jeti out in the water and evidently it’s a little easier to learn on the lookers left side. Another interesting note is that the lifeguards shut the lookers left side to surfing at noon. If you have a surfboard then you have to head to the lookers right side of the jeti. Those notes might not have been that interesting but this one is, trust me. Wagner does not like to have his students told where they can or can’t surf. The life guards love to tell people where they can and can’t surf. So a little war of wills started and Kelly and I were the pawns. The Lifeys kept yelling at us to leave the water and Wagner would tell us to not look at them, just paddle back out. He told us that if we went all the way to the beach we would have to get out but if we didn’t they couldn’t make us. It was pretty sick to see a little bit of the “middle finger to the man” mentality still left in our watered down Mt. Dew backed board sports. It really started to get heated. Some “good samaritan” kept coming up to me and telling me the lifeguard wanted to see me, that I needed to go in. After a few times of him coming up to me, I finally just said “Don’t worry about it. What do you care?” He looked a little stunned and walked away. Finally it reached a point where there were just a couple of us on boards in the water and everyone else on shore watching to see what action the frantically yelling Lifeys were going to do. We finally headed in and Wagner gave them some choice words, much along the lines of the locals telling off the haole (how-li)surfers in “North Shore”. Good times.
After catching few good waves, not just mushy reforms, we packed up and started the trek back north. We still had a week left before going back to work but the bitter sweet sting of knowing we were on the downhill of the trip was starting to bite at me. It’s easy to get fixated on how the trip is almost over and most of the specific “things” on the itinerary are in the rear view mirror but thats also an easy way to lose the rest of the trip. Ever so often I have to take myself aside and remind myself of that point, on this trip and in life. They say its not over till its over, that is unless you decide to let it be over before that.
We combed state park after state park until we found an open camp site, just as the sun was setting, at Rufugio Beach (just north of Santa Barbara). We set up the tent and I knocked back a cold one (root beer) by the fire. It was a nice little reminder that it wasn’t over yet.
All my years in California and I have never driven the PCH all the way up the coast. Damned if we weren’t going to keep the adventure going right up along the waters edge. We stopped at a vineyard for Kelly to do a tasting (strictly research for work) and then managed to find a Sea Lion rookery. I thought we might see one or two or maybe it wouldn’t be the right season and the beach would be empty. I was stoked to be wrong. The beach had been stormed by what looked like a casting call for a beach version of the Biggest Loser, tons and tons (literally) of enormous sea lions waddling around, belching out communication, kicking up sand as they jiggled in and out of the water. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
We made it to San Francisco just about 1am and found out just how true it is when people say that in SF you’re only one street away from the ghetto. We circled around looking for our last minute internet booked hotel and luckily they wouldn’t honor our reservation. We found another place that was great but the street we drove down twice to find it was pretty much a scene out of the nastiest open drug market scenes on “The Wire.” It was a street filled with Zombies waiting to erupt but turn the corner and it looked like a clean, empty, beautiful, downtown night in the city.
When the sun rose we hit the streets and walked all over town. We walked to China town, down to Fishermans Wharf, and up to Lombard Street. We crushed some fish and chips then hit the road before that city bankrupted us. We caught the tail end of some giant redwoods before the sunset, another first for me. That about wrapped it up for us as far as new places. From that point on it was back on course, with a vengeance, to make it back to AK in time for work. We still managed a stop at all the skateparks and never once threatened to kill each other, at least not seriously.
There were a lot of firsts on this trip. First road trip with Kelly, Kelly meeting my Uncle, cousin, and lower 48 friends, first time doing the trip for fun, first time all the way up the PCH, and on and on. But perhaps the biggest first was that this was Kelly’s first time in California. She had a somewhat negative opinion of the state based on, well I’m not sure what. When we left California that had changed. She loved the beauty of Nor-Cal, the beaches of So-Cal, and everything the state offered in things to do. She might have liked the weather a little bit too. I’m not telling you this because I work for the California tourist board. I’m telling you this because traveling can be one of the greatest parts of being alive; if you let it. In my younger years of traveling I would often have a preconceived negative idea about a place I was going, just like Kelly did with Cali. The difference is that she was open enough to let the experiences speak for themselves. She let the each day present her a new adventure and accepted the challenge. She opened herself to the experience and found that the joy of the journey could shed light upon the shadows of worrying about the destination.
It was the best trip I’ve ever been on. Thanks to everyone that helped make it so rad.
Throwback Thursday: Alyeska Pipe
Well hello there folks. It’s been a while since I last posted. I simply fell behind in my writing, not my snowboarding. I’ve been trying to squeeze in every last day, hour, and run I can before the snow is gone.
Let’s ease back into things with this throwback thursday. These shots are from the Boarderline snowboard camp half-pipe at Alyeska. The shots are from summer 1996 (I’m pretty sure). I’m not sure who took the shots. Another interesting fact is that I’m riding a 162 Supermodel Burton in the black and white shots. I’m pretty sure I rode that board because I had been with Johan Olofsson and seen him rip on that board. That’s right, at no time have i ever been afraid to have heroes in snowboarding.
Planting one at Aly: 4-1-13
Finally got a day off ( I say that just as I return from a three week hiatus during the remodel where I work) and it was sunny. Kelly and I headed up to Alyeska to take advantage of spring’s arrival. It was a beautiful day but the wind and passing clouds kept things just cool enough to be pretty crunchy still. It was one of those days where it was sooo close to being sick but it just didn’t get there. Never mind all that noise though, we were just excited to get some sun. Hibernation is ending in the great white north and it’s time for visibility to come out of it’s winter slumber.
By my estimation there are two types of mountain conditions that are fun to ride in. One is powder, duh. The second is when it isn’t powder but it starts to soften up and becomes “Nook and cranny” time. Nook and cranny time is where I slow down a bit and start searching the mountain for every little spot I can find to perform some Mountain Dew inspired extreme maneuvers. On our April fools day mission I was able to find a few nooks and one cranny.
Here are some pics.
I also managed to narrowly avoid the wrath of a grumpopotimus. Kelly tends to get a little grumpy when she can’t get herself to try what she wants to try. There were some issues with the backside 360 progress and that sat about as well as a pea under the princesses mattresses. The funny thing about Kelly is her range of emotions connected to snowboard discontent. She’s grumpy when she can’t make herself try something or get it right and she gets mad, aggressively mad, when she get’s scared of something. We’ve had some interesting moments as I’ve tried to film her jump off a cliff or two that she was scare….. umm lets say she was cautious about hitting. Haha.
With all that said, I love it. I love that I get to ride with someone that is passionate and feels the emotion of snowboarding. I love that she feels the pain when she has trouble with tricks and that she explodes with joy when she conquers the task. It means that Kelly is in love with snowboarding. It means that it is deep in her heart and she cares about it. It means we are the same in that area of life. And all of that translates into me having more fun, riding longer, and being happier because I get to ride with her. That is as long as I can handle a little yelling when she gets gripped.
Alpenglow Hike: 3-26-13
Here are some photos from our hike of Alpenglow. We took off up the back valley bowl, then proceeded left to the peak, and finally rode down the ridge a bit and back into the gully/bowl area back to the parking lot. All in all it was a nice hike but the lookers left side, as you hike up the back bowl was pretty thin at top and variable in spots. When I found a few windlips the snow was deep and awesome. Better route choices in future.
Magazine Mondays: Alpenglow
This is not the traditional magazine shot but the rules are somewhat loose here. As long as it’s been in print then it works. This was the promotional poster printed up for Alpenglow when they sponsored my movie “Nice! Gordon.” The main shot and the first of the three stacked photos are of myself. The karate kid is Andre Spinelli and the stylish backside 180 is Walter Bombeck. All the shots were taken by Alex “Lord have mertzy” Mertz. And only I can take credit for the ridiculous fake Burberry jacket.
I chose this one because I always have such a fond place in my heart for Alpenglow. The oh so popular diving board platform that I’m launching off seems like a great feature to mess around on but it serves as a reminder of the greatness that once occupied that space. The platform is the base of the top tower of the lift that was once on that side of the ski area. “The military side” as it was simply known was as simple as Paris Hilton’s mind yet held an endless potential for fun. The one lift was run by the military until it was shut down and the lift and lodge removed in 2003.
As I grew up in Eagle River, Alpenglow was the spot to be and the military side was the spot to get busy. The military side boasted a round lodge with a fireplace in the middle, a cook named TC that was the saltiest sweet old lady you ever met, and a manager named Jeff who’s hair-do had one of the meanest spiked parts and a solid mullet foundation. What they also had was a willingness to open the mountain to us and let a shredder shred. They gave us the freedom we sought and reeled us back in if we got out of line. And through that give and take a great deal of respect formed. It’s amazing how angsty teens will act if you don’t treat them like a fire that you’re sure will rage out of control the second you take your eye off of it.
I’m starting to turn this into a throwback thursday so I’ll try to pull it back. The photos were taken in the spring of 2004 when I was shooting “Nice! Gordon” and it was awesome to work with Alpenglow. The year before, when working with Jesse Burtner on “Steezin for no Reason”, Alpenglow also came through with help in the form of features to ride and film on. I was just really happy to be able to give the mountain some dues for all it had given me in my snowboard infancy.
I have always been incredibly proud to have come from Alpenglow and I was just as proud to feature the mountain in my movie. The coat I’m wearing…. well, I probably won’t be as proud of that down the road.
Thursday I’ll give you another shot from Alpenglow and tell some of the adventures that I’ve been through on that hill.
Throwback Thursday: US Open
This shot is from the desk at Stratton Mountain where prizes were handed out for the 1997 US Open. I won the event and took home $5000.
Before talking about one of the biggest days in my snowboard career let me take you back and give you a little (probably a lot by the time I’m done writing) of my US Open history. Although I took part in the US Open in 1994, it was 1995 that was the big year. 1995 was my second season riding for Burton. When I was at the Open I heard they were about to run an event called the “Big Air” and though it was unfamiliar to me at the time it would become my snowboarding comfort zone.
The interesting part about the Big Air was that the registration staff was essentially allowing riders to campaign to be in the contest. I was told that riders could write an essay petitioning the registration panel to allow the rider entry to the contest. I was a small timer that had no real results beyond USASA contests but I would not be denied. I lit up and geeked out, channeling Jim Carrey, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
It was a scene straight out of “A Christmas Story” as I put pen to paper and composed my masterpiece. Point after point, tearing at the heart strings, drowning in logic, compelling and riveting, outlining my clearly undeniable destiny. A+++++++++++++. Ok so it might not have pulitzer worthy but I did pour my little snowboard heart out. I told them about how I was from the west coast and this was a rare chance for me to impress my east coast sponsor (Burton), how I was better at jumps so I had a better chance to make an impact on Burton, and a bunch of other scribblings that took up half a page. Somewhere along the line I put the correct words in and found myself cleared for entering the line up of the first ever US Open Big Air.
The way I remember it, the jump was barely two mounds of snow pushed up, a take off and a landing, and anything but big. To me it seemed about 20 feet but I believe it was approximately 42ft of gap. The take off was no more than a few feet high and the landing was about the same. It was a glorified boardercross jump in all honesty. As bas as all that sounds I couldn’t wait to hit it. Not a damn person in the world knew who I was there and I would keep it that way for two more years. Haha.
At that point Big Air was just a concept, an idea understood about as much as Alta understands snowboarding. Regardless of that we hit the jump a few times, drew a crowd, Kale Stephens flew off the side and tried to shrink the crowd by a few, and we started the ball rolling for a whole new area of competitive snowboarding. Jim Rippey got first, I got second, and Michelle Taggert got third. That’s right, a woman competed with the men, held her own, and got a podium spot.
The response was good enough that big air got a foot hold and stayed at the US Open. In 1996 the jump was huge (about 65ft cheese wedge) for it’s time. I believe I threw down something along the lines of a backside 540 but not much else and I didn’t place. I did catch the eye of Mike McIntyre, of Mack Dawg Productions, who asked me if I wanted to film with him when I got back to Tahoe (Mack Dawg Productions was the gold standard for freestyle snowboarding movies. I wore out movie after movie their productions in the VHS years.). That’s another story for another day but the point to see here is that this was just another dream coming true due to being part of the US Open.
1997! Finally the story about the picture above. Big air was a full fledged, fully respected event at this point. All the heavy hitters from the freestyle world were present. I felt like the bat boy getting to play in a real major league game. I was walking amongst giants while trying not to scrape my jaw as it was dragging on the ground. How did some kid from Eagle River, Alaska get to this point?
I was still an unknown and the thing I have found about anonymity is that its a freeroll; I couldn’t lose. If I go all out and fall then nobody knows me anyway so no big deal. There are no expectations on the unknown. Failure just maintains anonymity. But….but if I go all out and do well then there is a real story: Unknown wows crowd. If I go all out and stick everything then I will really make a splash. Well a splash was made. I WON!!!!!! Amongst the giants Peter Line and Jamie Lynn I WON!!!!!!!!!! Trick after trick was thrown, some landed, many crashed, as I did a backside 720 tail grab and a backflip 180 with a frontside grab and I WON!!!!!!!
I know, chill on the winning stuff already. I’m just trying to let you know how it felt. I really saw myself as just a kid that tried to snowboard as much as I could. This was all a dream to me, an honor to be a part of it and to ride with my heroes.
When the awards were held they lined us up on the top of the jump as people littered the flat between the take off and the landing and all down the landing. They handed us champagne and we did the spraying thing that people do on the podium. After that something happened that impacted me a great deal and really drove home how much people pay attention to athletes or public figures and what they do (and I wasn’t even a big deal like ball players or nascar drivers lol).
Those that know me well know that I don’t drink. I’ve never had a drink in my life. So as the bottles were sprayed and the foam cleared I poured out what was left in my bottle. After that I started doing interviews with media people on the edge of the landing. After about 15 minutes things died down and I was wrapping up. I noticed two kids making their way up the landing and they came over to me. They waited until they got a chance and said hi. As I said hi back the older of the two (maybe 17 or so) said he just wanted to tell me that he and his brother didn’t drink and they thought it was cool that I poured out the rest of the bottle rather than drinking it. They noticed that from the bottom of the jump and felt compelled to make their way up to tell me. That hit me hard and has always been a really amazing life moment for me.
Ok so I was freaking out about winning. I got other competitors to sign my bib and told them what an honor it was to ride with them. That’s when Jamie Lynn said “You earned it” and that’s when I had to change my underwear. I got props from Jamie twice in my life and for those that don’t understand what that meant to me it would be like Jordan telling you that you had a good jump shot. I’ll hold onto those moments like they are trophies. They’ll take center space on the mantle in my mind.
As I went to collect my prize I couldn’t believe it was cash and not a check. The cashier counted out 50 Benjamin’s and handed them over. I was officially baller. So I went out and did what any baller would do; I went to dinner, a celebration dinner. I drove down to McDonald’s and damned if I didn’t supersize that meal without even thinking about it twice. Then I went back to my room and just reveled in the moment. I counted the money a bunch of times. I am pretty sure I made it rain and in 1997 only dancing Indians made it rain not Lil Wayne. Then I arranged the bills all in the same direction and by face size. Then I did this
HAHAHA. I know, i’m a dork. I couldn’t help it. I had hours alone in my room before my flight early the next morning and I couldn’t get over what had just happened. It was my way of not letting the moment go. Another funny note was that I had to fly home with 5K in my pocket. I was sure everyone could tell I had it and was scheming to steal it. I kept my hand on it at all times to make sure I wasn’t pick pocketed and to ensure it didn’t fall out of my pocket. The most enjoyable anxiety I’ve ever had.
In 1999 I broke a rib overshooting the landing of the big air and in 2000 I got second in the event. More US Open stories another day. I’ve had an amazing unbelieveable experience with the event and will be forever grateful to have been a part of it.
Magazine Mondays: Gus “The Bus” Engle
The photo was taken by Alex Mertz, 2005 at Hilltop Ski Area.
This week we feature an odd creature. Gussias Shredorsus. If you don’t recognize him from his genus/species name then perhaps you will know him better as Gus Engle. If you’ve ever taken a biology class then you have probably had a bit of an introduction to evolution through the process of natural selection. If not then please allow me to butcher the concept in order to make a weak metaphor describing Gus.
The idea of evolution through natural selection is (and please understand I’m trying to make this as simple as possible rather than a detailed research project) that genes produce characteristics and those can be different among a species. The characteristics that work the best allow those that posses them to survive and most likely mate with others possessing those characteristics causing those characteristics to pass on through the population. Conversely those that don’t posses the characteristics that best allow for survival tend to take an early dirt nap. As this goes on then eventually all of the species end up with that trait. Google “Darwin’s Finches” for further explanation.
Snowboarding has always been an evolving animal. The skills have evolved, the trends in tricks change, the popular disciplines shift, and the fashions are about as safe as a kid in the shower with Jerry Sandusky. Gus also has evolved through the years from little grom, to baggy pants kid, to rail guy, to creative soap-dodging inspiration. Gus has figured out the parts of snowboarding that work for him and put a smile on his face and let those characteristics of his riding carry on while the other parts die off.
While most up and coming shredders try to figure out how to do a press like Joe Sexton or narrow their stance like Jed Anderson they seem to forget that snowboarding isn’t about being like others. I don’t think snowboarding is about not being like others either; it’s really just about being yourself. We will all find inspiration from others but a key part of snowboarding, or any other art form, is to use that inspiration to uncover our own vision. We should strive to uncover our own truth and by truth I mean seeing what is inside ourselves and releasing it. Release it not in hopes that everyone sees it and recognizes a rider for it but rather because releasing it is what frees us. Snowboarding is about freedom and making up your own rules, not caring what others think, and doing what makes you happy. If you can’t find any of those things in your riding then you are snowboarding for the wrong reasons and you should just get it over with and go buy some skis.
Gus has found his truth and his freedom in snowboarding the way he wants to. I haven’t always liked the tricks he does or the clothes he wears but I love that he has the desire to do those tricks and wear those clothes (and for the record, as well as Gus’s sensitive feelings, I do like most of the tricks he does). Snowboarding would be boring if everyone all did the same tricks and all looked the same. Snowboarding needs riders that aren’t afraid to follow their heart and snowboard on their own terms. Snowboarding needs Gus.
Now that i’ve written a novel about him, here is the short and sweet of what Gus had to say about the picture.
“Here you go Borgy:
This picture was taken by Alex Mertz back in 2005. I originally had planned to firecracker that 120 stair you can see in the photo. but due to my fear of death I decided to move the whole operation over to the to the oh-so-alluring stagnant swamp puddle and go surfing instead.”
Throwback Thursday: All or Nothing
Sorry about the lapse in posts over the last week. I’m in Colorado, visiting Kelly’s family and trying to snowboard a little bit. This is my first time back on the snow since slamming hard in the boardercross at Alyeska. The shoulder and ribs are holding up enough to allow me to ride but not enough to get busy.
Anyway, i thought I would share a picture from my first snowboard trip to Colorado. I have some others from the same trip that I will share later. The other shots carry other stories but lets explore this one for now. This Picture is of me at the 1993 USASA Nationals at Vail. I am on a Morrow race board with hard boots and plate bindings. Where to begin? Haha.
Let’s start with the race board. Most of the snowboarders out there probably don’t know what those are or can’t remember the last time they saw one. In 1993 the USASA events consisted of half pipe, slalom, and giant slalom. That’s right, two race events and one half pipe event. On top of that the Alaska region didn’t have as many competitors as other regions so riders had to qualify for an overall spot to nationals. That meant a rider’s points for half pipe and race events were totaled to determine who got the spot. I wanted to get that spot so I learned to ride a race board.
The problem with riding a race board was that it was 1993 and snowboarding was hitting its freestyle boon. It was jeans and flannels, chain wallets, nubbed boards ( sawing off the excess tip and tail to shorten the board), and it was jibbing. What is was not was hard boots and speed suits. Here in lies my personal struggle; being competitive, I wanted to win but i also wanted to keep it real and stick to my freestyle roots. The result is the outfit you see in the picture.
I wore blind jeans, Fishpaw mitts, a Plan B t-shirt that was a tall T before tall T’s existed, and my fresh Burton jacket. In my mind I was trying my best with a race board and hard boots while still keeping my street cred in the back pocket of my jeans next to my chain wallet. I remember how proud Bombeck and I felt as we patted each other on the back for not selling out like the seal skinned kooks in the speed suits. Naturally our fresh kits and street cred amounted to placings near the bottom of the results page. At the time we didn’t care much, we only cared about finding a rock to bonk or getting to the half pipe.
The next year I decided that if I was going to race then I better try to win so I found a speed suit and joined the ranks of the tighties. But for one year we kept it as real as we knew how to. Fast forward to present day USASA events and speed suits aren’t allowed any longer. I guess snowboarding imposed a speed suit prohibition in the name of all that is cool.
Just for your humor here is one more look at my kit that day.
Magazine Monday: Bounce wid it!
This photo was taken around April of 2000 by Cory Grove. I’m not too sure what Cory is up to these days but I do know he is behind the Cobra Dogs phenomenon. He is also a great guy that i miss hanging out with at Hood. But enough about my bromances lost.
The picture is of the World Championships at Whistler Blackcomb. This is the one and only time I’ve ever ridden a resort in Canada. I didn’t do so well at the slope style but I was pumped for the big air. As a matter of fact i was so pumped up that I nearly popped during practice. The event staff opened up practice the night before the contest. Seeing as how this was about 13 years ago I am a tad fuzzy on the details but I’ll do my best to keep them straight.
This was a pretty amazing trip for me. First of all it was the spring. It may have been more towards the end of April because the season was pretty much done after this contest. There is always a bit of excitement about the end of the season. You know there isn’t going to be any more powder, just slush if you’re lucky, so it’s time to start enjoying the summer and getting on the skateboard. I got to skate the snake run I had seen ripped up in the Plan B videos as well as all the new park additions and they were all about a minute walk from the hotel and mountain.
This was also one of the first times that i really made an effort to be social rather than locking myself off into contest zone mode. I don’t drink and never have so typically I didn’t find a lot of joy in going out to the bars and living it up on contest nights. Whistler didn’t drive me to drink but the party environment there did inspire me to go to the Maxx Fish (the main club spot) and bust at least three moves, maybe four. There also may or may not have been a night at “The Boot” which is not a strip club but more of a bar with strip club tendencies.
Back to the hill. So practice, the night before the contest, started and this was a time where I was really in tune with my big air jumping. There were big air contests constantly and I got to hit a lot of them. I was excited to hit the jump and go through the bag of tricks. I liked to work my way up through the tricks, start with small stuff like a 180 or 360, then a 540, a 720, a 900, and flips. Well the drop in looked like it was far enough up the hill and there would be plenty of speed but looks can be deceiving. I can’t remember if it was my first or second hit but what matters is that I came up short. I believe it was a backside 180 and I landed about 5 feet short of the knuckle. Plenty of people come up short but i think it was because i was facing back up hill that I couldn’t compensate for it and everything was really compressed.
Coming up short was quite a shock to my legs and back but nothing was blown out or broken so all that was left was to complain. I called it a night after that and the hurt set in like a hipster feels when he realizes he’s not the first guy to grow a beard, wear a flannel, and part his hair. By the next morning I could barely walk. Really I’m not exaggerating; my whole body was viagra stiff. I started the Advil regimen and trying to soak in the tub every two hours. The contest wasn’t until night so I had all day to get back to riding and I needed every minute of it.
The contest finally got underway and it was a cirque du soleil show on snow. People painted silver, 6ft stilts, lights and fireworks shooting everywhere, and a dj spinning an obnoxious techno soundtrack for it all. It was a head to head format until riders got to the final 4. I warmed the muscles up and found a game face in the gift shop to put on. I ended up in the finals and landed two solid tricks to take second (backside 900 tail and switch 360 backflip; aka borgarial haha).
As you can see from the results Peter Line got first. This is twice that he squeaked past me for the win when it should have been my back pocket that the extra cash went into. Now before you go yelling about sour grapes and what not, just relax. Pete always took any chance he could, even to this day, to rub in any win he got over me (I still have a print of him that he signed saying “I beat you at MTV S&M HAHAHA”). He is a legend, an inspiration, and an innovator as well as an expert at talking shit. Haha. I am secure enough to be able to admit when he beat me and take the ribbing but it goes both ways. With that said, Pete, you can email me for my address to send the medals and check to. Hahaha.
Throwback Thursdays: Behind Blue Eyes
This picture is of me, a very young 19 year old me. This is one of my first solo trips on my way to pro snowboardom. I just started riding for Burton that season and wanted to go to the US Open in Vermont. I had made friends with a couple of kids from New York state and they said I could stay with them for a bit and so the adventure began.
The kids were brothers named Jon and Matt Polhamus. I loved those guys. They were cool east coasters that were perceptive enough to know when people were getting out of line and savvy enough to dish up a serving of sarcastic comeuppance; just my type of guys. Anyway, when I went to visit them in Cornwall (Cornhole as they called it) NY, Matt was really into photography and took this picture. I thought we were just roaming the town so he could get some shots for school until the following summer when the picture was printed on a piece of poster board and sent to me as a postcard at Mt. Hood.
The thing I like so much about the photo is the focus on my eyes. I don’t like it because I have particularly beautiful eyes (unless you ask my mom), I like it because of the world that I saw through those eyes; those eyes at that moment in time.
Every so often I get a feeling of longing for those early days. I’m not talking about the days of being a pro, that’s fodder for another post completely. I’m talking about the tinge of sadness that clings to feelings of fondness, like the tail of a comet, when I think about the early years of snowboarding. Those early years of snowboarding, or anything pursued passionately in youth, are guided by blinders that deliver singular focus. I’m not even talking about when a goal is set forth like getting sponsored. I’m talking about the times when all that matters is getting on that board and making down the hill without falling. The times where if I were in the middle of a run then I wouldn’t notice a bomb going off next to the trail.
Those times on my board are invaluable because, like my first snowboard, they will never be made again. As I told Kelly, about the bit of sadness in my heart when thinking of those moments, she couldn’t understand how I could say that. “How can you not experience those moments again? You are always making new memories and having fun.” she said. It took a bit before I could explain it properly. I meant what i said but its not as bad as it sounds.
In those early years I would snowboard no matter what it was like outside. I was happy going off 3 foot high jumps and learning every possible grab I could figure out. The beauty was in the minutiae. But it wasn’t just the idea that my friends and I were new to the sport and had a lot to learn, it was that we didn’t know anything. I know those two things sound the same but they are worlds apart. I didn’t know what I was capable of, I didn’t know what the sport was capable of, I didn’t know what life had in store for me, I didn’t know how far I could take it. In things that I didn’t know laid a treasure; HOPE. In short, the whole world was possible simply because I didn’t know it wasn’t possible.
What I figured out is that those eyes saw hope through lenses clouded with innocence. The innocence came from not knowing anything about anything. The innocence came from not having a mortgage or electric bill. The innocence came from moving to Alaska and finding passion in something I had never seen or known about before leaving southern California. And the innocence was lost with each new step taken, each new barrier broken, and each new experience on the board.
I know it all sounds pretty dramatic but before you shake your head and put your face in your palm, let me try to clear it up a little more. I love snowboarding today. I love the abilities I’ve developed and the way I see and ride the mountain even if I do look like I need a lesson. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But I also realize that the way I looked at a run at Alyeska the first time I went down it is completely different than the way I look at it and think about it 20 some years later. I can never get that back. I can never see it through the same eyes as I once did and I miss that from time to time. As I explained to Kelly, my grandma died about 10 years ago and we were very close. I don’t spend all day every day dwelling on her passing but when I do think about it then I miss her very much. The early innocence of snowboarding is a parallel to that. Snowboarding makes me happy and brings me a ton of smiles but when I think about the first years of doing it I fondly miss what I saw from behind those blue eyes.
Magazine Monday: Mr. Preston Pollard Esq.
This week Preston Pollard is featured in this photo taken by Brian Adams in Alaska and printed in The Skateboard Mag.
Preston Pollard is more than a fine dressed young man. He is also the reigning Alaska State Tanning Champion. But putting the titles and glory aside Preston maybe the hardest working skater the state has ever seen. I don’t mean to take anything away from all the other kids on the grind but Preston is hustlin’ 24/7.
Some people see that I’m talking about a skater and immediately think hustlin’ has a negative connotation. That’s ok because skating was better when they hated us but that’s not what i’m talking about with Preston. I’ve skated with preston for about ten years and he has always been hyped on it. Not the ordinary hype that just getting on a board gives you, rather you could see that Preston genuinely loved it and would fight for every minute he could be on his board.
Being a skater, meaning that is basically your job, and being from AK mix like oil and water. A few have done it but the odds are really stacked against them. That wasn’t acceptable to Preston. As you will read in the story, he is persistent and dedicated to following his dreams. Preston has carved out a niche for himself by being positive, upbeat, and talented. He has managed to do all of this while setting a great example for kids and sharing his faith.
Here’s what Preston had to say about the photo:
Ryan Stassel US OPEN slopestyle qualifying.
Here is Alaskan Ryan Stassel doing his qualifying runs at the US OPEN slopestyle. Ryan is killing it and hopefully he caries this qualifying run onto big things. The US OPEN has been a springboard to the careers of many snowboarders including myself. Lets all root him on even if he is wearing snow pants from 1989.
Throwback Thursday: Who’s Craig Kelly?
This week’s photo was taken at Alpenglow during the winter of 1991. This jump would form as you headed down the cornice line, from the top of the T-bar, in the flat area just before the top of chair 1.
The reason I like this photo so much is because its about heroes. Not the tv show and not the sandwich. I’m talking about the kind that seem to be non existent today. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Do kids have heroes in snowboarding today? I’m sure they do to some extent but it seams that with the endless barrage of exposure that the attention span of the average fan is fried by the time they hit their third year of riding. Another facet of the current media state is that if a rider that is killing it gets hurt then he or she is basically tossed aside, in the minds of the kids, because there will be 497 other riders dropping web edits the next month. There is no build up or anticipation in waiting for the big movie part to drop because we will see another tomorrow. Its a tough world to be a pro in now. I guess its all relative but tough none the less.
There were magazines (you know, the thing that you look at on your iPad and flip the pages by swiping your finger) which we would study as though we were taking a med school entrance exam based on them. I would often read a Transworld snowboard magazine cover to cover in one sitting and then deal with the remorse over my actions, knowing that I would have to wait 30 long days to get anymore shots of Jeff Brushie poking out a trick in the half pipe.
And there were a handful of movies that came out each season. Basically the Mack Dawg and Standard films movies along with a few others; few enough that between friends someone would have every movie.
This meant there were a small number of sick riders and the majority of the media attention was focused on them. These were our heroes. They were worshiped, rightfully so, not for slaying beasts or rescuing damsels from the clutches of evil but rather for delivering a fatal blow to the styleless. We worshiped them for their perfection of the turn, the direction they tweaked, or whether their arm was on the inside or outside of their back knee when they did a frontside grab.
The sport was new enough that every nuance was studied and followed by attempted emulation. I wanted to push my mutes out like Jamie Lynn, before that I wanted to arch my back like Damion Sanders, and I wanted to look as “skatey” as Noah Salasnek and Chris Roach. In my early years there was no bigger hero than Craig Kelly. For those of you that dont know him, well theres not much I can do for you, but let me try to help you understand. Craig was kinda like the Terje Haakonson of the early days of snowboarding. Dont know who Terje is? Hmmm, well you really might be doomed. Let me try to help you understand. Terje was kinda like my generation’s Shaun White.
I can hear the grumbling now. The OG’s and purists will say that comparing Craig to Terje is one thing but its blasphemy to compare either of them to Shaun White. Hold your horses and let me straighten this mess out. You see I’m trying to explain a generational snowboard icon to the present day masses (by masses i mean the 12 people that read this blog). Shaun is the best half pipe rider there is. He has been among the best slopestyle riders as well. Just because some kid with 4 tall T’s on things (thinks) that Shaun doesnt have style doesnt mean its true. Maybe they are just mad because Shaun goes higher in the pipe than most of the rails are long that the gangsta shreds front board all day long. But style arguement aside, Shaun is the biggest name in our sport at the moment (even if it really should be Travis Rice). Before Shaun there was Terje. He dominated the pipe for years, had amazing style, was also accused of being robotic at times, and was the super star of my time. Before that was Craig. There was no “before Craig”, and again I know i might catch some guff for that comment but really with all respect due to the talent of the other riders of the time, nobody was as powerful yet flowed like water. Nobody had dominated contests the way he did. Nobody took the sport from flailing hucking spins to the smooth stylish beauty of a master executing his craft the way Craig did. He wasn’t the only one to ride like that but he was the first to excel at it all. He was the first star of snowboarding. Arguably Shaun Palmer was the first rock star of snowboarding but Im going to go ahead and give the crown to Craig.
Now hopefully you unknowing punks will be intrigued enough to find some old footage of Craig Kelly (Board with the world http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8IbUBtIEGE ) and try to see through the lack of corks to recognize the finesse he brought to the sport.
The point of all this is that the picture above is one I love dearly because I feel like I came close to looking like my hero in it. Just like a little kid wants to drive the lane like Kobe, I wanted to do a method like Craig Kelly. Well for one moment in time the make a wish foundation helped me out and this picture captured it. Thanks to Craig and all the other snowboarders that have and still do inspire me and influence the style of the sport.
Magazine Mondays: Brady Farr!
This week Brady Farr is featured with a beautiful cover shot on the 2005 photo annual for ONBOARD Magazine. Brady has been ripping for so many years and he’s riding as strong as ever now. Alaska had a tight scene in the Boarderline years so everyone knew everyone. It was easy to see when someone was coming up and starting to make a name for themselves. Just as soon as Brady laid the groundwork to becoming one of AK’s hot up and coming rippers he quickly moved to Colorado. At that point I would only really see him at our summer shred camps up at Alyeska. Normally people say “Out of sight, out of mind” but Brady made sure that was never the case. Every summer he would blow everyone away with his leaps and bounds of progression. Brady is back living in AK full time and still pushing his riding with all the hunger of an up and comer trying to make a name for himself.
Here’s what Brady had to say about the shot:
“Austin Gibney and I headed to Reno to meet up with Gary Milton. This was the fall of 04, the following season after filming for nice Gordon. There was no snow in town so we took Austin’s truck up to rosé mountain and loaded it with as much snow as we could fit. Gary was friends with Ryan Hugh’s so he met us at the rail around 10pm. It took me about 3 hours to get the trick, the lights kept shorting out not to mention a lack of snow. We all ate toco bell at 2 or 3 in the morning to celebrate the night.”
Sounds like they ended that night with a blowout in more ways than one. Thanks Brady.
Throwback Thursday: What ever it takes.
This photo was taken some time during my senior year, 1993. The spot is a crosswalk bridge, near Gruening Jr. High. There are rails on both sides of the bridge and they wrap around the walkway from the bridge to the street level.
I didn’t pick this shot because it was particularly rad. I picked the photo because it symbolizes how much snowboarding and getting better as a snowboarder means to me and has always meant to me. It is also a great example of how constant work will lead to nothing less than leaps and bounds in ability.
At the very beginning of my senior year I was just starting to show some promise as a rider. Boarderline had put me on the team and I was rising through the local ranks (probably because of all the time on the trampoline, haha). In late October, just after my first day riding at Hatcher’s Pass, I bent down at my locker and when i stood up my knee tore. It was a freak occurrence but it happened none the less. Within a few days I was under the knife and carrying around a little less cartilage. It turned out that my knee cap had slid over and sliced the cartilage (meniscus). The surgery was minor and consisted of simply shaving off the slice and other loose cartilage inside the knee.
I was pretty scared by it all but having grown up in the era of Rock movies, I knew the power of a good comeback story. I might have even heard “Eye of the Tiger” playing as i went to physical therapy. The point is that I was determined to keep moving forward and improving.
So as the winter went on, the only logical way to improve is to never stop riding. My crew, Abe and Khris Bombeck, would ride anything and anytime we could. We rode alpenglow on the weekends and the Thursdays and Fridays we could find a ride but that wasn’t going to be nearly enough. That’s when we started combing the area for rails and began hitting the Gruening overpass.
The Gruening overpass held everything we could want. It held straight rails, curved rails, log formations, steep wooden rails, and even a couple jumps were made there. We would pull each other to everything. Sometimes there would only be two of us so we would prop up the full size vhs camera on a wooden post then run back and slingshot the other guy onto a rail. It was our “rail garden.” We learned a lot about riding rails there and we learned a lot more about how much the fire burned inside us to snowboard. Those days weren’t about sports drink contracts or x-games, they were about learning and progression. They were also about wearing as much of your skate clothes as possible when you snowboard. Haha.
For the vintage fans out there I’m riding a Morrow Spoon 160 ( yeah that was the shorter of the two models at the time), Plan B jeans, SMP flannel, and some Save-on gloves that look like they were made for Shaq.
Magazine Mondays: OH SHIT!!!!
This photo was taken by Ryan Hughes (now the Snowboarder Magazine photo editor) and appeared in my interview in Heckler Magazine, 2003. The rail is in Portola California. I did the rail for the JB Deuce (Boarderline) movie “Steezin for No Reason”.
Now I’ve given more than blood, sweat, and tears in my pursuit of snowboarding. I’ve also given a crap. I’ve given a crap three time to be exact and I’m not talking about caring about three different areas of the sport. I’m saying that I’ve crapped my pants three times during my 23 years of snowboarding. I would say, all things considered, that’s not a bad average.
The other two times were both during boarder-cross events. The first time was in Maine at the CBS “Masters of the Board” event where the riders competed in boarder-cross, slope style, and half pipe all in the same day. During practice I overshot a jump and landed way out in the flats. The force was more than my weak colon could handle.
The second time was during an MTV winter event at Snow Summit. Boarder-cross and slope style events took place back to back on the same day. Again during practice I watched some riders and thought I had the speed mapped out. I was wrong. I overshot a steep volcano like jump and dropped about 15 feet to complete flat ice and wrecked myself. Rectum? Damn near Killed ’em. The details can be left for another time but I did well at the event. But really, who gives a crap?
This all leads us to the fecal hat-trick, the triple crown of crap that was completed in the picture above. I’m shaking my head as I type this; what a proud moment in life. Haha. Anyway, we drove about an hour or so to get to the rail and took another hour to set up the ramp and shovel snow into the landing and take off. At the time I had a signature model helmet with Pro-Tec and wanted to get a photo for them so I decided to do the warm up shots with the helmet on. Little did I know that my head wasn’t where I needed protection. “Depends” who you ask I guess.
I dropped in, planning a 50-50 (riding the board down the rail just like it is in the picture for those that might now know). I ollied up and slipped out right as my board touched the rail. I stayed in the air until my stomach hung itself over the flat section of the rail like a towel over the clothes line. Basically i flew down 14 stairs to my stomach. Now if you have any doubt about what happened then I have an easy exercise that can demonstrate things very clearly. Take a full tube of toothpaste and remove the cap. Now grab it by the bottom end, opposite of the cap. Raise the tube over your head, grit your teeth and tense your shoulder muscles to make sure you get the maximum amount of energy built up. Now turn that potential energy into kinetic energy as you slam the tube, with all your might, onto the edge of the sink. Thats about what happened to me.
With all the dignity available in the moment I told everyone, “hold on and I’ll be back.” To be honest, I was more concerned about internal injuries than a cheap pair of Gap boxers. I walked over into the bushes, took my underwear off, cleaned up with some slushy snow, put myself back together and got back to hitting the rail. After all, Im not going to drive that far and go through all that effort just to let some little turd ruin my day. I ended up getting the shot for the magazine and video part so I considered it a win. In my eyes it was just one of the many small tolls we pay to pursue our dreams and push ourselves. Yes it’s embarrassing and humbling but I’m not ashamed of it. Snowboarding is something that I would die for. It truly means that much to me and I am pretty sure that each of you has something in your lives that you love that much. I walked away to snowboard another day so now it’s just another funny story.
Until next time my friends, go get some turns.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is from the fall of 1991. This is a trampoline contest. Back then it was all the rage to duct tape your edges up and hop around on the trampoline. When a bag of tricks was composed more of grabs than corks and flips (corks hadn’t even been invented yet) the trampoline helped develop some serious game. As you can see from the photo, it didnt do much for developing the wardrobe.
All the snowboarders from Eagle River would gather at someone’s house each day after school and the tramp sesh would be on. Due to the fact that people dont really jump on trampolines with their snowboards much may lead you to think in a different direction when I say “tramp sesh.” Fear not, we weren’t on the football team so it was just practice for snowboarding. I also had my own trampoline and was on it all the time, mostly because Craig Kelly once said in a video that it helped with your balance and improved your snowboarding. Who was I to argue with the living legend?
As the fall grew colder and Boarderline announced the contest , we all got excited. It was the time when the air grows crisp and termination dust starts appearing on the mountain tops. Kids would start buying and watching the few videos that came out each season and talking about what tricks they would throw down as soon as the mountains opened. The trampoline contest was the time when all the shred clans from every area came together and felt the hype of the upcoming season. Talk of who would do well in the contests that year, who had or would get on the Boarderline team, and who was going to throw down filled the air like the flakes of a dumping snowstorm.
The day of the contest I can remember that Jay Liska and Jimmy Halopoff were judges. I also remember that when the trampoline dust settled I ended up in second place. I believe first place went to Jake Liska. Naturally I was convinced that a conspiracy on the scale of the JFK second shooter had occurred for those results to have been posted. I tried my best to pick up my dignity and my new Kombi gloves ( which were awesome because they had Kevlar on the fingers in case I needed to stop any further bullets coming from the grassy knoll) and headed back to Eagle River in time for my shift at Pizza Hut. Oh the glamorous days. Haha.
Oh and one last thing. I want you to notice that the Boarderline sign had Bart Simpson on it.
Here’s a quick edit that Alaskan Mason Hulen sent to me showing himself and some other AK kids shredding Northstar. It appears that these rider’s stances have developed debilitating cases of anorexia and bulimia. Their stances make Kate Moss look like a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.” Whether you like your stances like your women or not the one thing you cant deny is that these guys have skills. They have the Northstar rails on lock. Check out the video. Its tight.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/59463917″>Northstar 2/6/13</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1488644″>Cory Anderson</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Magazine Mondays: Jerry Smyth
Magazine Mondays will be a new post every Monday featuring a picture of an Alaskan skater or snowboarder that has been published in print form. This means a real life, hold in your hands, tear it off and put it on a wall picture. There will also be a story or any interesting details about the circumstances of the picture as told by the rider. The idea is to show what Alaskans can and have accomplished in their struggles to live their dreams. I hope it also serves as a little inspiration to all the other kids that are trying to get sponsored, make it in the game, or just have something to show the girls so they can hook up.
This feature starts off with a bang. The first Magazine Monday is Jerry Smyth’s cover shot. “Lobster” is one of the funnest people I’ve ever skated with. He’s got a ton of energy, amazing skills, and a huge heart. Enjoy.
Photo by Tony Vitelo
Jerry Smyth: “This was shot by Tony Vitelo, Fausto Vitello’s son who owned thrasher at the time. He had not shot a cover up until then. Jake Phelps didn’t want to use it because I was some un heard of dude. Tony didn’t care and got it ran. Right place, right time, right person…rather be lucky then good any day.”
Hot Laps with Roger Post
This is a video I made for Heckler.com when I was working for them and living in Tahoe (Make sure and check them out cause their site is tight and they have the finger on the pulse of Tahoe). The video is from Boreal last spring. It features Alaskan Roger Post, music by the Alaskan band “Lavoy”, and myself. All of it was shot on a ContourHD cam on my goggles and a GoPro mounted to the nose of my snowboard.
So over the last week I’ve been snowboarding a ton. There was a USASA slopestyle event, a little bit of pow, and even military mondays at Alyeska. It’s been fun riding and some not so fun riding. one thing that has become crystal clear is that Alyeska is a tough mountain when its not soft. More on that later.
Lets talk about throwback thursdays. This is the day that everyone posts photos of riding, clothes, boards, etc that are from their individual “good ole days”. The older the person is the more likely that the pictures are going to be interesting or extremely kooky. My pics tend to fall into the latter category. So for this thursday lets throw a couple up and discuss. This thursday’s shots will be from the Hilltop half pipe during the winter of 1990/91. I had been riding for about a year and just starting to compete. The pictures in the orange Patagonia jacket are from a practice session the day before a contest and the shirtless shot is, well, just being 15 and stoked i guess. At that time the routine consisted of watching Fall Line Film’s “Snowboarders in Exile” every day then going out and trying to tweak like Damian Sanders or Steve Graham. It was also a time of trying to figure out personal style while thinking I had my personal style completely locked down and dialed in. To me, I couldn’t have looked cooler than rocking a Spuds Mckenzie corduroy had with OR mitts. Looking back, I would have to say that I might taken another look at my kit and reevaluated it. But if you continue to follow this blog then my throwback thursdays will definitely show you that its been a long road of interesting style choices for me. Haha.
Another point that I find interesting is that right now I would kill to have this half pipe in Alaska. It was about 5 feet tall on a good day and usually icy as can be. But you know what? At least we had a pipe. I’m not sure what has happened to Alaska but it can be heart breaking to see how little effort is put in to the scene up here. We have three ski areas that used to all put in at least a showing of effort to fight for the snowboard demographic when it was minuscule. That leads me to believe it really wasn’t a fight for dollars or market share, it was simply an effort to innovate and provide a fun mountain to be on. I understand bottom line affects every business but I also know that being a slave to numbers, unwilling to acknowledge the subtext of the market, can be the death of a business. Right now Alaska seems to be going through a phase where one area is only open two days a week and has decided that playing it as safe as possible is the route to go. Another area is making efforts to have a park but seems to be having equipment issues. And the largest area, with the greatest amount of resources, has only put up a baby park and a baby pipe as of today. What’s going on around here? How did we have more interest in building jumps, pipes, boarder crosses, race courses, etc 15 years ago than we have now?
This subject deserves a lot more discussion and right now I have to get ready to head to Hilltop. So for now I’ll leave it alone but later tonight I’ll try to really lay some of my thoughts down. Until then I hope you like the old school pics and enjoy some of this pow thats falling.
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.
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)
Shooting the shooter; Turnagain sunset
(Mom, Me, Kelly at “The BBQ Pit”)
“Kitchen Wall” photo grab from GoPro at Alyeska