boarding in Alaska

Posts tagged “Alyeska

Video

Northern Exposure

This is the second video that Jesse Burtner and I put out. It was released in the fall of 1998. This video really represents us picking up steam and figuring things out. After Polar Bears, Dog Sleds, and Igloos we gained a bit of a following. We also realized that we could take this serious and make something of it. By something I don’t mean a lot of money. When I speak of making something of it I am talking about really representing our scene to the fullest. Polar Bears was made after the fact. It was a movie that we decided to put together after the season had started and really more so when the season was just about over. We went out and got some skate footage, mixed it with our own personal stuff we had shot and threw it together with what ever submissions we could get from anyone we knew. The videos following Polar Bears weren’t much different in that approach but the difference was starting out with the video as an end goal. As you can see this was the start of marketing (stencils spray painted on boards) and planning (with an actual logo). We were kids with a dream. Haha.

This was the year I won the X-Games big air and despite not getting an actual paycheck from Burton yet, I was able to not have to work in the shop during the summer. I was free to skate, film, and work on the video. This was really the same time that I was finally getting a taste of being a true pro snowboarder.

As I watched the video today, i really got a feeling for how amazing our scene was at the time. It was so strong. We didn’t have a great divide between the skaters and snowboarders. It felt like everyone really had each others back. The video became a centralizing component that drew everyone together towards a common goal. Boarderline was also a unifying element to the scene. Actually we can just go ahead and lump the two together because I think thats how most people saw it. Jesse and I always wanted to have it be our video that Boarderline sponsored but really it was the Boarderline video that we made. I’m more than fine with that assessment. All I really care about is the feeling I get when I watch the movie and knowing that so many others felt that as well. I know that the video captured some of the best times of my life.

Now let’s get to some stuff about the movie. First off let’s just talk about how sick it is that Belky, whom I still see all the time, started off a skate line by jumping off a two story house. I’m not talking about onto an airbag or mattresses. Belky jumped off a two story house using only the trusted tuck and roll as his exit strategy. He then popped up and ran to his skateboard and nailed a trick. Then there is Pete Iversen, Jesse, and myself onstage with Blink 182. This was back in the days of big air festivals. A promotor would set up a venue at a mountain which would include a big air jump, an area of tents for vendors to show up gear, and a stage featuring live acts. Say what you will about Blink but those guys were cool and they were down for our people back then. The video also features some people you might know before they were stars. Jon Kooley, whose name was misspelled in just about every video but his skills and style could never be forgotten. Burtners ambidextrous snowboarding was really starting to take off. A tiny Gus Engle can be seen ollieing off the first step at Hanshew along with Cody and Colton Liska. This is also the video where I think the world can really start to see the magic on a snowboard that is Mark Landvik. My old partner in crime, Stan Marsh, threw down some skating that surprises me more today than it did 16 years ago.
And if you watch the credits where I am rolling around the Girdwood park, with a boom box to my ear, you can see a tiny grom by the name of Sammy Luebke cruising behind me. Boy did that kid every grow up to make a mark on snowboarding as well as crushing it on a skateboard.

I think it’s important to think about some other standouts in the video. Pete Iversen was an inspiration. He was the original second coming of Jamie Lynn before Mark Landvik was the next Jamie Lynn. Pete was always smooth and controlled, a style that landed him on the am program for the early Ride snowboard team and some parts in Mack Dawg movies. Pete always had a great attitude and put on a fakie spinning clinic for all of us that weren’t so skilled. Sometimes you just don’t know how special someone is, and their riding, while you share a slope with them. Sometimes you have to put the footage away, in a plastic tub for a decade or two, before you realize just what they brought to the table. You were always one of my favorites Pete, and you always will be.

The skateboarding was always my favorite part of the early vids because I wanted to be as good as the other kids but just wasn’t. It was like getting to watch the unattainable right before your eyes. This video was where Adrian really hit a growth spurt and you can see that his skating showed it. Suddenly he was up on much bigger stuff and hopping off much bigger stuff. Northern Exposure really showcased the early Micah that many know as a creative genius on a board. Anthony Black also came into his own and forced everyone to see what he had to offer. I have to mention how stoked I am that i got to be good friends with Scott Leathard. We skated and shredded together and he always had the patience to try to help me move forward with skating no matter how easily it came to him.

As for me, well, I was angry. I was probably angry because I still pushed mongo footed. Haha. That was a time where I was 23, raised on punk music, and spent everyday in the streets. I’m not saying I was in the streets like I came from the hood or anything like that. Im just saying that as a skater, I was out there everyday, in a time when skating wasn’t really cool and people generally didn’t like us. I was pretty aggressive and super protective of the skaters I was with (which were always younger). So that meant a lot of run-ins with cops, security guards, jocks, drunks, and others. Just a great time to be alive and a part of what was happening in the Alaska skate/snow scene. So that’s a long winded explanation of the music selection. Haha. Don’t worry, it gets better in later vids. And for some reason I wanted to jump off everything on my skateboard. Classic case of balls being bigger than skills.

The main thing I love about this movie is that it brought us all together. There were great kids from Fairbanks, the Juneau boys were amazing, and when you throw in the talent pool around Anchorage it made for a thriving scene. I don’t know where that went or if it can be revived but I’m forever grateful that I was a part of it. I want to say thanks to every kid that held a camera, rode a board, or supported those that did. I also want to say thanks to all the parents that drove your kids to the skatepark or the hill and brought them into Boarderline or to one of our movies. You people should all be proud of what you helped make and know that I sincerely love you all for it.

Hope you enjoy the vid. Subscribe to the blog, share it, download the vid and do what ever you can to get it out there. See you in two weeks with the next one.


Video

Polar Bears, Dog Sleds, and Igloos

This video was the first collaborative effort between Jesse Burtner and myself. I graduated high school in 1993 and went back to my shop/technology teacher, Mr. Bernard, and asked to use the video editing equipment. Abe Bombeck, Khris Bombeck, and myself made a horribly janky video, filmed almost entirely on a full size vhs camera, from the 1992/93 winter, and titled it “Against the Grain.” Well, I was hooked after that. I would film skating and snowboarding when ever i had spare time and would produce a video each season of myself and a couple friends. The vids were only a couple songs long but I loved making them and would send them out as a way to show my sponsors what I was doing.

We first showed “Against the Grain” before a Boarderline movie premier at the now defunct Mia Culpa coffee shop. You’ll see how rough the video was when i post it in the near future. The part i remember most about that premier was that despite how low budget and ghetto the video was, I was so proud of it. I was proud of it because I knew the Bombecks and I were onto something. I knew we were pushing snowboarding and we were doing it from a tiny hill. We were hitting street spots and all kinds of things that people just weren’t doing in AK. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. The point I am trying to get to is that was the night Jesse Burtner showed a movie he made too (if my memory serves me correctly). I knew, actually i think we both knew we had found a kindred spirit in the desire to make these videos.

We didn’t come together for a few years but when we did we formed something that was magic. It wasn’t magical in the camera work or ground breaking riding. It was magical in that it became something that unified the community. When i say the community i’m speaking of the snow and skate community in Alaska. We were able to capture our friends, our mountains, our town, our home. We were able to capture, box, and present that thing that makes people fall in love with riding a board in Alaska.

There are kids that will watch this that didn’t snowboard before gopro was invented. They just won’t understand how a grainy video, with sketch riding, could be anything other than a waste of server space. Hopefully most of you will look a little deeper and catch a glimpse of what it was like when everyone in the scene knew each other and rode together. Hopefully you will crack a little smile as you are reminded of what it was like when every mission was just piling into the car and bringing the camera along to catch what ever you stumbled upon.

This video was made at a time when I was still working at Boarderline. In the summer, when I came back from my pursuit of being a professional fun-haver, I would go back to my position of board slinger at the shop. It was before I ever got a paycheck from a company or had a computer to edit on. Actually it was made before we even edited on computers at all. Jesse and I returned to Chugiak High School and Mr. Bernard’s Technology lab to edit this video on a linear system. For those that don’t know what that is it is basically playing a tape in one vcr ( and if you don’t know what that is then we might be in trouble) while recording the shots you want on another vcr. You have to record each clip in the order you want it to go (in a line) and there is no going back and inserting. Think of it as putting together a string of train cars.

As you watch this video I hope you notice some things so I’ll point them out just to make it easier. The video showcases the skating of Think Skateboards pro Adrian Williams, Big Brother magazine cover shot holder Micah Hollinger, and Thrasher cover shot holder Jerry Smythe. Notice how small Adrian and Jerry are back then. Also this video has shots from what I believe was the first ever Boarderline snowboard camp. Another notable fact is that I am indeed pushing mongo in my skate shots. As a former Mongo, I can tell you that its like being left or right handed; its just how you set the board and start pushing. I can also tell you that I am proof that Mongo doesn’t have to ruin your life, it can be overcome. The first few movies I pushed Mongo then I taught myself to push the right way. Its never too late to learn to push correctly. There is plenty more to enjoy with this video but I’ll let you explore it for yourself.

Merry Christmas.


Throwback Thursday: Alyeska Pipe

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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.

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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.


Throwback Thursdays: Behind Blue Eyes

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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.


Throwback Thursdays!

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. 

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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. 


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