boarding in Alaska

Posts tagged “Arctic valley

Nice!Gordon

Nice!Gordon is the final movie I made for Boarderline. The movie premiered, with Jesse Burtner’s movie, on September 25th, 2004. Over the past season I have been re-releasing all the old Boarderline movies leading up to this one. Because Nice!Gordon was my final movie and this is it’s 10 year anniversary, I wanted to revisit the movie in some depth. Leading up to this I have been posting all the dvd bonus sections. I haven’t watched most of those clips in years. As a matter of fact, I probably haven’t watched Nice!Gordon in many years. As I’ve gone over it again I realized something: I FUCKING LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!

As you stop shaking your head and remove your face from you palm, I can tell you I don’t mean it how you think. What I realized, when I watch the movie, is how amazing it was being a part of what was happening during that period of time. I realized how amazing all the people were. I realized these things in a way that just isn’t possible when you’re living out those moments.

My hair was a tragic mess, the acting was bad, the plot is a rip off, along with a million other things that can be knit-picked about the movie. But I don’t care. What I care about is that when I watch it I smile. And I care that others smile when they watch it, remembering that part of their lives.

I usually write a book about each video but I’m going to save that for the next post. I will go over all my thoughts on the riders and the things that happened, hopefully attached to the director’s commentary version of the movie.

For now I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the kids that supported these movies. Thank you to people that broke themselves, day in and day out, to get shots for the movie. Thank you to all the talented skaters, snowboarders, and people that filmed and worked on the movie for sharing your individual gifts with me. Thank you for letting me be there as you showed hints of the people you would grow up to be. Thank you for letting me witness your talents as they blossomed. Thank you for carrying me when my talents couldn’t be found. Thank you for being calm and patient when I was a frantic mess. So many of you let me into your lives, some for only a day while some revealed the full spectrum of their passion and pain. Thanks to all of you for helping me turn my visions into reality. And finally, thank you all for making the Boarderline years of the Alaska snow/skate scene something that I will forever look upon fondly and with great honor to have been a part of. You all changed my life, you all made my life better, and I hope that one day I will be able to return the favor.

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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 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