boarding in Alaska

Posts tagged “snowboarding

Magazine Monday: Bounce wid it!

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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.

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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 Thursday: Who’s Craig Kelly?

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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: OH SHIT!!!!

ImageThis 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.


Throwback Thursday!

ImageThis 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.


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