boarding in Alaska

Posts tagged “USASA

Throwback Thursday: All or Nothing

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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. 

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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. 


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.


A Day In The Park (with skiers)

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

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

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

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

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