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Ken Achenbach is widely known as the father of Canadian snowboarding. He opened the first snowboard shop ever, was instrumental in getting resorts to allow snowboarding, and has been at the helm of Camp of Champions since 1989. More importantly, he still loves it every bit as much as he did the first time he strapped in. This summer, we headed up to COC for the full Whistler experience and I spent Ken’s daily afternoon commute down Whistler, chatting with him about the past, present and future of snowboarding as well as a few of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

What was Camp of Champions like in the olden days?

We had a lot of fun. It’s funny, it’s changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed at the same time. All the best pros come and coach, kids from all over the world come and hang out and ride with em. Everyone makes a bunch of new friends and pretty much has the best week of their lives. The park has changed for sure, but the experience is pretty much the same.

Tell me about starting the first snowboard shop ever.

Well, I ski raced until I was like 15, but I figured out pretty quickly as one of four kids with a single mom, that I was never gonna make it to the national team because I wasn’t rich. So one October duing dry land training for ski racing, I walked up to my coach and just said, I quit. Winter is pretty long and boring in Canada if you don’t do anything. I grew up here and I don’t even remember learning to ski, I was so young. It was our day care. I skied every single day of the winter. To go from skiing everyday to doing nothing, it was like oh, God – which was is serious? I called up Tom Sims and bought a snowboard, went one run and was just like, this is the best thing ever. I called up and ordered 6 more because I figured everyone was going to want to do this. Nobody wanted to sell them. My original plan was to sell them to ski shops, but nobody wanted to them, so I just opened the Snoboard Shop. Maybe I should have pick a named that was a little more franchise able, but whatever.

How long did you run that for?

I never really ran it, I just sort of had it. I opened the Calgary store in 1980, and we closed the one in Whistler in 96. It was pretty funny. I gave the one away in Calgary and I found out later that the dude sold it for $2 million. I’m not the best businessman. Had one here and Doug Lundgren was the guy running it and he was trained to be a heli ski guide at Weigles and one fall Mike Weigle called him up, “Doug, you wanna be a heli ski guide?” Our lease was up in a month and we were going to move to another location. He was still on the phone with Mike and he looks at me and says, hey, you wanna run the store? I was like, nope, so he took the job and we closed a week later and that was that. We actually closed our store for powder – no lie. In before everybody and out before everybody.

Ken and his empire. Photo courtesy Camp of Champions/Low Pressure Podcast

Do you ever miss having a shop?

Oh God no. I think every day I wake up glad I don’t have a store. I never wanted to be that 50-year-old guy that’s behind the counter watching a video, selling kids snowboards. I sold snowboards, but for me the store was just a way to turn people on to snowboarding. And that’s what camp has kind of transitioned into – just a way to get people snowboarding and get em stoked. Now I don’t have to sell em anything and I just have to keep them excited about snowboarding and now skiing.

When did you add skiing at COC? Was it a tough decision?

No, JP Martin and I both came from ski racing and skiing families and half our friends skied and so we would always get our ski friends asking to ride the park. How do you say no to your friends? It’s like in Alberta when we had the store, we had more ski resorts to ride at than probably anywhere else in North America. How do you say no to someone you’ve known your whole life? Doug Lundgren’s parents used to own Mt Norquay, my mom and dad used to be ski patrollers. Back in the day everyone skied because that’s what you did, so even though we were snowboarding, they couldn’t suddenly not like us. We were kinda lucky that way, and I just didn’t take no for an answer ever when a ski resort wouldn’t let us up. We would hound ya nonstop, and it worked. I can relate to Jake. He did it in the states and we did it in Canada.

Do you think it was easier to get acceptance in Canada?

Yeah, it’s Canada. Just do what you want. Canada is pretty awesome that way. It’s why camp is so much fun as well. When you don’t have to worry about getting sued every three seconds for sneezing or whatever you can do a lot more stuff that’s a lot more fun. It obviously safe, but you don’t have to think about if we’re going to get sued. That’s why our camp is so progressive. We had the first 22′ super pipe, actually ours was 25′, and we’ve had pretty much every rail configuration you’ve seen started at camp. So much park progression and maybe it is because we’re in Canada and we have that freedom of thought so your first thought is “wow this sounds really fun” instead of “well we could get sued.” We always had a more open mind or we just didn’t care.

OG. Photo: Scott Serfas via Instagram

I know you were not a big proponent of adding snowboarding to the Olympics. What was your objection back then and how do you think it’s turned out?

Every generation of snowboarding takes its own approach and makes it into what they think it should be. I’m some 50-year-old dude now that grew up snowboarding, but snowboarding belongs to the 15 year olds. Who cares what I think. But personally, FIS ruined ski racing and moguls. They ruined skiing basically by turning it into the regimented thing where all the fun and freedom is taken out of it. You have to do it like this and you have to point your pinky. Why would we want snowboarding, which is way closer to skateboarding than skiing, to be like that? Don’t even get me started on the fact they’re a bunch of gangsters.

FIS is run by Gangsters?

Well they’re all gangsters. I remember the first day I started at CBC commentating snowboard contests. Being the mouthy person that I am I asked the producers “since when do you guys give a fuck about snowboarding?’ He goes, oh we got told we had to. This was 95/96, and they had been told by FIS that if they didn’t carry FIS Snowboarding they’d lose FIS ski racing. And whoever controls the media, controls snowboarding.

What do you think of the snowboard media in general?

It doesn’t matter. We used to make movies and go to crazy places too, but snowboarding in the magazines, so much of it is no relation to what real people do for fun, because everything’s ad driven now. In the old days we’d do a trip to Europe but we couldn’t say “Barfoot goes to Europe.” You look at the mags now and it’s all Vans does Europe and Burton goes blah blah. I wish we could have bought the cover back in the day.

Do you think the ad influence has stifled creativity in some ways though?

I don’t know. Snowboarding is always creative because it’s just the way of the sport. I think snowboarding is as creative as its ever been. Look at Capita, look at Lib tech and even Burton. The thing was the creativity back in the day was driven by necessity. When I made the twin tip it was a matter of not liking the boards we were on, and got our asses handed to us by Kidwell, so we thought, how can we make a better board? Me and Neil Defrain came up with the twin tip and now that’s the DNA for all snowboards pretty much. Same with baseless bindings. I wanted a more poppy board and the baseplates made a dead spot in the board. I was like if we got rid of the baseplates and mounted the bindings on the outside it would get rid of the deadspot. That kind of turned into the EST system. The creativity is there, it’s just a lot harder to come up with something new. But you can’t blame kids for not being as conscious of what makes a board epic when the board they’re on is epic. The general wickedness of snowboards these days is awesome, even a piece of shit is epic. We did it so they don’t have to. But luckily there’s the JG’s and the Alex Warburton’s of the world who think about how to make snowboards better so we don’t have to. That makes me stoked when people always push stuff forward. You can always make stuff better. That’s why I laugh when people diss Burton because pretty much everything started with them. Same thing with Lib Tech, it’s such an amazing brand. Mike Olsen, Barrett, Pete Saari are geniuses of snowboarding. The creativity is there, it’s just different than it used to be.

Taking care of business.

Do you think the pro dream is still the same?

Yeah. Everybody wants to go pro. Snowboarding is exactly the same as it was in the old days. I never got paid as a pro! (laughs) The dream is still there. You might not get paid but it’s still pretty awesome to travel around the world on someone else’s dime and make friends all over the world, go to different countries, see things and do things, have people come up to you and ask you for your autograph or say, your section is blah blah was so sick! That’s awesome. Money is just a bonus.

Helps ya buy things though.

That’s what jobs are for.

Who wants one of those, though?

True, I’ve been trying to avoid that shit my whole life. But on the other side of the coin, the fact that there is no money in snowboarding unless you’re one of the few people getting paid is it makes you think of your own stuff. It makes you start brands or create something so you own it and you can’t get ditched the first time you break your ankle or blow your knee. It makes me so stoked to see Blue Montgomery start Capita. That’s what you’re supposed to get out of snowboarding is to figure out your own life. Like you with Yobeat. When you started snowboarding did you ever think you’d start a website and you’d be driving down whistler in the middle of summer doing an interview?


But you did. And the neat thing is when it’s your own you never quit and you try harder and you go up and down with the cycles, but because you love snowboarding at the end of the day that’s all that really matters. And you do whatever you do to keep snowboarding. Maybe I’m still 15 in my head, but that’s all I ever wanted out of snowboarding was to go snowboarding.

That’s funny people always accuse me of having a 15-year-old mentality and I think that’s not a bad thing because I think snowboard media should either appeal to 15 year olds, or remind you of being 15 when you read it.

I’m with you. When you’re 15 everything is awesome and you make the friends that are gonna be your friends for life, and you have more fun than you’re every gonna have, because you have no responsibilities other than to have fun. And that’s what snowboarding should be. I’m totally with you. My wife left me cause I’m basically a 15-year-old kid. What can ya do?

Moments like this aren’t going to capture themselves. 

Have you ever considered growing up?

No. No way, I’m never growing up.

What’s your take on Mt. Hood camps and then new ones popping up from Woodward?

The more the merrier. More people getting people stoked on snowboarding the better. I don’t know about their parks, but that’s just my personal opinion. The neat thing about snowboard camp, and I don’t just mean ours is snowboard camps are the churches of snowboarding. The kids that come to camp are the most rapid snowboarders from wherever they live. And they meet the other rapid snowboarders from all over the world and they make the next snowboarding. Mary Rand came to camp when she was 12 and now she’s rookie of the year and a guest pro. Andrew Hicks, he’s working for Billabong and he met his wife at camp when he was 15. The friends you make and the connections you make, you don’t get that anywhere else. I think the media should support camps a little more. If they wonder why snowboard sales are down – give support to the true hardcores, which are the kids that come to camp.

What do people get out of camp?

People come to camp to be pro snowboarders or whatever, but the one thing I really like about camp is you may come for that but when you’re here you realize, oh man, I’m never gonna make it as a pro. But you’ll be like I could be a filmer, or a photographer, or a writer or a marketing director or an editor for a magazine. It’s amazing. You look at the snowboard industry and everyone in it came through camp.

I have to ask, is this the lowest you’ve ever seen the snow?

This is the worst winter I’ve ever had. Me and Don Schwartz and a couple of friends own Powder Mountain cat ski and we cat skied 6 days. We usually go 90. It was New Zealand this year. No snow down low and tons of snow up high. Up until May 1 we had pretty much the same snow we had last year and then it got hot and didn’t stop.

Do you think it’ll turn around?

It has to man, it’s all I’ve got. (laughs) Snowboarding is all I’ve got and I’m not even that good at it! It’s gonna snow. Whistler had something like this in the late 70s where they had three years of no snow and the only reason it wasn’t as tramatic for the resorts is we had all that Olympic snow making. I called this season Colorado good. There wasn’t any powder but it was sunny every day and it was white and you could slide on it. Colorado perfect, it’s what everybody – other than people that live for powder – it’s what you want on your vacation. So it was an awesome year if you like that, but I like powder, so it could have been a little bit better.

Marcus Rand.

Tell me a story about when you were a pro snowboarder.

Well, when I was a pro I kinda transititoned into being a photographer. Back then It’s kinda like you’re the best hockey team in Alaska. Being a Pro snowboarder didn’t mean much, it just meant you got your ass kicked by Terje every year. But snowboarding hasn’t changed much at all. You get a crew of friends the snowboard shop posse was ridiculously talented – we had Boyer, Warburton, Shorty, my brother Dave, Steve Matthews, Keith Duckboy Wallace and Evan Thein, Brushie and Nicole Anglerath. All these people would come and coach in the summer and they were the same people you’d hang out with in the winter. Snowboarding hasn’t changed at all and that’s why I laugh when people talk about it. It’s like my keys to reality story. Snowboarding hasn’t changed, you’ve changed. You’re 12 or 15 and all you do it dream about moving to a ski area and then as soon as you’re old enough to move to a ski area, you either move on your own or with your friends and you get a crappy job as a busboy a pizza delivery guy and you snowboard every day. And you have the best time and you live life simply. Your hungry and your clothes are dirty and your always broke, but you have a season pass and you have the absolute best time of your life. You do that and then one day you decide to buy a car and then you get a job to pay for the car and then girls talk to you because you’re not a loser snowboarder that has no money and all of a sudden you blink and you’re forty years old and have a house and a job and you’re not that kid anymore. I’ll fully admit, I’ve changed, but I still like to think of myself as a dirty little snowboarder. All I’ve ever wanted to do is snowboard and I’ve been lucky enough to make that happen.

You still didn’t tell me a story from the old days.

Ok, it was like 1991 and every pro snowboarder lived in this one house in Whistler. The tour bus would go by and point it out – the snowboard house! Brushie lived in the hallway to nowhere and put up a sheet to keep everyone out. Terje lived there. There was like 25 people. The house was so full I basically lived in my van all summer.

What’s your favorite part about Whistler?

Everything. I think what I like the best about it – there are a lot of resorts that blow the horn, or say we care about the customer experience – but Whistler to me is the only place that I’ve ever been where they don’t even see a box to think outside of. I can’t believe this is my front yard. You end up where you’re supposed to end up so it make sense, but it’s best resort in North America. I’ll call it the best resort in the world, but I’ll definitely say there’s better riding in Europe, but as far as the whole package, there’s nothing better than Whistler. I can’t get bored of this place because if I do I will have to move to France. I’d have to find a French girl to marry like Americans do when they want to move here!

Do you think you missed out on anything by being a snowboard bum for your whole life.

No, not a chance. It’s funny, you get older and you live in Whistler and when you travel and you tell people where you live they’re jealous. And it’s like, you could live there too. There’s not a gate to get in. You get the life you want, so pick a life you like. You don’t have to be an office monkey, you don’t have to have a shitty life. If you wanna live in the mountains, do it. Sell all your shit and move, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Yeah you’re gonna be broke and hungry and live with 15 people in a crappy two bedroom apartment and you’ll either like it or hate. If you like it, well there’s a way to find a way to make your dream come true and live there. If you don’t like it, university and real jobs are always going to be there. The stuff you learn being a free person, I think you learn a lot more about how the world works than I think you do going to university. But what do I know, I never went to University.

Welcome to the Yobeat Roundtable, a new feature where we pose pressing questions to the greatest minds and bodies in snowboarding in order to get some damn answers – or at least real opinions on the current state of Board World. For our first meeting, we’re discussing what it means to matter, or more specifically, stay a relevant snowboarder in this day and age of media overload. We asked:

The term relevance is thrown around more than ever in the Internet age, as just about anything can gain notoriety with enough social posts. As we approach the 2015/16 season, what does being relevant in snowboarding mean to you?

And they answered:

Ethan Morgan, Half German/half American Playboy/Bataleon pro: Being relevant is important to me as a snowboard pro.  Things have changed in Snowboarding, not good or bad, just different.  And if you wanna be a part of it, you just have to go with the flow.  Nowadays, you just wanna get your name out there so the world wide web can see you.  You could be the shit, have the best steez and heavy tricks, but if you’re not in that Social media mayhem program or not going to contests, you’ll get as close to just getting a shop sponsor.  Internet has it all connected, and has constant updates on what is happening in snowboarding and its different scenes.  So many snowboarding edits out there, it’s unreal.  It’s hard being relevant because there is so much Internet traffic.  So what * try to do is just be consistent with updates, bring out content and just try to get my name out there.

Danyale Patterson, Gnu Girl/Purist: Being relevant in snowboarding means you’ve filmed a memorable part.

Sean Black, Muscular Man/Arbor Marketing MANager: What is defined as relevant depends on who you ask. Relevance is relative and with so many channels of communication available to so many people on both the publishing and consuming end of the media landscape, relevance is harder than ever to achieve or quantify. I think what I’m trying to say is that Erik Leon is super fucking relevant, and everyone else to rides an Arbor Snowboard for that matter. Yeah…all of them are the most relevant. Oh, Stan seems to be super relevant too. I heard, “OMG thats Stan from Yobeat” just as often as “OMG that’s Sage Kotsenburg” last week while on Mt Hood. Both dudes are super fucking awesome so that was nice to see.

Sean Genovese, Snowboard Visionary/Dinosaurs Will Die Co-founder: Hustle.  Has and always will be the most relevant.  If you’re making an effort and participating… people will notice.  If you’re half assing it… people won’t notice… therefore they won’t care… hence irrelevance.

Chris Larson: Alaskan Hardcore/DWD Pro.

Isn’t trying to be relevant consist of trying to be unique and as irrelevant as possible?  That’s my take on how people are trying to shift their direction towards being what’s currently relevant.

Jake Olson-Elm: Minnesota Hero/Signal Pro: I think Lucas Magoon is the most relevant snowboarder out there, then it just trickles down from there!!!

Matt Heneghan: DWD babysitter/Newfie.
I think the key to staying relevant is being in the know of what is currently trending in snowboarding but not totally catering your trick selection and riding style to that norm. Incorporating some new flavour is good but it is really obvious when someone is just straight up biting something. Do your own thing but evolve in a way that makes sense to your boarding.
Fredrik Perry: Fragile human/DWD Pro.
Being relevant for me I guess is if you’re out there doing stuff. I mean, if you’re in edits and doing interviews and put out videoparts, people know what you’re doing. You can’t really force it either, which is good, but I don’t think being relevant is a thing people really think about. Is it? At least for me, just film for a videopart I’m hyped for myself and that my friends will like and also maybe, just maybe once not get injured during a season. Yeah right. I guess it depends on what kind of snowboarding you do also. If you want to win big contests you’ll have to do some pretty crazy tricks and do those every other weekend during the winter to stay relevant, for other people it’s enough to drop one part a year, maybe even every other year. For some, just make silly edits for silly boys and girls. I like those.

Jeff Keenan, Whistler OG/DWD Co-founder: For myself and DWD, it’s all about submersing in to the culture no matter where you are at. From travels to resorts and spots in Japan and Europe, to roaming through the local scenes in North America; riding and bridging the the gaps allows you to keep check with similarities in all Snowboard culture plus you’re able to meet more people and expand your reach.

Jonathan Macdonald: Bear Local/Arbor Am.  Being relevant in snowboarding to me  is knowing what’s going on in the snowboarding community, but you don’t have to follow the footsteps that everyone else takes. Snowboarding was/is made to be fun and that’s the main rule u should always have, weather your doing a quad cork or the newest euro carve. You be the judge on what you think is cool and not, don’t just say it’s cool because your homies said it is or because it’s the heavy popular thing. SERIOUSLY BE YOUR OWN PERSON!!!

Brendon Hupp: Indie Filmmaker/Professional Pessimist
Filming a video part, photos (in print), maybe an interview (in print) and not over saturating the social scene with your shitty park edits and even worse product photos.

Madison Blackley: Jib Gurl/Bataleon Pro. YOU THINK I’M RELEVANT?!?! Shocking since I’m not that cool on Instagram.  Being relevant is giving the people what they want, even if they don’t know what they want. I don’t know what is relevant anymore, being relevant is being popular.

Kaitlyn Farrington: Olympic Halfpipe Snowboarding Gold Medalist. Funny that the question is about being relevant because right now that what I’m trying to figure out…how to stay relevant and let’s say not be the forgotten Olympian :/ I feel the internet has just made things a pain in the ass because I can’t just be me to the full extent without getting comments like “should you be doing that because your neck” or the call/text “you might wanna rethink your last post parents might not like that”  my response is “yes I am drinking out of a red cup I’m 25…”

Not so long ago, professional snowboarders got paid in real money.  We’re talking enough money to travel around the world, pay a mortgage, keep their snowmobile tank filled with gas, pay for a hotels in upscale resort towns, go on lavish surf vacations in the off season, and maybe even put a little in the bank to cover them when an injury or poor decision caused them to be out of a job. There are still a few top pros  raking it in, but thanks to many factors within and beyond the industry’s control, most of people you see in marquee features on sites such as this one, are lucky to get to get free boards and a small travel budget these days. While we’re uninterested in debating the ethicality or fairness of this reality right now, we are here to offer a few suggestions on how to keep the pro shred dream alive without government assistance, energy drinks, crowd funding or ya know, actual snowboard brands.

Not-so-Illicit Drugs. It should come as no surprise that several reputable, long-running snowboard brands were started with drug money. With the legalization of marijuana in full effect on the west coast, there’s never been a better time to use some of that extra green you make growing/selling/trimming green to fund a snowboard career.

Big Pharma. Snowboarding is a dangerous activity and one of the side effects of taking calculated risks is injury. For this reason, the pharmaceutical industry has actual incentive to support our love for shred. Pain Killer sponsorship? Yes please! But why stop there? The snowboard population consists of lots of aging males. We can see the Mike Ranquet Viagra campaign now.

Lil Wayne already knows. Photo via Quatersnacks

The Rap Industry. Rich white kids helped in making hip hop a viable genre way back when, and now it’s time the rappers give back! Odd Future Snowboards? Could happen.

Dead Grandparents. Sure, this is a sad option, but that inheritance may be just what you need to travel the globe racking up FIS points! It’s what Grammy and Gramps would want you to do, really.

Processed meats. The one industry that always knows the worst time to jump into a sport. IE: Slim Jim and rollerblading, circa ’00.

Donald Trump. That guy obviously has way too much money to waste. And hey, maybe if we got him into snowboarding, he might start caring about climate change and give up on that whole presidential run thing.

The Korean Government. Surely they want people to care about Pyeongchang 2018, so it is in their best interest to provide the snowboard world with sufficient funding that everyone has quad corks on lock by then. Quad corks = ratings!

And of course, there’s always the option of getting an actual job in the off season, but think we can all agree that sounds just plain dumb.

Bear Mountain’s annual pre-season shred fest, Hot Dawz and Handrails, went down on September 19, 2015 with a stacked field of boarders from around the globe. Some 60 competitors came out to hike, sweat, and vie for the $10,000 grand prize, and here are a few of the reasons we’re stoked we got to see the mayhem in person.

1. Zak Hale. For whatever reason, the peanut gallery of this site loves to hate Zak, but anyone who watched the two frenetic heats of snowboard action would have a tough time hating on him anymore. Not only did he start with some of the heaviest moves of the day, I’m pretty sure he didn’t fall at all. Accordingly, the judges awarded him $10,000 for his efforts.

2. The course. Every year, the Bear Park staff comes up with new ways to melt minds with their set ups and 2015 was no exception. Two skinny strips of snow formed an x dotted with high-consequence features to be man-handled by the riders. Granted, it’s still summer in SoCal and warm temps left the snow on the sticky side, so gaining speed for said features was a challenge, but from a spectator stand point, it can only be described a constant barrage of serious stunting.

3. Non-stop-action. If you were bored at HDHR, you should look into a new hobby. In addition to watching riders risk life and limb (and live to tell the tale), there was also music, dancing, skating, drinking, eating and babe watching to be done.

4. Wahoo’s fish tacos. Free for competitors and delicious for everyone else, when listing redeeming qualities of Southern California, these will always top my list.

5. The Weather. Unlike, well, anywhere else with snowboarding, good weather at Bear Mountain is pretty much a given, so it should come as no surprise that the sun was warm and the breeze was slight for the event. And now my tan is on point, just in time for 4 months of rain in Portland!

6. The Bear park staff. These guys were on hand to toss snow on features when they were sticky, and to remind me that getting too close to get the shot was dangerous, without even being dicks about it.

7. Oliver Dixon’s one-footers. Standing out at an event like HDHR can be tough, and while Oliver didn’t score any cash or official accolades for his efforts, his one-footed gap to rails (in a Jason mask, no less) were a spectacle that cannot go unmentioned.

8. The next generation. The field of competitors was a who’s who of snowboarding superstars, but the youngest riders in the field, including Drayden Gardner and Benny Milam, held their own with the big boys, just missing spots on the podium.

9. Madison Blackley. Even though she was busy trying to find a place to puke during registration (hangovers are a bitch) Madison went non-stop once the contest started, hitting and completing just about every feature on the course, earning herself top honors for the ladies and $2000 cash.

10. Denis Leontyv. The human Russian roulette wheel himself earned best trick with a 450 over the pool gap to lipslide and damn, it was impressive.

11. The judges. Being a judge for this event (an honor handled by Joe Sexton, Dave Downing, Brandon Hobush and Frank April) was no easy feat, as everyone was throwing down despite sticky snow the solid chance of taking a dip in a muddy pool or landing in a pile of rocks. While competitors lamented how hard it was to stand out, when all was said and done, most would have a hard time arguing with their official decision.


1st Zak Hale
2nd Ozzy Henning
3rd Mike Gray

1st Madison Blackley

Best Trick
Dennis Leontyev – switch frontside 450 gap to lipslide

In the mid 90’s to early 2000’s, Jason Borgstede was known for his video parts, progressive big air tricks and switch 360 backflip affectionately known as the Borgaerial. The Alaskan, who spent half his time in Tahoe, was a member of the illustrious Burton team and a consistent top finisher in events such as the X Games and Vans Triple Crown. He also filmed Mack Dawg parts as well as producing videos alongside Jesse Burtner as part of JB Deuce. I first met Jason when he was in Killington, Vermont for the Bud Light Boarder Battle – and got the chance to interview him for a fledgling Yobeat (then hosted on the 2mb of free space that came with AOL accounts.) Smart, funny and motivated, Borgy was a standout in the bro-party-culture of board world, an example for how pro snowboarders could, and should do their jobs. While his pro career came to a some what sudden end, Borgy never stopped riding and these days, he’s working to spread the stoke to a new generation with his Anchorage-based shop Blue & Gold.

Brooke: Why did you decide to start a shop? Haven’t you heard about the Internet?

Jason: Yeah, it’s tough. I think we were a little bit different in Alaska, people still wanna support local, and it’s a situation where the town is a big little town. I have at least some sort of reputation and established name in this community and I’ve been part of it for 25 years now. I’ve helped with the camps from coaching kids to selling stuff to working in the store. I don’t have a life as a pro snowboarder, so what else can I do to stay involved with that world? And this is it. I’ve done other things, but I knew I wasn’t going to be happy until I got back up here and was involved with something up here. Boarderline was super integral to our lives. That shop was such a community, such a gathering of family type thing for the whole area. Not just my little crew, but everyone surrounding it and we all came together through it. So now, this is my chance to do that. There’s kind of a void here – and this is probably the only place I can see it working – so I’m gonna make a go at it. And we’re gonna have our online site so we can sell stuff, but it’s only really going to be realistic for Alaskans to buy stuff because they’ve gotta pay shipping either way.

Brooke: Where’d the name Blue and Gold come from?

Jason: That’s the colors of the Alaskan flag. We’ve always been super prideful of Alaska, but it’s a little obnoxious to be all “907, 907,” in your face all day long. That’s a little bit more appealing to the sledneck side of things, so we just wanted something that was a little bit cleaner and could be taken a different way. If you didn’t know Alaska, well cool, no big deal, but if you are from Alaska you could say, yeah that’s my stuff right there.

Brooke: I watched the shop tour video you made, did you build all that stuff? How involved were you in the process?

Jason: Yeah, we did everything. I never considered myself like, “oh I have great design ideas” or anything, I just saw stuff that I thought was cool and it kind of came into my head. Like, yeah, I wanna try this. And I put it together and then it looks alright. I wanted to be involved in all of it. I guess that’s a little bit of a micro-manager, a little bit of a obsessiveness about things, but this is my little baby. I wanted to have a say in everything, and I am not the stand-back-and-let-somebody-else-do-it type. If I don’t know how to do something I can certainly be the assistant! I totally renovated my house in Tahoe from the floor up and learned a lot of stuff there, so I did everything I could, and had a lot of help from people that were stoked to help us out.

Ahead of his time. 

Brooke: How long did it take to put everything together, from when you were like I’m gonna build a shop to, hey, we’re open?

Jason: I have hand-written notes from about 6 or 7 years ago of what I wanted the shop to be. I wanted someone to be a backer for me at that point, because I didn’t wanna lose my house if it didn’t work out. The only thing I have to show from snowboarding, my sort of retirement, is my house, so I wanted to protect that. I was trying to get other people to back it, but I didn’t really know the business side of things very well, I just had the ideas. Fast forward three years, I moved back up to Alaska, and I just knew from that point on I was gonna figure it out. A year ago, I started taking classes at this small business development center, trying to learn as much as I could about it, and from that point it was just going. I knew I was gonna do it no matter what happened. I had my house up for sale. I realized that nobody is gonna give you a loan, nobody is gonna get behind you unless you are invested heavily, so fuck it. Just sell the house and I’m all in. Everything is here, you know. This is do or die. I would say about two months before we opened was when we got to start getting in there and moving things around.

We finished building at about 2 am when we were opening at noon the next day. There was plenty of stuff that wasn’t quite done and we’ve just continued to hammer away at since then, but it was like two months of solid bust-your-ass day-in and day-out work, and then rest was planning. I wrote business plans, I visited the banks, I made orders, so I sat in front of this desk hours upon hours when I wasn’t waiting on tables.

A mute grab dating back to 1993.

Brooke: You were waiting tables? Catch me up on your life, because the last I really knew what you were up to you were winning the X Games, doing the Borg-aerial.

Jason: Well, [my sponsorship with Burton] ended in 2000, at the end of the summer. I was still working with [Jesse] Burtner making movies, and that worked out until about 2003. Fall of 2003 he decided to go do his own thing, so I made my own movie that year he made his own movie that year. Then Boarderline went out of business shortly after, and my mom moved out of the state, so I had no reason to be up here half the year anymore. I moved fully into my house in Tahoe and stayed there and then I was just kind of drifting trying to figure out what to do. Snowboarding didn’t really end for me like, “oh I blew out my knee so I’m done,” it was just this slow thing where you think something will pick up and you think the industry will take care of you. Like, oh somebody will hook me up with a job. But that was kind of a bad time for snowboarding so everybody was tight with stuff. The closest I came, Driscoll tried to look out for me for a minute when he was at Nike, but there was somebody he had already interviewed for a position there. Then I found poker when I was in Reno.

Brooke: Poker, huh?

Jason: I just stumbled into a casino, you know I’d never played before, they were doing some little games to teach their dealers for a new poker room they were opening. I started to play for 10 bucks, and I was super stoked. Now all of the sudden I had one more thing to drive me. Nobody was doing anything with me with snowboarding, so I could just sit there and try to like use my brain to figure out something new, and it was a self-motivated thing. You could earn based on how much you forced yourself to learn and get educated. The first year I did a little bit. Okay, but not enough to pay the rent, so I came back to Alaska, worked a construction job, did a video project all summer long. Then at the end of that I went back and was like, I don’t want to sling a hammer anymore, so I better get good at poker. I went back down to Tahoe and didn’t really have to have a normal job for 5 years. Nothing glamorous, I didn’t do anything great, I wasn’t on TV, I didn’t make a million dollars, I just basically got to get by and snowboard. I could snowboard all day and then I could go make some money at night. It was me just perpetuating this child-thing where you get to keep doing what you love, you know. Along those lines, I got married to somebody who was not the right fit for me, but sometimes in those scenarios you kind of force something that you convince yourself, “I have to fight for this!” But really you should see the signs that it’s not right. She was a Mormon girl, I was not.

Brooke: Yeah that’s tough.

Jason: I thought it would work, but it didn’t. We went our separate ways, and that was about 3 and a half, 4 years ago, and that’s when I moved up here. I said, fuck it I wanna be in Alaska, so I packed up the car, tried to find a job up here. I got here and the job I had lined up didn’t work out so I was bumming around, trying to find another job, back living with mom again in her place and then somebody said hey, you can work at the restaurant. You make good money, you get to make your hours and it’s something to do. So I started doing that. I moved up into dinner serving, which means you make more money, and I got days off to snowboard. And it’s mindless work, super easy. If you’re half way personable you can make $40,000 a year without even blinking an eye, pay your bills, and just snowboard. But, I don’t think any of us really want to do that our whole lives, so, thus the plan for the snowboard shop.

High Cascade. 1993. 

Brooke: That makes sense. I actually love waiting tables, but it’s definitely not a career.

Jason: It’s cool, but a bit of my ego was there, and it’s tough to deal with. I tried to never be this guy who was like, “oh I’m a badass snowboarder, you guys are wack.” But there’s a part of me that’s like, “oh cool, I won the X Games, now can I get you some bread and some water?” And you kind of feel like, oh now they look at snowboarders like snowboarding isn’t a real career because look where it gets you in the long run. I felt like I was a bad example of snowboarding at that point and it hurt my heart a little bit to feel like that.

Brooke: I can see that.

Jason: But, I was also raised to never really be ashamed of putting in a hard days work. It’s whatever, you do what you have to do, you swallow your pride, and you move on to better things, you know.

Brooke: Yeah I mean that’s interesting that you say that because I feel like you were in the era and at the point of professionalism in snowboarding where it did seem like, oh maybe I’ll get a job in the industry, maybe this will last forever. Now these kids coming in and they’re lucky to get a 2-year career.

Jason: Yeah.

Burton ad. 1998.

Brooke: It’s just seems like snowboarding isn’t really in a place for making professional snowboarders or longstanding careers work right now. What’s your take on that kind of shift from the more long-standing legend style pro to what’s happening now, and just how quick it’s changing?

Jason: It’s hard to ever say evolution is bad because you don’t know where it’s gonna end up. Maybe it evolves to a point where it’s awesome, I don’t know. I feel a little sad for modern day kids now. Everything is different, every part of it. I was a super fan the whole time I was in snowboarding and even before, but we had heroes in snowboarding because there wasn’t that huge of a community – compared to now – and there weren’t that many pros. And there weren’t these outlets to facilitate new people constantly knocking the other person off of their tier. So now with the Internet – we can get started on a whole ball here…

Brooke: Let’s do it.

Jason: Basically the Internet provides a situation where you can forget about a guy as soon as he doesn’t put something out. Doesn’t matter, it’s hard to build loyalty when you’re inundated constantly with a barrage of nonstop sickness on the Internet, you know?

Brooke: Yup.

Jason: You constantly have new people coming in, and then it takes somebody like a Chris Joslin skating to hit you in the face so hard and so constantly that, “okay, now we’re gonna kinda remember him for a while.” But any of these guys, if they’re not putting out a series constantly, as soon as it stops kids are like, “uuuhhh who cares, next guy!” And it sucks! It sucks for those guys, it diminishes their position to be able to make a bunch of money off of a company because a company can argue that same fact right there, and it also doesn’t make it as much of an impact for a kid. He’s seeing this Clockwork Orange-like, uuuhhh well my eyes are held open kind of thing, instead of getting a few videos every year to study and fall in love with. You knew every minutia in the Mack Dawg movie because you’ve seen it 40 times, you know. And you study every little bit of those things and I just don’t think kids do that now. That’s fine, that’s their prerogative, but I think that it’s tough for us to build heroes anymore. I mean you have people that everybody knows – Travis Rice and Shaun White – but you don’t have a lot of this level of people, unless you’re super into snowboarding.

Arctic Valley. 1993

Brooke: Right.

Jason: I could ramble forever about it, it’s really tough, though. The one thing I don’t like is the fucking nonstop bullshit edits with no quality control. That’s a little on the website’s side of just wanting fresh content. You know I’m sure I’ll get flamed in all the comments for this stuff – but you know you see a Bear edit where, motherfucker we don’t need to see you hit a two-foot bump and not do anything off of it. Or something from Brighton where yeah, there’s sick tricks going down the rail and then the next thing you know you see them do a little sketch and you think okay this is gonna lead to something, and it doesn’t. The clip just cuts and you go to the next thing and you’re like why the fuck was that in there?! Did you not edit?! You just turn the camera on and you let it run. That’s the thing, you see tons of sick riders and stuff, but have some quality control. That was the nice thing about the old days when you only had a few videos a year, and they were only gonna be a half hour each, people had to cut down to their optimal stuff, not just spew garbage all over everyone, you know. There were reasons why those guys like Jeremy, JP and all those Forum guys, got legendary status. It is because they were super picky about what got let out to the world and it made for something that you could appreciate quite a bit, you know. We get that now with Brain Farm, I guess.

Brooke: Yeah but even Brain Farm, I mean look at We Are Blood, it was an hour and a half long. And all the videos this year, they’re all like an hour long. Why make a video an hour long? Who is trying to sit down and watch a snowboard DVD for an hour?

Jason: The nice thing is with the DVD you can just skip to the part you want –

Brooke: Yeah, I guess. Just seems excessive.

Jason: I would probably attribute a little bit of it to the epicness of all these videos coming out. Like Vans Propeller. If you’re gonna spend 5 years making a video, you’re gonna wanna make it a little longer than normal because you’re gonna wanna put in all the efforts that those riders have put into it. You’re gonna wanna at least give them a taste of the big screen. Brain Farm, you know they’re gonna make a long movie because it’s partially a National Geographic special in the middle of it, too.  I watched We Are Blood, and it’s super popular at our store. I show it all the time because it’s a beautiful movie.

Brooke: It is beautiful.

Jason: It’s an absolutely gorgeous movie, great work, everything, I didn’t end up leaving it saying I wanna go skate, I left it every time going that was awesome camera work, and everything has been done on a skateboard, there’s no reason to even try.

Behind the scenes of In For Life, 2002. 

Brooke: Right, totally. I watched it, I went to the premiere, and it was sick, but it needed an actual storyline to be an hour and a half long. Because hey, we drove around in a bus riding our skateboards is not a fucking plot. You know? I think that – and this is just my opinion – that snowboard filmmakers need to decide either I’m making a snowboard video, and it should be something that you can sit down and watch beginning to end, all killer, no filler, half hour tops, get hyped to shred – or I’m making an epic snowboard movie that has an actual plot line, that has been storyboarded out. Go into the season and say hey here’s what we’re gonna do and then we’re gonna use the extras for web stuff – because you need to do that. You can’t spend 2 years, 3 years making a snowboarding movie and not do anything because then you’re gone, you don’t exist.

Jason: Yeah.

Brooke: But I don’t know, these are just things I think about.

Jason: I think about these things all the time. To be honest with you the other thing I can’t stand is that it seems as though there’s somewhat of a backlash against mainstream. And that comes in the form of weed, cigarettes, all that stuff, being like, “look I’m hella raw.” I watched one movie where every single person’s intro shot was them either drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette. That’s like fucking get creative already.

Brooke: Right?

Jason: If every single person in an old Mack Dawg movie ate an ice cream sandwich before their part you’d be like uuuhhh we get it, you know that’s stupid, move on. I don’t need to see how raw every kid smokes and then spits beer out and then goes, “sick, I’m so street,” you know? Just snowboard, dude.

Brooke: Yeah the thing that gets me the most with that stuff, is every dude does that and no one says anything. No sponsors are like, “oh I don’t know if that’s really great for our brand,” and then you get the Too Hard girls and everyone’s like, “oh they’re trying too hard, it’s so lame.” It’s fucked up. Because they’re girls, they’re not allowed to do that? Since we’re talking about things that bug us in snowboarding, the misogyny of snowboarding is out of control. It’s really not getting better. We have a lot of women in power positions in snowboarding, myself included, but I still don’t wanna fly the feminist flag because I know I’ll just get backlash, you know? That’s one thing that as far as snowboarding as an industry, where we have a lot of potential to improve as a community is in respecting women. If they wanna blow smoke at the camera, let them do it without being like, “oh these girls are trying too hard.”

Jason: I totally get it. From my perspective it looks like it’s still an uphill battle, but it looks like more women are starting to break into things. In the past you had Tara Dakides and then you had some girls in big air contests, but you didn’t really have video parts from many girls. Barrett had a little bit of stuff, Tara had some stuff, maybe Morgan LaFonte had some stuff, but you didn’t have like a whole crew. Now you’ve got Vice covering them. But then even on our side when we get Vice to cover them, we all critique that. We should be happy for them that they got such a mainstream outlet. We might not be happy because we don’t like how snowboarding is represented there and you know like whatever, Videograss crew isn’t going to get a Vice interview because nobody gives a fuck. Dudes snowboarding is just dudes snowboarding since the beginning of snowboarding.

Blunt Mag. 1997.

Brooke: Right.

Jason: But so we kind of have to be happy for them just to get into that mainstream coverage and get a foot in the door, because that’s gonna open it up to more girls. We still don’t have as many girls snowboarding on that type of level so everything you chip away at like that. Too Hard and all these other things that are happening are good because it gets one more girl a little reach to say, cool you could do this, you could do that. Not, you could get drunk and tell everybody that you think you should be able to be a slut without being shamed, but you should be able to be like look and say I can snowboard and do what I want. There shouldn’t be any rules for me because I’m a girl. When I moved back up here I met a super awesome girl that snowboards a ton and everything and yeah she gets the same treatment as the guys. Luckily she keeps up really well, but we talk about that stuff, too.

And we had it in my day in snowboarding. I could be honest about it. I could say, yeah I did bigger tricks than Tara Dakides did, but Tara Dakides deserved more money than I did because she brought more people to snowboarding, she sold more product for her companies, so she had a bigger name – she deserved more money than I made. But if we’re gonna be fair, go to be honest the other way too. If your crew is not selling boards for a company, then they’re not gonna get the same support, and that’s the part we don’t know. There’s a reason so-and-so baseball player makes 20 million a year. It’s not for any other reason than he makes that much money for the company. So you know, if – and this probably speaks to your part about the women that are in control there – the women in control should push to advertise the other women more, they should push to put them out in the mainstream more and let people see and figure out how to let the pro women and whatever they’re doing media-wise, interact with other girls in different areas so that more girls come to the sport. That will justify even more money for payroll for other girls and more trips and things like that.

Brooke: Yeah, we’ll get there, hopefully. I remember when I was growing up I thought the X Games were lame because it seemed like the jocks I hated in High School trying to get in on something cool. But I think kids who grew up with the X Games now are like, X Games is sick! You know, I can see snowboarding on TV. As someone who’s won X Games gold, what’s your take?

Jason: Well I had a slightly different perspective because I was always so much of a fan that anything I could see on snowboarding, I loved. The 1st X Games I didn’t get to be a part of, the winter ones, because I wasn’t anybody at that point – but I watched it. I was like “I love this! This is awesome!” We didn’t know it was going to be what it was, we just knew, here’s another contest. I think maybe you’re referring to 6, 7 years after it started, you could look at it and go, this isn’t really doing it for me. But when it 1st came out in ’97, I was like hell yeah this is awesome! Another contest that I get to watch! Cool! So, I was super stoked on it. And then to get to be a part of it, you could start to see when you got there, like whoa, this is kind of a big deal going on. There’s a whole village built around this and all of it, it was pretty rad. I think that now I’m less excited about it. I think proportionately way more of the world is stoked on the X Games than they used to be because way more people snowboard now, or at least know about snowboarding or have some sort of interest. We could all look back at ’97 and say people didn’t really wanna dress like we were dressing. They were like, oh you’re lame. You’re not getting any girls, you’re not getting any cool points, you’re not getting anything because you’re a skater or a snowboarder, so whatever. Now, everybody wants to look like that culture. Whether it’s surf – everybody has a Billabong hoodie. They’ve got a Burton jacket – like everybody wants to have a toe in that lifestyle, even if they don’t wanna do the things. A 50-year-old dude who’s never been on a board will wear Hurley stuff, they wanna be part of that lifestyle. So, therefore, they will watch that stuff when it comes on or they’ll at least give it a glance when they wouldn’t have previously. I’m still torn, I’m kind of still in that camp slightly where it was better when they hated us.

Alpenglow. 1992.

Jason: But, whatever. I don’t know. I’m trying to learn to be better about it and less stuck in my little bubble and try to see more from everybody else’s perspective. I just look at it now and I just want people to have a good experience. We’ve already lost the battle to where every soccer mom and every kid is gonna try these sports, and you know so let’s just make it a good experience for everybody that tries to come into it. Because if they have a good experience, they’re gonna wanna stay with it, and if they stay with it, that’s what keeps our industry going. Keeps it growing and makes a place where pros can have a living and I can make a living off of having a store and then I can work to get skate parks built in our town. I can work to get snowboard camp going again, I can do positive things. If the shop doesn’t stay open, I don’t get to do that stuff, and if people don’t like snowboarding and skateboarding and surfing, then they don’t keep my shop open, you know. So I have to be a fan of this whole chain now, and instead of being, “oh, I’m pro guy” and all I care about is what trick I’m gonna do off the jump today. Now I have to see a much bigger picture and try to take that into account. I’m not the guy anybody gives two craps about watching hit a jump anymore, but I can make an impact by providing a place where the next group of those people can have a positive environment, you know. If I didn’t have the snowboard shop when I grew up, who knows what would have happened. Maybe I never would have gotten to the point of getting to do all these rad things that I got to do for a few years, so maybe now I can help facilitate that for a new generation of people.

Brooke: Definitely. I feel like there’s a lot of people who are in the same camp as you or just you know getting older and wanna stay involved and are trying to figure out how. And I think the answer is help the kids, get them stoked, do things for them, put on events, be a positive member of the community – it’s not about you anymore. But it’s a tough pill to swallow, getting old is really stressful.

Jason: Yeah it’s rough. It’s super rough. I still deal with the situation of trying to come to grips with how my career kind of came to an end. Kevin Jones called the other day and we were talking, and he was like Borg you never got a chance man, you just never got a chance. I had only a few ads ever in a magazine from Burton and most of them were smaller publications, not big things. I never got a chance to really see the potential of where it could go and all that could happen and that’s tough to come to grips with. And it’s not like being a lawyer where if being a lawyer here doesn’t work out, well 10 years later I’m gonna be a lawyer somewhere else, you know. You have this finite window and even if you can still ride well. There’s not that many Iguchi’s out there getting a call from Arbor to come have a pro model at this point in time.

Brooke: Right

Jason: So, yeah you just have to accept that was a window, I got to do some rad stuff, I gotta let that go and move on and figure out how to continue to enjoy life. But it’s really tough when you’re passionate and somebody else cuts it off. You know, you don’t fuck yourself over, it just ends and you’re sitting there swimming around trying to figure out what to do. You’ve still got all this passion and all this excitement and this fire for something and now people are like, no you can’t do that anymore. Yeah, you can still do it, I still snowboard nonstop obviously, but with no travel budget, with no anything you know. Having to grow up and start paying a mortgage and do these other things, all of the sudden, those same carefree opportunities are not there.

High Cascade 1992. Yes that shirt says “ravers suck.”

Brooke: Do you have advice for anyone else going through it? I mean you’ve been grappling with it for a few years, but there’s a lot of people right now who that opportunity is ending for…

Jason: That has really has been one of the hardest things in my life to deal with, because from the moment I started snowboarding at 14, I didn’t wanna do anything else. Then I got the chance to only do that, you know just to live that life, and then it’s just gone. Unless you’ve developed a passion for something else that can take its place… I would argue that most of us who get to a decent level in any sport are fairly like obsessive because you have to have this thing that doesn’t let you think about anything else in order to drive you to be good at something. It takes a lot of practice to be good at anything – 10,000 hours they say – and I just, I struggled. I just sat there and I could not find anything else that made me that excited about life and it was constantly fighting off a borderline depression over it. Like how do I deal with this, how do I find excitement for life, cause now all I’m doing is staring down the barrel of 9-5. You can’t snowboard when it dumps, you better hope on the weekend it snows, like, I’m just dreading that. All I cared about was finding out how to stay in that world. I don’t have a lot of advice, I was just trying to just hammer it into myself, hey you know you only have one life and if you’re gonna sit around and mope about it forever and miss something that’s gone, you’re gonna waste that time and you’re gonna want that time back at some point, so start forcing yourself to enjoy things and be happy and look for other things that can be exciting. For me, it ended up manifesting itself in the business side of working on this shop and the idea of how can I make events that bring people together and get them psyched, how can I do things for kids so they’re like, yeah dude! I can help the local kid try to get sponsored, I can mentor that side of things, and I can still go out and try to learn new tricks, I can still go snowboard as much as I want, but I don’t get to have that be my only focus in life anymore. So to answer your question, I don’t have any advice really, it’s something you personally have to cope with. I wish more people would talk about it, I wish more people would come out in the magazines and let people see the real side of what happens. Most people are really afraid to say anything because they don’t want to screw up their chance at future opportunities. But I wish more people would come out and talk about the struggle of it and let people see the real human beings that are inside this, instead of “everything’s happy!” Then I’m gone, and then nobody knows where you went to what you did or anything, you know, like let’s get to know people’s lives, let’s talk to kids and what’s tough about it. Are they stressing out because they have to decide whether to go to school or blow it off to try to make a living snowboarding? Let’s talk about being depressed afterwards because you spend 20 years solely going towards one goal and then all of the sudden you don’t get the chance to do that thing anymore in the capacity that you were doing it. That fucks people up. Maybe everybody else has it figured out, but I don’t think so.

Brooke: How has the transition for been to like being a shop owner though? Are you able to use some old connections?

Jason: Oh for sure. If I had to walk in and explain at a trade show, “hey I’m Joe Schmo, I’d like to carry your boards,” most companies would have not given me the time of day. There were a number of accounts that basically opened me up because of my legacy in snowboarding and in Alaska. You know, I have a good situation in Alaska and a good reputation for being a part of this community up here and helping build it, so they know that. Then they know me from snowboarding because all of the people I snowboarded with were are either reps now or sale managers or company owners or whatever. It’s super helped out, for sure.

Snowboarding is fucking awesome because so many people came to my aid and helped me out. The Internet allows you to get on Facebook and go oh hey, I heard an interview from Adam Gerkin at Sno Con and he talked about the business so I’m just gonna look him up on Facebook, send him a message saying you sound really knowledgeable and I wanna open up a shop, would you be willing to talk to me? The lady who did Snow Wave in Northern California, Gerkin, Chappy, who does the Soul House Project in Truckee all gave me so much advice. Chappy was just happy to sit on the phone with me and talk to me and tell me everything he could to help me out. Snowboarding people just come to your rescue to help you out. So yeah, I didn’t get an industry job, but I did have a lot of people that said hey, dude, whatever you need, you’re family because you snowboard. And I hadn’t met these people really before, so it’s not like I had this great relationship. It’s just cool people, cool people looking out for others who do what they do.

Brooke: Totally. Yeah I think you hear about how people are talking shit about each other and the industry, but the reality of snowboarding is that most people, when you show up and you’re part of snowboarding, they’re like alright! You can stay at my house, what do you need to know, here’s how you get a discount lift ticket – that’s been my experience traveling around, and it’s cool. I’m so excited I get to be a part of it.

Jason: Yeah. It’s really cool.

Shaka, brah.

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Photo: Tim Zimmerman

Matt Cummins has the longest running pro model in snowboarding’s history, 25 years and counting. He has used this opportunity to continually push snowboard designs from the earliest skate influenced twin tip MC Kink to today’s powder hungry Nootka. His designs, priorities and style forever changed the sport and paved the way for generations of pros.

“His board was a ground breaking concept. It spear headed twin tip freestyle snowboarding, it created a genre. To have that kind of a brick in the foundation of snowboarding is truly a special thing. Matt deserves and is owed every ounce of that brick and it’s a big one. Matt and what he stood for and the way he rode and why he rode Lib Tech made me want to ride and be a part of what he stood for as well. Throughout the years having him build such a legacy with his board, he packaged all that awesomeness up, put a nice little bow on it and handed it right off to me and for that I can’t thank him enough. I owe him everything. What I’ve been able to achieve in my career came from Matt Cummins. I don’t think he get’s enough credit, so this is the opportunity, Matt, thank you so much brother.” -Jamie Lynn

Japow! Photo: Endo

So, is it going to snow in Washington this year?

Well, I hope so. It needs to snow. We had a Northwest Snowboard/One Ball party and burned some snowboards, so we’re hopeful.

It can’t be worse than last year, right? Have you lived in Washington you’re whole life? Have you ever seen a season like last year?

Yeah, if I’m not mistaken it was the worst snowfall on record, and as far I can remember it was warmest and nicest summer ever, so I don’t know.

Same in Oregon – it’s been really nice, but doesn’t instill you with faith for a lot of snow fall. But we can definitely hope!

Yeah, we’re hopeful. It’s starting, looks like Stevens and Baker are getting some snow already.

The precipitation levels seem to be getting back to normal, hopefully it was just the Fukushima blob and that’s going away. That was what was warming up the air, I think it is dissipating and it’s gonna be good.

Is that what they’re saying?

No, that’s what I’m saying. The blob is real, but I don’t know if it was actually the Fuskashima fall out still.

You would think that, with Fukushima that was what, like, four, five years ago? We were actually over there two days before it happened.

Crazy. What were you doing there?

I put on a banked slalom there every year. It’s called the Tenjin Banked Slalom. It’s all this mountain that’s really good it’s called Mt.Tanigawa, it’s all hand made and I think it’s the largest snowboard event in Japan. We had to cut the entrance off at 400 people and it’s a 2 day event so it’s pretty massive.

The LBS. Photo: Zimmerman

How long have you been running that?

I helped start it the same year the big tsunami was. I wanna say this year will be the fifth year. This year it’s March 5th and 6th.

What’s the secret to doing well in banked slaloms?

I think riding a lot. The guys that are on the hill all the time have the best twitch reaction, and are just dialed in. That’s the most important part.

I think it’s drinking a beer before you go.

I don’t know, a lot of people try but maybe one to calm the nerves but after that you get into dangerous territory.

You have the longest running pro model in snowboarding. Is that crazy or are you just so used to it now?

Yeah, it’s disturbing that time has gone by that fast. It’s been fun, I’ve done a lot of things. Especially going through finding photos and and pictures, it’s like damn, that doesn’t seem that long ago. But it gets to the point where you’ve done so much stuff that you start to forget some of the trips and some of the stories. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Japan. Under 15, but you can’t distinguish one trip from another almost. I’ve been at it for a long time, but it’s rad to see people getting hyped on all the old boards. It’s amazing how much trading is going on and how collectors are really into it, it’s really cool.

Modeling his models. Photo: Tim Zimmerman

Definitely seems like there’s a resurgence. I think its because the second generation of snowboarding is getting to that age where you start to get nostalgic.

Everything’s been done, magazines go through the pros so fast, unlike any sport that I know. There’s guys that are so good that don’t get a chance to be pro. The media, or social media or whatever just cranks through pros. And then it’s like, well, how do you be really weird and zany, how do you get attention? There’s tons on insane riders that don’t wear whatever sort of clothes or act a certain way that nobody’s ever gonna hear about. It’s just a weird time, so I think people are looking back and going, oh what is this guy doing, where’s this guy been? My whole thing was I did’t care about pictures very much. I didn’t film, I rode the halfpipe because I grew up skateboarding halfpipe and nobody really cared. And then it went to the Olympics and was already over it. I just rode powder in the Northwest, so my body is in relatively good shape compared to some of the guys that do some of the gnarly street stuff. I don’t know why my program stuck. I think that I really enjoy deigning products and I own One Ball as well, I started that back in 1988, so I get to just sit around and come up with ideas and design products and learn how to do graphics. To design boards and find the art you want on the board and have people ride that equipment and go, this is sick. Back in the day people hadn’t seen twin tip or double ended snowboards, so it was like whoa, why? But that was kinda my thing and it still is my thing, just continue to be really creative and have it somehow support you financially is kind of a dream job, really.

Probably helped that you ride for Lib Tech and not some other company…

Yeah, I’ve been with those guys the whole time. I bought my first board from them in 1986. They’re my friends and they’ve helped me out and it’s been awesome.

Your board this year is a DIY blank board. What was the inspiration for that?

I go to Japan every year and I have some friends and there’s a small company from Japan called TJ Brand. One of the owners is Yosuke. He’s like my age, iconic Japanese snowboarder and in the summer he’s a surfer. And he’s an OG kind of dude. He would show up to the Banked Slalom and help dig, I didn’t really know him at first or what he was about. He would make these boards that were 140ish, really short, and I don’t know if they were horizontal laminate or a single piece of maple, but he would get em wet and then prop the nose up with some weights and put a nose kick in it. It was just a piece of wood, no edges, no ptex, you would just have bindings on it, but they were low backs. He was in my class, pro masters or old guy class, and he would almost beat everyone on this board with no edges. This super short thing. He couldn’t stand up and rail and turn, he would have to get really low and just be like flowing around the corners. I don’t know how to describe it but it was basically like he was surfing on a snowboard and I was like like, woah. What is that? The next year he showed me a blank and was like, we want you to make a board out of this blank, and we’re gonna give it away as a prize. So I made one and I just started thinking, why aren’t we doing that in the States? Everyone wants the powder board, everyone wants a bunch of boards, but very few people can afford it, and why not offer one? This has been in the works for five years. They’re just coming out now. People want to get creative and they want to make their own stuff that works for their resorts, and everyone likes to ride powder and instead of paying $600 or $700 for a really elaborate futuristic- or old school – depending on how you look at it powder board, you can just make your own for a couple hundred dollars. The big question in everyone’s mind is well, don’t you need edges? But you really don’t. It’s already so sharp that unless you’re riding on ice – which, I don’t ride on ice – you’re gonna be fine. It totally works. So that’s where it comes from.

I saw that at SIA and was psyched. I wanna play with one, although I probably shouldn’t be allowed to use power tools.

Yeah, it’s not for the faint at heart. Because you’re trying to keep it within really tight tolerances. But it you have a guy that does wood working, he’d be able to make no problem because he has all these really sharp powerful tools.

Wheelie boarding. Photo: Endo

Let’s talk about One Ball. When did you drop the Jay from the name?

We’re still figuring that out. People just refer to it as One Ball, so we said, ok, we’ll just do One Ball. And we got the icon that’s just o-n-e inside of a ball.

Were you the first wax company?

We coined the term snowboard wax, and starting making snowboard wax and surf wax in 1986 to put on some snowboards we made I think in 1983-84. We were like, we can make our own snowboards and skateboards, so why don’t we make our own wax?

And that’s your main gig these days?

Yeah, that’s my main income. Kinda my desk job. It’s cool, the flexibility to go there whenever, stay home if you’re sick.

You also ran a snowboard shop for awhile, right?

Yeah, unfortunately we just closed it about a month ago. We had some of the oldest handful of shops in the world. We started those in 1988, it was our family store and we had up to three. But with the online buying habits and the lack of support from brands. Everyone’s just going completely vertical with their sales model, distribution is just wide open. It would be interesting how many mom and pop, core stores have gone out of business. I don’t know, but I wanna say it’s 300-600. It’s massive. It’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Quiksilver and Billabong, all these huge companies that have blown out their distribution. It hasn’t worked. But who knows, I’m no expert, but at this time, the risk is too much. You buy the stuff, try to make a little bit of margin, you have insane competition from every chain store and online thing that you can imagine, and then you made your little bit of money and you pay back the brands, and there’s no money. Unless you have a retail store by a resort or by a big city, it’s really hard to do.

It seems like something, industry-wise is gonna have to chance if shops are going to survive.

We didn’t know, so we just checked out. We got outta here with no debt and just walked away and said, alright.

What will you miss about having a shop?

It was just a family thing for so long, so it’s kinda what we were, who we are and what we came from. People just being stoked on snowboarding, as simple as that. Everybody just gets older and you gotta weigh the consequences vs the reward of why are you doing it. It’s a rough question. But it was a cool family thing for so long. We had a snowboard team forever and that part of our lives was huge for almost three decades.

On the hunt. Photo: Endo

So your brother Temple is kind of a big deal. Is it just the two of you?

I have another brother, Mike, he’s our middle brother. I’m the oldest.

Did you ever beat Temple up?

Probably. And then Temple got stronger and bigger than me and I laid off him. All brothers beat each other up. You’re boys.

Tell me about your documentary that’s coming out in January.

It was cool. I think they’re touting it as 25 or 26 years with Mevin. Stanny – Tim Sanford – he did a good job of scrounging up photos and footage and putting together a history of where I came from and how I came up, and then my development of working with Mervin and the tech of the modern twin tip. I talk about that and a little bit around the graphics because the graphics are really big. A lot of big time Lib Tech riders have some parts, and it turned out killer.

How involved were you in the making of it?

I kinda stayed out of it. I’ve worked with those guys long enough that they know what I’m into and what I’m not into. So I just tried my best to round up the footage, but Stanny did all the work. As far as my involvement I watched it, said, yeah this is killer, let’s change a few things. He came over to my house and worked on it one day and that was it.

Luggage life. Photo: Endo

Having ridden in Washington for 30 years now, how have you seen it change?

It’s more crowded, for sure. I don’t know about the next movement of young people coming up. You have guys like Blair [Habenicht.]

I think he’s old and washed up now.

Is he?

No, but I wouldn’t describe him as next generation anymore – he’s the it generation.

So I don’t know, that’s a good question. Where I’m at, I try to go up on powder days and work when it’s bad and get my powder days when it’s good. If there’s a big social thing I’m not really part of it. I don’t know how it’s changed, I’ve always just done by own thing. I come in, get it, and leave and go do something else. I don’t really hang. In terms of the scene, at Mt. Baker, when I was growing up, it was 3 or 4 hours away, so I would drive up there, crash on someone’s floor, ride as long as I could with the local Baker guys. There weren’t many people. Some pros would travel up sometimes but it was primarily the Baker guys. And then I would have to leave. I would ride locally around here if I could. But the young crew of rippers coming up, there’s some guys, I’m just not super tuned into it.

I think that’s one of the things thats cool about Washington is it is easy to be super into snowboarding and not involved in it at all at the same time.

Right it’s kind of like being in Hawaii. If you’re in Hawaii you’re going to be involved in surfing one way or another because it is surfing. In Washington, it’s some of the best riders and some of the best snow and the best mountains really close. It’s all right here.

Definitely. It’s the best. Well, let’s finish this up with some shout outs and thanks.

Thanks to my family, Mervin Mfg, the crew at Oneball and Northwest Snowboards. And thanks to these guys for keeping me looking good – Union, Pow, AFDicegear, Dragon and Ninja Suits.

Hit Matt with a follow on Instagram @Smashingpowder

The view of Mt. Shuksun will never get old. 

Brendan Gerard and I rode up Mt. Baker’s Chair 8 for the 10th or so time on November 19th, 2015, the warm sun on our faces and Mt. Shuksan gloriously looming in the background. The air was cold, but not too cold for Gerry’s “So Cal kit” – the only gear he had as he makes his way from NorCal back to Colorado for Thanksgiving – and the scenery can only be described as awe-inspiring. We began planning our next move – beers in the lodge followed by a stop at Nooksak Falls on our way back to Portland and we both agreed, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s times like these when you have to wonder why everyone doesn’t want to snowboard (or ski, I guess.) Skateboarding doesn’t bring you into nature like this, and surfing is cool, but you can drown and you’re gonna get all sandy. Snowboarding though, is more than just sliding down the hill on a piece of wood – it’s a party with your friends set in some of the earth’s most majestic locales. It makes winter not only tolerable, but down right enjoyable, and it brings together friends from all over. As Gerry and I made our way closer to the top, we figured it out though. Many people just lack the motivation.

Gerry takes a trip to tweak town.

Snowboarding requires a love of the stuff, and it did take serious motivation to make it to Mt. Baker, WA for opening day all the way from Portland, OR. After several people jumped at the chance to go and then backed out one after another, the heavy snow turned to rain, and the stupid winter sun set at 4 pm, the trip was seemingly less and less realistic.  I was nodding off on the couch when Gerry and his girlfriend Lyndsie finally showed up around 7 pm on Wednesday night. Luckily they were motivated by a bottle of Bordeaux, and Mt. Baker was kind enough to hook up tickets, so we were really doing it. We were only about an hour into Washington when I realized I forgot my boots (idiot!) but Gerry just shrugged, “you always forget something,” he said. And he was right, there was no turning back now.

Best parking spot possible? Check.

We arrived at Baker at the crack of 9:30 – with only a trace of new on the report, the aggro-powder-fever was non existent and I was able to rent remarkably comfortable boots for a mere $18. I used my former-local knowledge to send it to Chair 8 first, where the best terrain and most airtime potential of the day was waiting for us. The snow was soft, the sun was warm and the stoke level was high as we lapped the natural terrain that makes Baker so legendary. From the chairlift the likes of Austen Sweetin, Blair Habenitch, Austin Hironaka, Jacob Krugmire,Dave Marx, Josh Poehlein, Sean Lucey, Pat McCarthy, Nick Ennen, Coonman and more could be seen sending it with little regard for personal safety or the thin layer of crust over the freshies. The Johnny Utah pale ale (the strongest on tap) went down mighty easily as everyone gathered in the afternoon sun in front of the White Salmon lodge.

Mt Baker opening day 2015 can only be described as a smash success. There’s still some thin cover, and it’ll take another couple feet for the mountain to be fully operational, but after last year’s buzzkill of a season it was the perfect reminder of just how good snowboarding can be. Thanks Mt. Baker, we’ll see you again soon!

The view of the moon from the top of Chair 8.

Gerry entertains the riders of Chair 8. 

Good thing it was sunny or Gerry may have looked a little silly in his jean jacket!

The bomb hole/tree in this landing may have scared a lesser man.

But Gerry rode it out, and I actually kind of like the landing shot better than the air time. I wonder if Getty is hiring. 

Mini gap action, as seen in the latest Think Thank edit.

Not Gerry.

Pat McCarthy gets the shot of Blair Habenitch.

Austen Sweetin gets a little too close for comfort.

It wasn’t a powder day, per se, but there were slashes to be had. Austen Sweetin.

Sean Lucey puts down the camera to negotiate the gnarly inbounds slide!

Mike Yoshida, Pat McCarthy and Colin Langlois

Nick Ennen and Margan “Coonman” Rose

Jerry of the day. Photo @instagarry

When Jason Robinson isn’t racing down giant mountains in search of epic and endless pow, he craves adventure in other ways. He’s the kind of person who will meet a hobo on the street, befriend him, and end up bringing him to Oregon before taking a freight train (solo) to the Hobo National convention in Iowa. He’s shunned many modern conveniences to live the life he wants, and as managed to rack up some pretty crazy stories in the process. After hearing some of them third hand from Dakine Marketing maniac Scotty the Body, I figured a phone call was in order to get the details from JRob himself. Luckily, he does have a cell phone, despite what you may have heard!

Brooke: I heard a rumor you were train hopping this summer? Is that real?

Jason: Well, I did a little bit of that. I took a trip, yes.

Brooke: Well tell me about your train hopping adventure. Where did you go? What was it like? Do you consider yourself a hobo?

Jason: No, well I think there’s very few actual hobos still. Like most kids traveling by train aren’t really hobos. That’s kind of like an old school thing, where that was people that were traveling for work or traveling to find work.The iconic black and white photos of 50 dudes in a boxcar, those were the original hobos.

Brooke: So it wasn’t like that? Tell me about your trip.

Jason: Well, I’d met a couple train riders in the past, like picked up some kids hitchhiking on my way up to Hood a couple summers ago, and that was the first close encounter I had with any people that had hopped fright trains. I was super interested and had a bunch of questions about it, and then last fall I met a couple people in Whitefish. The freight line of the BNSF railroad company cruises right through Whitefish from Seattle and Portland all the way to Chicago, so I grew up seeing the train yard and freight trains. You’d see the guys with the big backpacks all dirty you’d kinda assumed they’d gotten there via freight train, but never actually saw anyone on one.

How this whole trip really started though, I met this kid Hillbilly. I was just coming home from the gas station on my bike after grabbing a couple beers, probably like beginning of July, and he’s like, hey man, you look like someone that might smoke weed, you got any weed? And I was like oh sorry man, I don’t have any weed. He had a big beard, a big backpack and it looked like he’d been traveling for a while just by himself, and it seemed like something was up. He almost looked like he’d been crying or something. I just was like is everything alright, like you doing okay? And he was just like, oh man not really, I just got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Brooke: Oh man.

Jason: I was like, holy fuck. I gave him a hug and we talked for a couple minutes and I went on my way, pedaled off on my bike to my friend’s house. I made it like a block and I was like wait. I’m just gonna go meet my friends, I can see them all the time, this guy just got gnarly news, he’s a long way from home, I’m gonna see if he wants someone to talk to. So I turned around, like hey, I just live a couple blocks away if you want someone to talk to. I don’t have any weed, but I have some beers we could bullshit or whatever. So I walk my bike and alongside him over to my house and we’re just bullshittin’, we’re trading stories, he’s telling me about riding freight trains and he started telling me about the Hobo National convention and I was just like what? That’s a thing? It’s in Iowa and he told me about the hobo jungle and hobo stew and the hobo king and queen and this whole like culture that I had no idea really existed and was super fascinated by. Anyway he was like, hey can I sleep under your house tonight? And I was like for sure, no big deal. You can sleep on my floor if you wanted, or in the grass. So I wake up in the morning, and he’s like hey man, I gotta get going, and I don’t see him for like a couple weeks. I just assumed he l went home or traveled on.

Then I’m kayaking down this river with a friend and I see these dudes hanging out on the river bank and there’s Hillbilly right there. I was like, hey man! I pull up on shore and we bullshit and I’m just like man, if you ever make it back to Whitefish, let me know we can hang out or whatever. The next morning I wake up and get a knock on my house, and it’s him. I was actually going to Mt. Hood that day with Leland MacNamara for the Bode Merrill thing, and I was, I’m going to Mt. Hood today I don’t know if you’d wanna come or not… He’s like, oh man I love Oregon, I’ll come! I took him all the way out there and he hiked like all the way up to the quarter pipe and was just super stoked. Erik Leon was his favorite snowboarder, he was so hyped on him, and he was at Charlie’s kicking it with everyone, and he’s just still stoked on the snowboarding. It was his first exposure to snowboard culture, which is really pretty similar to hobo culture. Like everyone is camped out and sleeping in their cars, kinda the same thing, but different.

Scenes from the road. Photo @j_robble

Brooke: Yeah.

Jason: The whole trip I’m asking more about this Hobo National Convention and all this shit, and he’s like well you shared your whole snowboard world with me, I’ll take you out there if you wanna go. So I’m packed up ready to go, and I have a friend drop me off in Whitefish. I’ve got my backpack and my hobo gear and whatever to train hop – like sleeping bag, and all that shit, and I can’t find him anywhere. He doesn’t have a phone or anything, I went where he hangs out and they’re like, no we haven’t seen him in a few days. I was like shit man, maybe he left without me. I told myself, if I can’t find him, I don’t know if I should go. It’s too risky I don’t know what I’m doing. I put down my sleeping bag and was just gonna sleep along the river by where I last saw him, hoping maybe he’d show up in the morning. Then I hear a freight train rolling in and I was like oh shit, alright. I knew from him that the trains that are stacked two shipping containers high are going from inner Seattle or Portland all the way to Chicago. I knew that was the type of train he would want to catch, cause you don’t just wind up in the middle of nowhere, it’ll take you all the way there. So I ran up and I started getting all excited. I packed my sleeping bag, put my pants and hoodie on and just freakin went. It was a full moon, the super moon actually, so like a huge bright sky. I get on the train, and it’s pretty much like a semi truck trailer on top of a train. I crawled in there lay down so I’m hidden behind these tires, and all the sudden it just starts making a wooshing noise, which are like the brakes airing out. Then it starts cruising, past the train station, past all the employees, and we’re picking up speed and I’m just like all by myself. I got a decent little buzz from when I was looking around for Hillbilly and I ran into some friends and had a few beers and so now I’m just on another planet it feels like. I’m just on a freight train for the first time by myself, no idea where I’m doing or what’s gonna happen. I’m just off into the unknown, you know?

Brooke: Yeah.

Jason: That was super exciting. I was so stoked and but yeah, it was kinda gnarly. The 1st day I woke up right near Glacier National Park, the sun was rising on the right and there was that amazing full moon. Just cruising through Glacier park, you could see the river and the rapids and it was all illuminated and I was just like on this crazy natural high. We’re on this train bridge and I peek out and I see this bald eagle like soaring below me. I’m like 300 feet in the air on this bridge and like a hundred feet below me still, like 200 feet off the ground, this bald eagle just soaring. It was crazy and I can’t really explain it.

Brooke: It sounds magical.

Jason: It really was, everything below the eagle was still in the shade, but from the sunrise it was illuminated. I thought it was an omen, like, okay this is cool, I’m on the right path I guess, whatever that may be. There were some moments everyday, at least one point where I just wanted to give up and turn around. I don’t think I cried, but there were at least moments where I wanted to. I just wanted to give up and turn around and ride a train home or get a greyhound home or something. But I just kept going. There would be little feeling just like you’re fucked, like what am I fucking doing, this is insane. I’m gonna get busted, I’m gonna get in trouble, but then once you kinda get past that little hurdle you just feel so good and it’s all worth it. It took me five days to get to Iowa, but I made it. I did spend like $24 in transportation. I made it all the way to Saint Paul pretty much on a freight train and then I took some local transit and started hitch hiking. At one point I was at a truck stop at like 3am trying to ask truckers for a ride South, and obviously no one took me. Everyone was just like uuhhh, I’m going North dude, and then I would see them merge onto the highway going South. But I couldn’t really blame them, I probably wouldn’t like it if some fucking sketchy kid covered in train grease asking for a fucking ride at 3am at a fucking truck stop in Southern Minnesota either. I slept there that night, that was one of the moments where everyday I was just like oh fuck what am I doing. I’m like asking these truckers for a ride. I slept at the truck stop in the grass and made a conscious effort to sleep on my back for obvious reasons. I didn’t wanna wake up a rape victim, but I didn’t, so that’s good. I don’t know, I could talk about this one question for like 3 hours.

Snowboarding intermission. Photo courtesy @dakine_snow

Brooke: Did you make it to the hobo convention? What was that like?

Jason: I made it, yeah. There’s probably 200 people there, and the average is people in their 50s, 60s, even 70s. It’s people who actually were hobos, not people who are currently riding freight trains, but they did back in the day, when hobo-ing was a thing. So it’s just a reunion for them. I was the only one that went there intentionally that rode a freight train. There were two other kids that rode freight trains and got kicked off the train like 20 miles from there like a week before the event. They spent the night in jail then they made the cover of the paper in Mason City, Iowa. I guess someone was like you’re a week early, the Hobo national convention is here next week. So they ended up sticking around and I met them, they were super cool. They were the only other two people who arrived there via freight train, even unintentionally, and there were a couple people in their late 20s, early 30s that had recently ridden freight trains.

Brooke: Crazy. Wait – what happened to Hobo Jim, or whatever, the initial dude who started you off on this whole adventure?

Jason: Oh Hillbilly? I don’t know, I didn’t have contact with him. He’s actually here now, it’s kind of funny he’s sleeping about 100 feet away from me in the shed. He just showed up in Montana like a week ago at random, I hadn’t seen him since I went on this hobo trip. He called me a couple times and just checked in and then he just showed up in Montana, like hobo-ing it. It’s almost December, and I was like dude… But he’s ready to settle down, he’s trying to get a job up on the mountain and he’s been traveling for 15 years like this so he’s ready to settle down.

Brooke: What a random story. I love it. You said he slept under your house. You live in a tiny house right, or is it a trailer? What is your setup?

Jason: It’s essentially an aluminum box off an old 1950’s delivery truck. We converted it into a little house. Insulated it, put some big windows in it, and it’s really coming along. I’m almost done actually. I setup 12 poles and some wires for all the lighting and stuff and a little heater out of an old sail boat and I have solar panels on the top that are about 15 feet long and 8 feet wide. I don’t really know exactly what I’m gonna do with it, but it’s my only house. I’ve been living in it for two years, so it’s pretty much paid for itself – I haven’t paid rent in 2 years.

Fuckin’ Hippie. Photo @lelandmcnamara

Brooke: That’s awesome. Yeah, where do you park it? It is modular or…?

Jason: Yeah, it’s mobile. It’s on a flatbed, like a duel tandem Maxwell flatbed trailer. So it’s mobile. I haven’t driven it anywhere yet. Right now it’s parked.

Brooke: Why did you decide to go the tiny house route?

Jason: I was living in a tent. I found this guy on Craigslist and I was just renting the corner of his farm. I just had a tent and this little tarp place built and a little fire pit and I was out there with the llamas and horses and pigs. I was pretty much one of the farm animals. He called me the villager, that was my nickname, but it was getting really cold. It was almost this time of the year in Montana, and I was still living in a tent.When I’d wake up I could see my breath and I was just like alright 1-2-3 get out of my sleeping bag, run, start my truck, then drive off to the coffee shop or something. I realized that wasn’t really gonna work for much longer, but I didn’t wanna sign a lease or find a house. Winter started in a month and I’m just gonna be gone most the time, it doesn’t make sense to get a house and pay rent, sign a lease, blah blah blah. The guy was so cool who owned the farm, he was like yeah you could drive a school bus out here and build a shack or shed or whatever the fuck you want to do. I was paying $100 a month. No water, no plumbing, no electricity, no anything, just a little space amongst the farm animals. So I called my friend who I knew was a really talented carpenter and had a lot of construction experience, and was gonna build this sort of combo between like a geodesic dome and a yurt – just something I could build on that property, but take it down and move it if I needed. I was gonna live in that for the winter, but I talked to my friend Scott and he was like dude, that’s gonna be so hard to keep dry and insulated, but there’s this aluminum box for sale down the block from my house for $600 bucks. I’ll help you turn it into a cabin. Originally it wasn’t gonna even be on a trailer, I was just gonna have a tow truck take it out there at $100 bucks a month rent, which was pretty reasonable and I have like a little base camp whenever I want, but it all evolved and has changed a lot during the process and now it’s on wheels and I have the truck I got specifically so I can like tow it around a little bit.

Brooke: What’s up the Dakine ad campaign about you not having a cell phone? It clearly isn’t true, because I’m talking to you on your cell phone.

Jason: Yeah, that’s what fucking I said to Scotty! I read the ad then looked at the photo and was like, oh this is sick, then I read the thing and I’m like no phone? I was like well, I have a phone, I could get rid of it for you if you wanted. (laughs) He got a kick out of that. So I don’t know how I feel about that. He explained it like in that moment there’s no phone. You know you’re not like checking your instagram feed in the fucking mountain before he drops down a mountain or something. So that’s really what it meant.

Brooke: Speak for yourself!

Jason: Maybe some people do, I carry a digital camera and some guys actually bring their iPhones and take photos of their lines so that they can reference it from the top.

Brooke: As a professional snowboarder these days, your job is not only to do the tricks now but to tell people that you’re doing the tricks, so you couldn’t really do your job without a phone.

Jason: Weeelll, I mean there was rumor there for a while that Nicolas Muller only had a land line. I know for a fact he has a cell phone now, but…

Brooke: Yeah but he’s Nicolas Muller.

Jason: Those rules only apply to him.

Brooke: Yeah, he’s special for sure. That’s pretty funny. So, you filmed with Absinthe last year? How was that?

Jason: Oh, it was awesome.

Brooke: Who did you film with in the past?

Jason: I filmed with Think Thank, I filmed with People, I filmed with my buddy Leland McNamara for a few years.

Brooke: It seems like the Absinthe movies have a lot more production value and it’s just a bigger production overall than Think Thank or your homeys movie. Which did you prefer? Did you like riding in helicopters?

Jason: I mean I’ve had fun with every project I’ve worked on for sure. The coolest thing about filming with Absinthe is getting to do all the backcountry. I’ve always wanted to do more backcountry and big mountain stuff and with other crews it’s just harder to have that opportunity, especially with the heli ski stuff. So that’s the biggest difference.

Dropping? Photo: Jesse Paul

Brooke: Yeah, I hate to say it, but I feel like you might have gotten the last gasp of that at least for a season or two while everything kind of shakes out. I don’t feel like there’s gonna be a bunch of big budget movies coming out this season.

Jason: Yeah I don’t know. I mean I know budgets are getting tighter and every year there’s less and less big productions. A company like Think Thank, they’re kind of the model of a lot more sponsorships and a lot more affordable. The trips they’re going on as a crew are a lot more affordable, less snowmobiling, mostly just hiking and doing street stuff. That can be better, more sustainable as budgets tighten. But there’s TGR and what Jeremy Jones is doing. Those are definitely high dollar productions, however way he’s accessing the terrain is a lot more sustainable. And I actually think about that a lot, with my budget after this past season and how that goes. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep progressing my riding without spending $20,000-30,000 grand on helicopters.

Brooke: Have you come up with any answers?

Jason: Well, not definitive. I definitely want to focus more mountaineering type stuff, the kind of stuff Jeremy is doing. I got connected with him and got to talk to him for like a half hour about sort of going that direction and he was super excited to hear that I was thinking along those lines. He said, I’m an open door for any resource or if you’re trying to get some sort of camping trip or you’re trying to raise money for a project or anything, give me a call and I can help you, so I thought that really cool of him.

Brooke: Yeah that is awesome. He is great. He’s down to help out and make things happen for people, which is really cool for someone of his stature. You don’t always get that, you know?

Jason: Yeah, yeah. He’s pretty grounded for being the leader of big mountain snowboarding for the last 15-20 years.

Brooke: Are you retired from hitting rails?

Jason: Well I hadn’t for a few years, but I did this past season. It’s fun. I started filming with Absinthe and I just decided I kind of wanted to do it again. I don’t know if I’ll do it again this year. I’m pretty much trying to save all my budget possibly for Alaska, so I’m not gonna spend 2 grand to fly out to Michigan for a few weeks or anything like that.

Brooke: Yeah that makes sense. The level of rail riding is so gnarly that I feel like you just have to like really want to do it to justify it.

Jason: Yeah, and for me, I’ve never really been that excited about it. Some of my urban clips I get pretty stoked on, but for the most part I don’t really. I get super hyped watching the people where that’s their thing and they’re really insane at it, but for myself I don’t really get stoked on – like I’d much rather focus on backcountry and big mountain stuff.

Rail boarder. Photo: Jesse Paul

Brooke: Yeah definitely. Are you still doing the A-rob Plant a Seed foundation? How’s that going?

Jason: Well it’s had its up and downs. None of my family has much experience with planning something like that, so we had to take last year off because we kind of got behind on paper work and stuff with the state. But yeah, we’re getting it all sorted out and I believe we’ll be back at it this year, so. We didn’t do it to the extent of before last year, but actually we took a group of kids from the Black Feet Indian reservation up snowboarding, which was a super cool opportunity.

Brooke: Oh yeah, you mentioned you lived on an Indian reservation for a little while. Tell me about that a little bit. It must have been crazy. Reservations are really depressing, is the only way that I could describe them. Was that your experience, or…?

Jason: Well, in a sense. I mean it’s real just a crazy contrast, because I was living about 10 miles out of town right on the East Side of the Rocky Mountains in Rocky Mountain park, 2 miles from Glacier National park. I mean it’s the most naturally beautiful place you could ask for really, but it was pretty crazy because 10 miles east from there just full on third world, like people getting killed in the streets,. It’s pretty gnarly. There’s extreme poverty, the average household income is less than $15,000 a year.

Brooke: Jeez.

Jason: That’s per household. I mean it’s crazy, from growing up in Whitefish, Montana. When my parents moved here it was more of a ski bum town, but it’s definitely changed a lot. There’s a lot of money there now and it’s crazy to think that not even 100 miles away there’s full on 3rd world poverty.

Brooke: How did you end up living there?

Jason: I was in Alaska filming and my girlfriend and I at the time, we had broken up on that trip. We lived together and everything here, and so I got back and just kind of wanted to move out of our place. I’d originally gotten a ticket to Nicaragua because I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, so I was just gonna go down there solo for like a month. I booked a ticket for 3 days from the time I booked it, and the night before I wake up to get on my flight at like 2 am and I couldn’t find my passport. I had it in my pocket the night before but I lost it somewhere somehow, so I had to cancel my ticket. I’m just like, oh shit, now what am I gonna do? So I got on Craigslist and saw like this guy was advertising a house out there and the Blackfeet Indian reservation right on the edge of Glacier National Park and I’ve always wanted to spend more time out there and figured it was a cool opportunity to kind of just kind of be alone with my thoughts and have a totally new experience you know?

Brooke: Yeah.

Jason: So I just talked to the guy on the phone and he was super cool and we talked for a half hour and he was like, I don’t need like an application or a reference or anything just give me a check with the first and last and it’s yours. I went and checked it out and I was like I’ll take it. It was insane, it was like 10 acres, a huge meadow, there was like little Aspen groves, wildflowers everywhere, a creek that ran through the property. There were moose everywhere, saw some grizzly bears a few times.

Brooke: That sounds crazy. You’re such a mountain man. There’s really no other way to describe it.

Jason: Thank you. It’s better than, what Brusti called me on the Absinthe tour. He was like so your quite the nature boy, aren’t you? And I was like yeah, I guess so.

Brooke: I mean I think a mountain man is an appropriate designation for a snowboarder, so it works out.

Jason: I think it’s pretty much the same thing. Yeah mountains, they’re not necessary but they help.

Brooke: They do help. And they sure are fun to slide down.

Jason: Yup.

  1. Mark

    One time I stumbled on a train hopping camp outside Whitefish. I recommend anyone in Whitefish to strike up a conversation with the travelers. They always have an interesting story to share.

  2. Teddy Pendergrass
    Teddy Pendergrasssays:

    There have been some great hump days, but this one is on another level.

    Amazing job Brooke.

  3. Kyle

    That train-hopping story was crazy! Brooke this was one of my favorite hump day interviews in years! J-Rob is an awesome human being.

  4. Vincent remm
    Vincent remmsays:

    Yeeeah JRob! You inspire buddy! Hope to see you in Whitefish and shred biggy later this month….

Comments are closed.

All Photos: Kieth Rutherford

The 9th annual Dirksen Derby ushered in a very welcome sight to Oregon: a fuck ton of snow.  And while Oregon really only suffered one bad season, based on the shit show garnered over the rapidly accumulating snow at Mt. Bachelor, you’d think the residents of Central Oregon had been residing in Tahoe or something! But despite sizeable lift lines and inevitable delays that come with trying to do anything mid-blizzard, Josh Dirksen’s annual event was one for the record books.

The abundance of snow across the west coast prevented many signed up from attending  – enabling the race to run smoothly despite occasional hitches such as blustering snow messing with the laser time keeping systems – and since everyone registered paid in advance, still plenty of cash was raised for Tyler Eklund, the event’s inspiration, who was paralyzed in a snowboard crash many years ago.

The field was still stacked with heavies, but if our foray into sports betting is any indication, the race was really anyone’s game. The side-by-side courses were meticulously dug by a dedicated crew of Bendites, as a well as a Bogus Basin-based crew assembled by Corey Mac. On the red side, huge berms required a lot of finesse to generate speed, while on the green side a more open course allowed you to just let er rip. As to be expected with lots of snow fall, speed was something that was not in abundance, but the most skilled (or those with the best wax tech) managed to make it happen.

Unlike many banked slaloms these days where it’s a feat just to make it to the bottom of the course, the Dirksen Derby is specifically built to be a fun, mellow kick off to the season. “We definitely try to keep the courses mellow at the Derby and it doesn’t always happen with the snow and stuff,” Josh said.  “I want everyone to have fun, not just the top 10 percent of the snowboard population, so I tried to build something everyone could love. It is still a challenge, the challenge being not stopping!”

While the Derby is a contest, and there are winners, losers and sidebets galore, we won’t bore you with a lengthy explanation of the results. At the end of the day, just getting out and getting together is what really matters and makes this event so great. If you really care though, you can click here and read them all yourself.

For a mere $65 you could sign up for elites, essentially buying your way into the finals. However, qualifying is good for you and here’s a shot from Saturday.

Photo: Joel Fraser

Over the past few seasons, Dinosaurs Will Die has seemingly exploded. The boards are popping up in shops, edits and more importantly, under the feet of actual snowboarders everywhere. Building a snowboard brand was never an easy feat, but in a changing world with a changing climate and a dubious economy, it seems impossible. Don’t tell Jeff Keenan that though. The Vancouver-based pro snowboarder turned business man has a plan, a vision, and an army of rats ready to help DWD flourish. We sat him down to find out more.

Brooke: We were talking earlier about how we’re sort of at the age where normal people stop snowboarding, or get distracted from snowboarding I should say – have families, get a job. Does it seem to you like snowboarding is becoming less popular, or is that just the age we’re at and there’s a new generation that’s just as stoked as ever? Or do you think that it’s not refreshing like it used to?

Jeff: Two years ago, I’d agree that we’re just getting older, that people who grabbed on to snowboarding in the 90s are growing out of it. But now there’s stuff that is rejuvenating interest for riders our age. Snowboarding is still young in a sense, we are at the bottom of the first life cycle in the business model. With this I feel we have been taking the steps to look at our past, what made us want to start, who were the pros, what boards were they riding, can we use any of this to help market to the youth? With this I feel we were fighting for our legends, in skate and surf legends are a integral part of the community, in snowboarding I feel we were on a path of who’s the new kid and what is going to be the trick of the year, we lost sight of why we really got into this. It has also put snowboarding to elitist level, almost unattainable for youth.

We had all these snowboarders that should have been our legends but we kicked them out, and hung them to dry. We didn’t support them when they got older and in many cases we didn’t have them involved in our community. And then in the past 3 years I’d say finally say it’s clicked over. People care about Jamie (Lynn) and what Jamie’s doing and Iguchi and what Iguchi’s doing, even what Roach is doing. He came back strong and it’s awesome to see. So now there is this resurfacing of riders we looked up to when we were young, the thing is there are a lot of people my age that still want to see these guys ride, and that is a marketing tool. On a media standpoint it’s hard to find media that appeals to our demographic.

Brooke: As a thirty-something what kind of media do you think would appeal to that older generation?

Jeff: When I think about who I watch skating, I don’t watch Nyjah. I watch guys like Dan Drehobl, A.V.E & Reynolds and anyone who skates fast and has that 90/00 flair to them. Even look at Girl or Chocolate, even through it’s mainstream skate, there’s guys on that team that are a lot older than I am and they are at the top of their game. I look up to that. Then when I think about that in snowboarding, there’s not many older riders that have the chance to stay in it filming and shooting. I like to ride street, powder and rip around mountains, and it’s hard to find that media of people my age that ride the same stuff I do. For some reason we have this weird thing where you get old and you ride powder. I don’t know a lot of thirty-somethings that ride street.

Brooke: Well because it hurts less.

Jeff: Yeah, but you don’t need to hit the gangliest rails. You can be creative in the streets, that’s what I like about it. Don’t get me wrong I like riding powder as much as I can, that’s where my roots are, but I also like being in the street and you just don’t have to hit rails to be in the street.

Brooke: Yeah you don’t get that in the coverage. Street coverage is so gnarly, but it’s possible to just ride in the streets, to just go do it.

Jeff: Yeah.

Brooke: And not buy a lift ticket.

Jeff: Exactly.

Dropping. photo: Leanne Pelosi

Brooke: I think snowboarding media is great, obviously, but I think most people who snowboard don’t even know snowboard media exists.

Jeff: No, which is kind of messed up. I don’t follow everything that comes out in snowboarding … A group of my friends surf more then snowboard now and they follow surf media religiously. Then I have friends that just skateboard and they don’t even look at skate media. So I think it is all over the place. I personally look at a lot of skate and surf stuff, and you just see how they are approaching new media. You don’t see a new skate or surf video come out then release full parts online. In snowboarding, it’s messed up that you buy videos now and then a week later all the parts come out online. It’s good for the sites that host them, however it delegitimizes the video production companies’ platform.

Snowboarding is my job, but my job isn’t really on the Internet so I don’t have the need to look at it all the time. But when I’m halfway through the day and I’m having a coffee or drinking a beer I’ll go on a snowboard site and try to catch up. I find I just skip so much of the media. It is fucked up how much is just thrown at the ‘net with out a plan behind it. For instance, I just saw the Iguchi pro model thing. The launch had a video I watched like 2 seconds then fast forwarded and watch 2 seconds in the middle and there’s old clips of him that are rad, I was like whoa that’s cool but for some reason I don’t buy into the, “this guy’s older and selling to my demographic.” The release video has some new footage and a small retrospect, and an explanation of the board, however it didn’t interest me much. I want to see a more direct push behind a release like that, something like– “Hey, I haven’t filmed a full part in a while and I’m gonna film a full part and not tell anyone about it and my sponsor is gonna come out with a pro-model in conjunction with that part, these two things are gonna be just as good as any thing that has been released before.”

Brooke: That would be cool.

Jeff: It’s not there.

Brooke: I mean a lot of it is branding in that the way things are presented and it’s hard to present things in a way that it will appeal to everyone in snowboarding.

Jeff: Yeah.

Brooke: That’s another thing we were talking about, how different snowboarding is from place to place.

Jeff: I’ve always thought about each individual local surrounding, and how you are a product of your own environment. I’m from the city and how the people ride down here is very different to how people ride in Whistler, and it’s only two hours away. People that ride Whistler ride very differently then people from Utah, and these people are different from people who ride in Quebec. There are always copy cats of style, however you can usually see the true nature of a rider if you do a lap with them. It’s crazy because kids there can be kids that are in the streets of Minnesota or Quebec City that might not have even ridden a resort, so how they ride is going to be a true product of that urban environment. That spectrum is really different.

Brooke: Yeah it’s crazy. So how does the industry deal with that?

Jeff: People don’t think about it.

Whis love. photo: Leanne Pelosi

Brooke: You run a brand and do you guys think, okay well, we want to appeal to kids who ride resorts or we want to appeal to people who ride in the streets or we want to appeal to people in Europe or do you just want to appeal to everyone?

Jeff: No, we want to appeal to an attitude. It doesn’t matter where they ride or where they are from. You can look at it like a political standpoint too. If your Republican or Democrat you want to appeal to a certain kind of person, but you don’t really care if that guy’s a doctor or a gun salesmen. You don’t really care what they do, you care about their mindset. This is what Dinos is like, we don’t care if you ride powder or street, or if your from the city or mountain town. None of that matters, we just know people that are into our company have a like-minded attitude. This attitude is that you can be yourself, you can all be different, but you have a similar creative outlook. This outlook is one that makes you go out there, grind and dedicate to a passion.

Brooke: Yeah that makes sense. The world is always in transition, but seems very apparent right now. The weather is changing, the economy is changing, everything’s changing. How has that affected you guys?

Jeff: Since we are a two-person company, we are mobile. If you have a company with 30 employees your limited to what you can do and how versatile you are. If you have two people you can pretty much do whatever those two people want to do. You can move around, you can adapt and you can do it quickly. This quickness transcends every aspect of the company too. There’s all these companies out there that are to slow to react to the ever-changing snowboard world. They are so slow on identifying their key targets and they miss the boat, or they overshot this target and create an a product or marketing platform that is almost to broad for their initial goals. For Dinos we are trying to sell to snowboarders, we are not trying to reach out of this spectrum. However, if someone walking into a snowboard shop for their first time buys a Dino more times then not it is going to because of the graphic or the quality of our construction, not because of our backstory, and this we embrace as well.

Brooke: Do you guys aspire to grow the brand bigger?

Jeff: There’s growing the company and then there’s growing the reach of the company. If you’re talking units being sold, we obviously want to grow, in turn this allows the company to grow.

Brooke: What about company size? There’s 2 of you, do you want to hire more people?

Jeff: Well yeah, we need to. Because there’s a point in time the company becomes at full capacity, you can only do so much without sleeping. We do have an awesome rep force, these guys kill it they are truly dedicated to snowboarding, and we do have Matt Heneghan, who assists us with team and marketing. We apply innovative hardware and application in our technology to assist when we expand, however there is a point you need to have employees to take a piece of the workload.

One time this person gave us this graph that had sales units on the Y axis and core values on the X. All the major snowboard companies where laid out all over the graph. There weren’t many company in the right hand corner where sales and core values were high. They asked where do we want to be, and without thinking I pointed to the upper right hand side. The goal is to grow the company and at the same time staying true to our core values.

Brooke: Back to our changing world – it seems to me like everyone is moving to the city – nobody wants to be a farmer anymore, especially with the younger generation. That’s just what society is doing. How do you see that changing snowboarding and people’s interest in snowboarding?

Jeff: That is the way the world is going globally, urbanization, throughout the world everyone is migrating to cities and rural areas are being less populated. For the most part the rural living is dying and people are moving to a city to live. The cities are more glamorous – there are jobs, activities, events and communities that you don’t see in rural society. However, where urbanization lacks is the surroundings of nature and being outdoors. I truly feel that this contributes to the less youth moving to or out of mountain towns.

I’m lucky to live in Vancouver because if it snows on the mountains you see it from inside the city. We actually have this physical connection, it looks like you can reach out and grab the mountains. It becomes a part of your life because you see it everyday. However if you lived somewhere like Portland, Seattle or on the East Coast, you do not have this benefit. You to live in the city and go up to the hill, it becomes more of an activity then a lifestyle. The more people are moving from mountain towns and rural areas into cities, the more they start to disconnect from nature, the mountains, and in turn from snowboarding.

Scenes from Barrely and Event at Grouse. Photo: Joel Fraser

Brooke: Yeah I mean do you think that that migration is changing the status of snowboarding from a lifestyle sport to just a recreational activity?

Jeff: Yes, it is fully. One of the best parts of snowboarding is that you can be live anywhere in the world (that it snows) and you can be a part of this bigger community. When I started really getting into snowboarding in the early 90’s, when you drove to the resort you waved at anyone who had a snowboards strapped to their roof, and you probably knew them. I feel like 5 years ago, in snowboarding, you wouldn’t do that. But now I do it all the time, I wave or try and say hi to anyone that has a snowboard. If I see a snowboarder who is by themselves I’ll always talk to them, maybe that has to do with Dinos too, but I think it’s going back that way.

Brooke: Seems like it’s getting stronger because it’s getting smaller.

Jeff: Everything has a life cycle, business is a life cycle, everything has ups and downs and what once was is not gonna be. Snowboarding will constantly rejuvenate itself to be at a different standard then the past and right now it seems we have been on a downturn in the whole word, including snowboarding. In these times, Dinos has been on an upswing, we want to stay on the top of this upswing. We want to be one of the companies in the forefront when things come up. We want to be the company that snowboarders look at and believe in. A company that wears our values on our sleeves and constantly changes and adapts, a company that has a clear and definite reason for all products it makes.

Backside 7. Photo: Phil Tifo