Portland Oregon-Based Digital Media

Before the Internet. Before the X Games. Before snowboarding was firmly wedged in the mainstream consciousness between rollerblading and football, a bunch of rogues in California were doing it and wondering when every one else would catch on. Damian Sanders was one of those rogues, a kid who managed to shape his own image, and got to go on the ride of his life. 20-plus years later, he’s still living the life in So Cal (albeit a bit more subdued) and has nothing but fond memories of those good old days.

In the early ’80s, it was phenomenal just to see another snowboard, and you couldn’t believe somebody else did the sport that you were doing. And now it’s just – it’s as normal as skiing, as normal as football, it’s just nuts. I never would have dreamed that 25 years ago or 30 years ago when we started.

Brooke: You were kinda the poster boy for that rockstar snowboarder image and there’s all these stories about you partying with like the Sex Pistols and you married a Penthouse Pet – was that what being a pro snowboarder was at the time?

Damian: No, we were making it up as we went along I would say. I was young. I turned pro when I was about 14. There was no such things as a pro back then — you were either really good or just starting, and so, I was one of the better guys because I kind of got into it before anybody else. So I guess to be considered pro was just being sponsored by anybody. In my case my brother was giving me these snowboards, so I was a pro snowboarder because I was sponsored. And then I got hooked up with some other companies like Ocean Pacific and Vaurnet and that’s when it really got serious.

We started getting paid to tour the world and do competitions and get into the magazines. This was all in the early to mid 80’s, then when it really got hot was like around ’87 to ’90. Those were really the fun years when snowboarding started to get big. The world started catching on to this new crazy sport and I was kind of the rockstar of it cause I was always wanting to be, you know… the band member kind of look. And all my heroes were like David Bowie type guys, so that was kind of what I modeled myself after.

I wanted to move to California. Not California, but Southern California, and live in LA and that whole deal. So I met my wife Brandy when I was down here in Southern California, my wife at the time. I’ve since been remarried, but we lasted for about four years. and that was in the prime of my snowboarding. So that was like 1988-92, the wild years for snowboarding, for me anyway. I had probably like a 12 year run, but those were the craziest years.

That was really the most fun. Around ’92 was when I blew out my knee and that kind of changed everything for me, I have that typical athlete story where once you get hurt really bad it kind of ruins your career and I did get my knee fixed and it blew out again the first time I went back snowboarding after 7 months of rehab and that just basically was the end of it so I just started partying like a rockstar. And that was when the parties came to, that you’re mentioning.

Brooke: Yeah, yeah. Is Club Rubber still a thing?

Damian: Well the house parties were legendary at the time. I lived in Huntington Beach, California and at the time that was where everybody seemed to live. It was all those pro motorcrossers, skateboarders, snowboarders, everybody was in the Huntington Beach area, Newport Beach… Huntington Beach over to Riverside that was where all the motorcrossers lived and that was 15-20 minutes away so it was so much fun to be part of the scene back then. It was the hub of all these creative people who were doing all these crazy new things and making snowboard movies and making the Crusty Demons of Dirt motorcross movies and then Club Rubber was born at that exact time so it was full of all these superstar athletes – or action sports athletes – and so the house parties were legendary but they got way too big for the house. I had a huge house at the time that it would be packed with 200 people and it was out of control so I got approached by a nightclub to do a club. I did a small club and it was a success, but then we realized we kinda had something, so we went way bigger and went to this concert venue, which didn’t even host clubs at all. My partner at the time talked them into letting us throw a Club Rubber there – he had the name for club rubber and we just kinda laughed about it, and thought that’d be great, and the first night in 1996? Maybe 1995? The first Club Rubber had 1500 people and we never dropped below 1500 people for almost 10 years. That was phenomenal and that got bigger and bigger. It got too big for the club in California so we went to Las Vegas to throw a huge event at the arenas like the Mandalay Bay and the Orleans, the Venetian, all their giant arenas. We were selling out 10,000 person arenas with our pimps and hoes parties which were just out of control. I mean it was 10,000 people dressed like pimps and hoes and it was the most fun party in the world, and yea it was insane. So we did that for years and years until it’s finally faded away… that kinda brings me to where I am now. I’ve got two different companies now.

Brooke: Yeah so you’re still doing party promotion, planning?

Damian: What I do is more the production. I work with the big casinos in Las Vegas. Some of the biggest casinos, they all have clubs in there now that’s their big revenue and so they all kind of – I sort of sold out while I could and while they were buying in and so that worked out really well. So I started a company called Monster Stage and started doing the props and décor for all these other parties, and that has been what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. And then recently I invented the X Bar, which has been my full-time, I would call it second job and project, and it’s going really good.

Brooke: I saw you got funded on Kickstarter?

Damian: Yeah, that was quite a cool experience. I invented the product when I was working at Monster Stage Warehouse. We were setting up for a party, and I had this shower bar that I was doing pushups with, and just knew that there was something more to it. I hooked these elastic bands to the shower bar and did some curls, and I couldn’t believe that it actually was going to work. My mind went crazy. I could make this swivel in, I could do push ups, I could do all these different things, and so for about a year I was down in there every single day working on this project. I came up with probably 30 or 40 different prototypes, then partnered up with a friend of mine who’d already made products in China, and the rest was history. We came out with this insane product. We did the Kickstarter campaign and raised way more than we thought we were gonna raise – that was such a cool experience – it basically did exactly what it’s supposed to, it kickstarted the company, and so we asked for $50,000 and we ended up making $170,000. That all was in our account a month later and we had money to start the company and make our first run of X Bars. I think we made 1500 on the first run? We sold 1,000 on Kickstarter so we supplied all the orders. Kickstarter is notorious for being very late – people always over-promise and then they under deliver, and we were right on time, which was almost unheard of in the Kickstarter community, so that was really cool.

Brooke: Nice.

Damian: We got a lot of good hype for that. Now I work on the X Bar all the time and do Monster Stage for a living.

Brooke: It sounds like you have little to no time for snowboarding.

Damian: Snowboarding, yeah. I still love to go, but my knee is still messed up. It’s been years and years and I keep getting surgeries, cortisone shots, and nothing is like it used to be. I gotta say it sucks going from being really good at something to just sucking over night and that’s exactly what happened. I was really pretty good and then the next day I sucked because my knee. I was so powerful of a rider when I was totally intact, and then that happened. I spent 7 months in rehab and then blew it out again the first day I went riding, which is the biggest nightmare for an athlete. So then I went and got it fixed again and they diid all the orthroscopic this time because it wasn’t as bad as the first time. Then every time I’d enter a contest or go off a large jump my knee would pop out, and it would be stuck in this popped out position — I’d have to have my friends yanking on my knee on the ski slope. I look back and it was funny but at the time it was just horrible. My friends would be like yanking on my knee and it would pop back in and then I could ride until the next jump and then it would pop out again. It just became such a hassle that I was like fuck it I just wanna party for a living.

And then people would say things like “Oh I hear he’s throwing parties in California and doing really well.” But they had no idea they were the biggest parties in America. It was pretty funny.

Brooke: That makes sense. Would you ever consider taking a job back in the snowboard industry? Be a team manager?

Damian: I don’t know, I don’t know what I’d do in the industry now, I’ve got my own thing going. I’ve been around the industry, and once in a while I’ll get calls for little things, but not much. I see that a lot of the old pro snowboarders are now doing commentary or repping for brands. In the industry it seems like I did just disappear, and it’s almost like a “Where are They Now?” rockstar thing. The industry didn’t know where I went. All of a sudden I just started throwing parties in Southern California. Everybody in my circle knew it was a popular party, but as soon as you got out of that, nobody knew what the hell I was doing. I just disappeared off the face of the earth. And then people would say things like “Oh I hear he’s throwing parties in California and doing really well.” But they had no idea they were the biggest parties in America. It was pretty funny.

Brooke: Totally. I would love to hear about what it was like filming back then – you’re in Critical Condition, which is 25 years old, what was the process of filming those videos like?

Damian: Well, we were living in Tahoe at the time. I lived in Tahoe through my high school years, and that was when a lot of pros lived in that little area of South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe. It was almost like living in Huntington Beach with all the motorcrossers and skateboarders where Tahoe was the mecca [for snowboarding], the place to be basically. Fall Line Films was created there. The first one was the Western Front and then Snowboarder’s In Exile and then Critical Condition, those were the three that I was mainly involved with. What was so cool was that all of a sudden I didn’t have to worry about competitions anymore, because all my sponsors cared about was that I was in magazines and movies and selling product. So those movies made me a superstar overnight, and when Snowboarders In Exile came out my life changed because everybody saw it. It was the first of it’s kind, the first anybody cared about, and it broke the mold for movies. It was just phenomenal in the industry. I remember when it actually previewed at the action sports trade show in San Diego. Everybody was there. It was the whole industry. They had rented out a giant ballroom that held like 500 people and they premiered the movie there. It was just incredible. I mean having 500 people that were so excited to see it – actually probably more than that – and the first of it’s kind, it blew up like unbelievably. The next day after that movie my life had changed and I was all of a sudden some superstar rockstar snowboarder, from almost being unknown the day before.

Brooke: How long would you guys film for one of those projects?

Damian: Usually it was the entire winter, so we would go out there, and we weren’t getting paid or anything, this was just – snowboarding was so young and we weren’t even thinking about the money we were thinking about how could we make a cooler hit or a cooler jump and who could do a better trick. It was all about that and so we would film in Tahoe or wherever Jerry (FLF) wanted to go. I think Bachelor was one of our big ones. We only travelled the world whenever they decided they wanted to, or had a place to go. When we were on those trips our sponsors usually paid for that to happen. I think in all I got paid about $400 off that movie, probably got paid a quarter a copy at the time. We didn’t care about getting paid at the time it was all about showing off for Fault Line Films movies. And it was perfect at the time. A lot of it was filming in Tahoe, just going into the backcountry and finding big jumps. They definitely do that nowadays but that was what it was all about back then. We’d just take our shovels out there and set up a giant hit. Those guys would bring their cameras and we would shoot all day, get three or four good shots and that was it.

Brooke: Now there’s like people who focus on videos, people who focus on contests. Nothing’s really changed.

Damian: I would consider myself like the Travis Rice – Travis Rice doesn’t even compete I don’t think, or a lot of those guys don’t even compete they just film these incredible movies on, you know, Red Bull budgets. Back then we were just hiking up the mountain with our shovels and now they have snowcats and helicopters for everything they do.

Brooke: Some people.

Damian: It’s a different time, but we had so much fun. All the pros were in there, the old school pros like Steve Graham, Dana Nicholson, and Don Zabo and we were all just building hits and having a blast.

Brooke: Are you still in touch with any of those people? 

Damian: Yeah, I still talk to Steve Graham, Dana Nicholson, Don Zabo, mainly through Facebook. Facebook kinda reached into all of our friendships because it was impossible to keep in touch with that many people without it, and then all of the sudden when Facebook became a hit, all of the sudden I was back in touch with everyone I used to ride with, which was a ton of fun. It was just kind of cool to rekindle all those friendships and all those stories of the good old days.

Brooke: What about being married to a Penthouse Pet?

Damian: Well, back in the ’80’s like when I met Brandy at a nightclub in Southern California, she wasn’t a penthouse pet at the time. It’s kind of a funny story, she was gorgeous but about twenty pounds overweight. I got her on a snowboard and we spent the whole year out snowboarding. She dropped that weight and turned into this supermodel. Everybody could not believe how absolutely gorgeous this girl was. We were all about the party scene in LA and going to strip clubs in Los Angeles and Hollywood. One thing led to another – she saw an ad on the back of a magazine it said “Earn $1500 a day being a model” and we had no idea what we were getting into. I went with her to the meeting to meet the photography company, and I see all these naked pictures on the wall and I was like “This is nude modeling, holy shit.” We had no idea. They asked her if she opposed to that, and she looked at me and I was like “I don’t oppose, do you oppose?” Great. And she did her little sample photo shoot where she had to take off her top and we were freaking. We were like 19 years old had no idea what was going on, but we were so excited cause we were in LA. She did that, and we sat in the lobby and waited, and every single photographer that walked by was like “Who are you? Who are you?” They wanted to know who this new girl was, and they all started booking her. She was making a fortune, and the one rule we made was that I had to be there the whole time because we felt so uncomfortable in this industry, and were super scared little kids. They said whatever you want, if you’re husband has to be there, then we’ll do it. I got to go on a ride along for all these photo shoots as it was happening I was kind of like the bodyguard, not that I could have done anything. I was 19 years old. But it was just nuts.

Brooke: That’s so funny.

Damian: But we lived that life. I was being paid to be a pro snowboarder, she was getting paid a fortune to be this model, so at 20 years old, this was a dream come true for a California kid. And that lasted for a few years.

Americans at the time were just outcasts and crazy in the Japanese minds… they were all so calm, and cool, and collected, and they were all so respectable, and then we come in with our punk rock American attitude and just ruin things.

Brooke: Do you have any snowboard stories that stand out? Like any crazy trips you went on or things?

Damian: I used to love the trips to Japan. They were always my favorite. They were the most wild. They would have some major contests over there and all of our sponsors would send the pro snowboarders from California, from all over America, to Japan. All these guys that we would see at the local ski resorts would end up in Japan together. Americans at the time were just outcasts and crazy in the Japanese minds… they were all so calm, and cool, and collected, and they were all so respectable, and then we come in with our punk rock American attitude and just ruin things. But it was wild and crazy times over there. One of the craziest was – and I remember this well. I don’t know if I’m being too hard…

Brooke: No.

Damian: … If you can print this kind of stuff…

Brooke: Oh I can print it.

Damian: I had four hits of acid in my little vest and I was going over there for Ocean Pacific at the time. My sponsors were sending me over there and drugs are no joke in Japan. Like if you get caught at the Japanese border with some pot on you, you’re probably going to jail for a while. So I had this acid in a little baggie in this little pocket in my vest and I put it in with all my other snowboard clothes. We’re going through customs, and in Japan you’re not allowed to have any porno magazines, and I had put the Penthouse magazine in between a fitness magazine or something. When they call me over and say “We need to see your bag” they start looking through it, and they pull out the magazines. They fall apart and the porno mag falls out and the guy goes “Oh no, not in Japan. You cannot have this.” He kind of freaks out, and I’m like okay no big deal, in America that’s no big deal. And so he calls more people over to start searching my bags. I’m freaking the hell out thinking “Oh my god, they’re gonna find these drugs in two seconds, and now I’m going to jail for the rest of my life in Japan.” So they’re going through every single item of clothing, and through pockets. I’m acting like it’s all cool. I can see out of the corner of my eye they got to the vest, and I’m thinking it’s a matter of seconds before I’m going to be handcuffed. They pick up the vest, and they look at it, and he turns it around and he looks at the pocket. He doesn’t search it, and he sets the vest down, and my heart is going like a thousand miles an hour. They put everything back in but they took away the porno mag and they sent us on our way. I’ve never been more scared in my life. But then two days later we’re at the ski resort and we have all these pros there. We’re all having a good time, and we go to this huge sushi dinner and we all split up these four hits of acid. There was like 8 of us now, just out of our minds. We’re out with all these Japanese guys, and we all have the acid giggles. If you’ve ever done acid… everybody was laughing so freaking hard that we couldn’t stop. This is strange to all the Japanese people because they didn’t know why we were laughing, but they couldn’t stop laughing either, so there was a group of 30 of us just dying laughing. We all look outside and see the ski resort is open for night snowboarding and it’s snowing outside. I shit you not they had Japanese techno music playing and giant different colored lights on the mountain. Everyone runs to their room and gets all their boards. We go up on the mountain and it was like a surreal dream snowboarding down these slopes with all these giant colorful snowflakes – and they weren’t just colorful in our minds they were really colorful. It was just the most amazing experience of my snowboarding career, just 10 or 15 of us just out of our minds having a blast and snowboarding down a mountain to Japanese techno and on drugs.

 

Brooke: So have you mellowed out at all or are you still just a Wildman?

Damian: Well yeah I’m kind of a family man now, I’ve got a beautiful little daughter, a seven year-old girl who’s just as punk as I was which is awesome. I’m still riding mountain bikes, skateboarding, snowboarding a few times a year. Workaholic because that’s what it takes nowadays just to survive.

Brooke: Yeah.

Damian: We have a great house in Orange, California and I still keep in touch with a lot of the pros and hook up with them once in a while to go mountain biking and stuff.

Brooke: Awesome.

Damian: But yeah I’m not the crazy party animal. I did about 20-25 years of crazy partying and you know snowboarding straight into Club Rubber was a nonstop party the whole time, and yeah. So now I’m 47 years-old, and can’t take it anymore. I party on New Years Eve and pay for it for about a week.

When I went to my first competition and saw that there was another hundred snowboarders in the world I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a hundred snowboarders total in the world, and here were a hundred all in one place at one time – it was phenomenal.

Brooke: I got one for you. In the modern snowboard era you know there’s lots of discussion about what snowboarding needs and what’s cool and what’s good for the sport what’s bad for the sport, was that ever something that you guys talked about or did it not even…

Damian: We were so young and dumb at the time, in our early 20s — late teens early 20s — we were so self-centered and everything was about how badass we could be and how hardcore we could be. So we weren’t really thinking too much about… we weren’t trying to shape the sport for anybody else that’s for sure. We knew we were onto something huge, and we couldn’t believe the rest of the world didn’t care at the time. When I went to my first competition and saw that there was another hundred snowboarders in the world I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a hundred snowboarders total in the world, and here were a hundred all in one place at one time – it was phenomenal. Now there’s millions. So we were like the rad gnarly dudes, almost like in the surf movies. All we cared about was going out there and hitting jumps and getting girls and stuff. And partying. So we weren’t really thinking about snowboarding, it was just so raw and real at the time. It was awesome. It was such a fun time to be a part of something so fresh.

Brooke: Yeah are you aware of what the industry is like or what the snowboard scene is like at all?

Damian: Yeah, I keep up on Facebook. I see every video that’s posted, but I’m not to up with the competition of it. I actually hate watching the competitions because they look like a bunch of robots. It looks like one kid to me. Every single run might as well have been the same guy because they’re doing the exact same tricks. And I remember so well when we were young. Everybody had a personality and a look and a style. You knew their girlfriend, and you knew their lifestyle, and now it’s like they all wear these giant goggles and hoods, and you know it could be any kid in the world. They’re all hucking some quad cork who knows what, where you can’t even figure out what their doing, so the style is gone. I’m sure to them they’re in the mix. It seemed like we had so much more personality and individuality back in our day.

Brooke: Yeah.

Damian: Everybody knew who Palmer was and everybody knew who Chris Roach was because they had a certain style and look to them. And now it looks like all one kid you know? All the same.

Brooke: Yeah. No that’s funny that you say that, that’s definitely what it’s like.

Damian: And then not to diss on their talent because their talent is through the roof. I mean Jesus, they can do things that we dreamed about with finger boards at the time, and now they’re doing it on their way to a jump. It’s unbelievable how good they are, it’s just so boring. I see these guys do these quad-somethings for first time in the world. I don’t know who he is, I barely know his name, and I’ll never see him again because that’s his one big trick. It’s just nuts. Like a one hit wonder band that has a hit in the 80s and that’s the last you ever saw of them.

 It’s unbelievable how good they are, it’s just so boring

Brooke: What do you think would help snowboarding in its current kind of homogeny? Damian Sanders comeback?

Damian: When you watch, like the Art of Flight is my favorite movie of all time. Watching Travis Rice and those guys up there just doing incredible feats, you get to know them a little bit in that movie, and I think that’s so important. In the other movies, a lot of them I’ve seen, it’s just like their just throwing moves at you so fast it doesn’t even matter, and you just start to yawn halfway through because. Who knows what that kid just did, he’s just spinning so fast off every single little hit — they’re huge hits sometimes, I mean it’s impressive what their doing — but it just gets monotonous and played out. At least with the Art of Flight you got to know the characters, you got to see it slowed down a little bit, and you get to feel it. That was one of the coolest things about the early snowboarding movies… they really got into our personal lives and there was a lot of behind the scenes stuff. So you really got to know the character and fall in love with each character individually. Now it’s just technical bullshit, so nobody even knows what the hell they’re doing.

Brooke: Yeah it seems like a lot of snowboarders don’t want their personal lives in it in this day and age, you know?

Damian: Yeah.

Brooke: It’s like they wanna be a snowboarder and it’s just snowboarding and all that other stuff gets left to the wayside. I don’t know if it’s like the media coverage or it’s the personalities themselves or whatever, why that is, but.

Damian: Yeah, you know skateboarding seems to have – and maybe it’s just because snowboarders are so bundled up you can’t see their faces, but like in skateboarding you seem like you get a little more personality out of the guys. But in my day of skateboarding you had all the pros, you know Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi, Lance Mountain, they were all characters, and they were all exciting… as a person and their lifestyle was broadcast as much as their skateboarding. That’s what made us think they were the coolest guys in the world. We all tried to emulate their style and follow what they were doing. I knew every single one of their lives, which was so fun. That’s what made them heroes to me and now it’s just a bunch of kids bundled up looking like Ewoks, because their outfit covers their entire body and you can’t see anything. You never even see their face, there’s no personality at all, just some badass ripper doing some trick I’ve never heard of. So, that kind of stuff…

Brooke: Can you believe how far snowboarding’s come? I mean the equipment you guys were riding was not quite on par, but…

Damian: Yeah, yeah. I remember being in Tahoe in the early days and if we saw a snowboard on someone’s car we actually followed them and talked to them and pulled over like “Oh my god, what are you riding.” It was so new, so exciting and groundbreaking that I had to know, and they had no problem talking. Everybody wanted to know everybody else in our new sport because you saw literally like one or two others a year. In the early ’80s, it was phenomenal just to see another snowboard, and you couldn’t believe somebody else did the sport that you were doing. And now it’s just – it’s as normal as skiing, as normal as football, it’s just nuts. I never would have dreamed that 25 years ago or 30 years ago when we started. I thought we were just onto some cool little thing for ourselves, and we’d go build little jumps, and do our surfer moves and now it’s worldwide.

This season I spent a few months in Boise, a hidden gem in the gem state with some very excellent snowboarding potential. I got it and got it good while I was there. Thanks to El Nino, it turned out to be one of the best seasons in recent memory, but it wasn’t just the pow days that won me over. Bushwhacking Bogus Basin is special, and here’s just a few reasons why.

Phil Damanaikes off the clock. 

-It doesn’t open til 10 am on weekdays. You can get up at 8:30 and make first chair on a pow day.

-Corey McDonald and Preston Woods’s park crew, including heavy hitters such as Vinny, Parker Duke, Loren Exon and Phillip Damianakes keep a tight ship, so if there’s no new snow, as often happens in Idaho, you’re covered.

-It’s a mellow 30-minute drive from Boise.

-They have night skiing and you can get deals on tickets by buying Pepsi at the gas station.

-Passes are affordable – and if you know anyone, you can probably get a season buddy pass – every employee gets one. If you’re not that cool, every pass holder also gets two day passes.

-It’s never very crowded, even on weekends, and the lines don’t ever get very long…

This guy rules. 

-…but the people watching is next level. Where did these people come from? They are pure entertainment.
-Also, the chairlift entertainment – watching people send giant bush gaps from chair six on powder days will never, ever get old.


Send it! 

-They have a snowboarding ski patrol aka Boarder Patrol Ben. We don’t know for sure, but we think he’s just making sure ropes are up so you can jump them.

And finally…

-Greg Goulet, Jeff Tulloch and Paul Whitworth sightings. You’re in the company of legends.

Loren Exon, on the clock. 

When you’re Ken Achenbach, you don’t do anything without two GoPros following you. 

The Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom made its triumphant return after a year off due to that bitch mother nature on February 18-21, 2016. The event was super sized for its 30th year, spanning four days of rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind, sun and just about everything else you could throw at a massive group of snowboard-types. But you know what they say about the weather at Mt. Baker: if you don’t like it – leave. And it’s hard to complain after a day like Saturday when competitors awoke to the requisite 8 inches of new snow and were treated to classic Baker goodness that was only mostly tracked out by the time the sun came out in the early afternoon. But enough about the weather – it’s hardly the reason that people travel around the globe for the legendary event which has happened almost every year since 1985.

This year’s course was the longest and trickiest yet – 43 turns, which at the bottom were so tight speed was slowed to a crawl as competitors did their best to navigate them. Some said it’s the longest banked slalom course anywhere in the world, and all but the fastest times topped 2 minutes. If you’ve ever gone balls-to-the-wall for that long you’ll know is a challenge no matter how much yoga you did last night. But it’s all part of what makes the event special. Everyone has their own reasons for trekking East on 542, so for the real scoop, we turned to the pros to get their favorite parts of the weekend.

Hana Beaman and Colleen Quigley. 

Hana Beaman – My favorite thing about the Baker Banked Slalom is having all these rad people come here and hang out and then get to shred Mt. Baker. Especially this weekend it was awesome with the snow and the conditions. Everyone just gets to shred around this mountain and it’s fun because there’s not a lot of people here on the norm. It’s like a party wave.

Jf Pelchat – To come here, RVing in the parking lot with friends and family and riding with your kids. After my pro career this is last stop, just being here with your kids and seeing them ripping the course.

Matt Wainhouse and Alex Andrews. 

Matt Wainhouse – Riding down taking the turns after I take my run. It’s relieving and they feel nice and easy.

Austen Sweetin – My favorite thing about the event is all the people that are here and all the speed we see hauling ass down these berms. You never know who’s gonna make it or blow out trying.

Tucker Andrews – Following the Warbs around.

Gus Warbington – My favorite thing about the event is the gathering of people.

Max Warbington – It’s the bros and everything except for racing down the course. That’s my least favorite. Everything up until that point I like.

Deep snow, deep turns.

Scotty Lago – Seeing all the people I haven’t seen in forever. I’ve been on the contest circuit and this is whole different group of people that I get to see. People like Jake Blauvelt, Eric Jackson, Patrick McCarthy, Terje Haakonsen. It’s really cool to see everyone in one good setting like this.

Mike Basich – The people, the environment, the vibe, all the love.

Jake Blauvelt – Getting to hang with all the legends. Take runs, even outside the course. There’s all the anticipation to get in that course, all the butterflies. You finally get in and get to ride the course and just enjoy it. It’s for your run, but you gotta enjoy it because you don’t get any practice. I love to be here with the legends and enjoy those banked turns because you don’t get that anywhere else in the world.

Madison Blackley – Everything about this mountain. It’s beautiful here, it’s insane.

Alex Yoder – My favorite thing about the Legendary Banked Slalom is camping in the parking lot because I really don’t like commuting. I like waking up and walking to the mountain and they just let you camp here for free and that’s a beautiful thing. And the snowboarding’s fun.

Johnny Brady – Free Food. The fondue, the salmon, the paella, it’s great.

And if you fell, there was a bitch pow run to be had. 

So it’s settled, the people, the place, the speed, the food. It’s all good and makes the great event. That said, Mattieu Crepel and Maelle Ricker were awarded the golden duct tape for going the fastest in the pro division and lots more results are here. Until next year…

The Seasons Collection is an impressive coffee table book from an even more impressive project, a 150 hardcovered-page recap Matt Alberts’ inspirational journey. Sponsored by Cadillac, Matt traveled in luxury (brand new Cadillacs and and airstream is hardly “camping”) to visit some of the coolest people in the world, in some of the best and most beautiful places, and capture it all on not just film, but wet collodion tin types that will last forever and ever.

The book was actually written by Bonfire founder Brad Steward. Though it is mainly photos, the short version of the journey (we’re sure there are many, many more tales of amazing things Matt got to do over the course of the year that got left out) is beautifully written in a voice you can authentically believe to be Matt’s. And being authentic is what really matters, right?

The words are interesting, but the book is really about the photos, which are a mix between digital and tin types. The tin types vary from haunting portraits on blank backgrounds to people in their natural environment. Because the tin type process makes eyes look creepy as hell, the close up portraits may very well haunt you in your dreams, but we promise, these people are all very much alive and living life, as they say.

We would be irresponsible to mention there are only three seasons (snow, water and sun) in the book. Kind of a let down because we wanted more, so we hope Matt gets to keep those Cadillacs and do Canada next. If so, he’ll need gas money, and you can support the cause by owning your own copy. The book is for sale on TheLIFERSProject.com for $70.

In football, baseball and basketball, pro salaries are as common a topic of discussion as great plays or crushing defeats. When a rookie is signed to the majors right out of college, the details of his contract are often public knowledge, subject to dissection by the sports media and fans on message boards. But in the snowboard industry, salaries are a seemingly taboo subject. It’s all about the fun, right bro?

The hesitance to discuss cash is actually for several reasons, the biggest being that there is no “global snowboard federation” setting the rates for what snowboarders get paid. The majority of a rider’s money comes strictly from sponsorships and endorsement deals, negotiated by agents or in many cases, the riders themselves. How much a rider makes based on several factors, least of which is ability, and most of which is based on social media reach, editorial coverage, competition results and the willingness to play the game (being where you need to, when you need to, and doing it without bitching, at that.)

In researching this story, I reached out to marketers, team managers and agents I received a lot of similar responses amounting to, “I really don’t think I should say…” Even the pros themselves are hesitant to share just how much they are netting, either because they think they’re worth more, don’t want to seem like they’re bragging, or don’t want to bum out a teammate who may be making less. The “bro factor” plays a huge role in who gets paid at all, and so staying away from money-related drama is just good business.

But the biggest reason that snowboard salaries are somewhat hush hush is simply that they are so widely varied. The riders you see in contests and videos could be making anywhere from a few thousand, to several hundred thousand dollars a year, with the top guys bringing in seven figures. A lot of pros though, are lucky to make it through their career without going into debt or working a second job during the summer.

How do snowboarders make money?

Ozzy Henning, Mike Gray, Zak Hale and Madison Blackley, slightly richer after this year’s HDHR

The snowboard industry is divided into several segments. Video/editorial pros can either focus on backcountry or street and create content, which helps promote their sponsors through various channels. Contest pros can make money by winning contests and getting editorial coverage, (though unless you’re a consistent top 3 finisher, it will often cost more to travel to the contest than you actually win.) It’s also possible to make a career based on resort riding and web edits, although the most valuable and successful riders do some combination of all of the above.

The snowboard landscape is split into regions, with the Europe/Asia/Africa market existing as an almost entirely separate entity from the North American one. Within Europe, the market is again divided, equally as much by language as it is by country, as the majority of European snowboarders ride almost exclusively on holiday, meaning they travel rather than living by a resort. This makes the “regional” pro, which is a necessity for brands in the US, less of a factor when looking at European marketing.

Brands, no matter how core or corporate use snowboarders the same way – as giant walking billboards. Accordingly, the amount of space the brand occupies designates how much a rider should be paid for their services. Outerwear, which is the highest visibility, is typically the highest paying sponsor, while hardgoods, optics, gloves, helmets, streetwear and headwear make up the rest of the pie. Non-endemic sponsors (those that don’t make anything to do with snowboarding, ie energy drinks, beef jerky, head phones) also purchase real estate in the form of sticker placement, appearances, and of course oh-so-valuable social media shout outs.

What is a snowboarder worth?

Contest riders historically are paid the most because they get the most media exposure. Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is not only a stunning endorsement for the equipment you ride, but you’re likely to be mentioned in every media outlet, appear on late night TV, and even get talked about on the National Nightly News – which may not sell actual snowboards, but for a mainstream brand translates to a lot of value. In general, for any type of brand, editorial coverage is valued at a premium of about 4 times that of advertising. Basically, having a third party say you’re great is always going to be more valuable than paid placement telling people the same thing.

For an actual snowboard brand, sponsoring athletes is just one piece of the marketing puzzle, and brands divide their budgets between athletes, advertising, content-creation, events and more, making the answer to the question even less cut and dry. Within the industry, much of the snowboard media is “pay to play” meaning the mags and sites will not feature a brand unless they are advertising. So brands not only have to pay a rider a salary and cover their travel expenses, but then pay to get them featured in a video (buy ins to pro movies can be upwards of $20,000 which pays for all the expenses that go into making a video such as travel, equipment and filmer salaries – although this system has crumbled in recent years), and then buy an ad in the magazine so the magazine will then feature their riders at all. And all of this is done with about 10% of of their gross revenue, however this number varies depending on the brands strategic business plans, and could be as little as 3-4%.

The Great Recession

Never fear, according to a bunch of crap people are trying to sell on the Internet, money doesn’t matter. 

Now the bad news. Snowboarding’s death/slump/recession has hit professional snowboarding especially hard and salaries have been contracting steadily over the past couple seasons. Some of this can be blamed on the departure of Nike from the industry. The footwear giant was paying riders way more than those riders could possibly sell in snowboard product – as the multi-billion dollar brand had a lot more available money to pay its athletes to serve as brand ambassadors and not just tools to sell boots. Six figure contracts were common, (although not the norm), and though they’re honoring those contracts (some with over a year left to go) that’s a big chunk of money that is no longer being pumped into the snowboard economy. Add in a couple awful winters and a sluggish global economy and there’s not a lot of money floating around at the moment for professional snowboarders.

That said, the idea of getting paid to snowboard at all is still a relatively new one. When the first generation of snowboarders began to gain market share in the ski industry, most people were just excited to get free stuff and never dreamed of getting paid at all. It is only in recent years with the proliferation of coaches and academies that kids (ok, their parents) now see snowboarding as a viable career option at all. And while riders in the 90s seemed to be raking it in, the reality is there are a lot more people getting paid to snowboard now than ever before.

So while the exact numbers in the bank accounts of professional snowboarders may never be common knowledge, some people are getting paid, and others are getting by. Snowboard super agent Circe Wallace summed it up best. “There are maybe 5 guys making 7 figures plus. Everyone else is fighting for what’s left over.”

Summer in Portland can be deceiving. It’s sunny every day, there are insane skateparks a plenty and if you want to snowboard, it’s totally a possibility. Life is easy. Everyone is nice, the scenery is beautiful, and holy shit is there a lot of stuff to do. It’s perfect enough that you might be tempted to move here- especially if you’re from somewhere shitty. But don’t be fooled. Portland is really a horrible place to live, and even more so if you’re a snowboarder. Here are just a few of the reasons you definitely should not consider moving here full time, if at all.

Terrible puns are a part of daily life. 

1. It rains all the fucking time. Have you ever been in a place where everyone suffers from seasonal affective disorder? It ain’t fun and from November to March, get used to it.

You will be horrible at skating Burnside. 

2. The mountain is far away. I mean, far is a relative term, but driving an hour and 15 minutes both ways (sometimes 4 hours if the snow level is low and it’s a weekend) is a serious commitment and really kills your whole day. Plus, on powder days you have to get up at like, 6 am. Gross.

Passive aggressive assholes are everywhere. 

3. Mt. Hood is flat. There’s a ton of traversing most of the good stuff is super short with really long in and outruns. It really requires calf strength and is super annoying.

You’ll be too busy looking at strippers to get anything done. 

4. Drivers suck. For a city where no one is willing to make the first move at a four-way stop and the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph, the rate of wrecks is out of control. If you ride a bike regularly, you will get hit from time to time, and if you’re trying to navigate the streets using your cell phone, you’re only adding to the problem.

You’ll be forced to watch the X Games while you’re buying weed. 

5. The snow is heavy. This year it never even really got cold enough to snow. I mean, that’s not normal, but it could be the NEW NORMAL. Either way, you only get a few light powder days a year. What the shit is that?

You can’t even get gluten in your lap dances!

6. Everyone will hate you. Even though pretty much everyone in Portland is a transplant, nothing gets more eye rolls than when you say you “just moved here from California.” Sure, there’s irony in the self-loathing, but once you’ve been here more than a year, you’ll understand and begin to hate yourself too.

The parks are filled with scooters!

7. It’s not a snowboard city. There’s too much to do here to really wanna dedicate the amount of time and effort it takes to drive to the mountain. Snowboarding is a full day, where as even if you’re old and lazy like me, there are fun mellow parks you can skate and pretend you’re “exercising,” and still have time to day drink.

The swimming holes are way too crowded. 

8. It’s not that cheap anymore. The five-year-old dream of moving to Portland, splitting a house with eight of your closest friends from Craigslist so you can pay $200 each a month for rent is dead. Even though rent has gone up dramatically, wages and potential for gainful employment haven’t. Also, while most bars still have beers for $2, a lot don’t!

Even the squirrels in Portland are lazy. 

And that’s really just scratching the surface. If you’re looking for a new place to live the shred dream, we hear Denver is the spot. Whatever you do, don’t move to Portland.

You’ll be part of the problem. 

http://www.dontmovetoportlandoregon.com/

Snowboarding was simpler in the 90s. Fewer people did it, the Internet hadn’t ruined it yet, and the popular consensus was to keep shit punk rock. Snowboarding was turning mainstream, and depending on who you asked, it was the beginning, or the end. For the riders who grew up in this magical decade and are still at it, there’s a bit of nostalgia floating around these days. Maybe because it hurt a lot less back then (getting old sucks) but mostly because that’s just kinda how things work. So, for you, my fellow 30+ board brethren, here’s 20 things that will remind you how old you are.

1. You’ve answered the question “How do you stop on those things?” on a chairlift.

Snowboarding was accepted, but far from mainstream in the 90s. Our parents still assumed it was a fad and you’d often encounter incredulous skiers asking absurd questions. Hell, Transworld even made a shirt with the answers.

2. You know TB stands for Totally Board.

While technically Fall Line Films was the first, the 90s were all about TB and Mack Dawg. Dawger was arguably more hip with younger riders, while the TB movies had lots of big mountain sections to fast forward through. But either way, you bought them both, every year.

3. You remember thinking it was insane when Jeff Brushie signed a 1.3 million dollar contract with Ride.

But still thought it was cooler when he rode for Burton. “Selling out” was kind of a big deal back then.

Brian Regis and Rahm Klampert. Pulled from the Yobeat photo archive.

4. You at one point wished you could ride the Killington half pipe (or you hiked it everyday – and night for the one season it had lights.)

See back then, the average halfpipes topped out at 12 feet and it was actually kinda fun. They were the 90s answer to the rainbow rail. Killington, in particular, had a solid scene of people who almost made it and the week before the Open everyone who was anyone would show up to “train.”

Photo: Sky Chalmers via ESPN

5. You remember when the US Open was a drunken mess, and people actually cared about it.

Oh, and there were no bag checks.

These suckers were guarantee not to break. Your ankles on the other hand…

6. You’ve ridden (or wanted) baseless bindings.

So much better board feel, dude.

8. Peter Line is kinda your hero.

Not only was he good at snowboarding, he had funny board graphics, and he was short enough to not be threatening.

9. You rode a stomp pad before it was ironic.

And if you were riding Clickers, it probably came in handy when they froze, broke, or otherwise failed you mid-run.

10. You had a Mack Dawg sticker pack, in its entirety, on the back window of your car.

It was a pain in the ass to scrape it off every September when the new one came out, but you had to keep that shit fresh, yo.

Told ya, Lifty guys.

11. You’ve been denied access to a chairlift for not having a leash.

So you ingeniously rigged up a shoelace from your boot to binding to trick the lifty. Why anyone thought run-away snowboards might be an issue, we’re still not sure.

12. You thought Shaun Palmer was kind of a bad ass.

Now you know he actually is.

13. You spent hours playing Cool Boarders 2.

But you never touched another snowboard game after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out.


Jim Rippey, big air master. Photo: air-style.com

14. You remember when guys didn’t land 720s every time in contests.

And when they did, they won the contest.

Airwalk ad, circa 1996

15. You owned Airwalk Snowboard Boots

They were a big step up from your Sorels, but that’s not saying much.

Prom ad. Circa 1995

16. Every girl who you knew that rode was sponsored.

Both of them. And Tina Basich was their hero.

17. You either loved, or hated the Garden.

Nothing in between.

18. You can tell the difference between Ten Foot Pole, Pulley, No Use for a Name and Face to Face when you hear them.

Thanks to the music credits at the beginning of every part in videos, you had that shit down.

 

Sweet pants dude. No idea who this is, it was an ad for something though.

19. You used a studded belt to hold up your absurdly baggy pants.

And weren’t even a little bit ashamed.

20. You claim 93/94 was the best season ever.

Cause it was, duh.

It’s been said that you should never snowboard with your significant other. But what if through some miracle of chemistry or internet dating, you’ve found “the one.” The only problem? He/she doesn’t snowboard. Trust us, this will lead to nothing but heartbreak and Christmas-powder-day guilt if you just let them remain a non-shredding member of society. But who the hell really wants to teach someone to snowboard? No matter how much you love them. Never fret formerly-single person: we’re here to help.

1. Get them a lesson

Seriously, let someone else spend that miserable first day of falling with your partner. Maybe the “pros” will even be able to prevent them from breaking any bones, a sure fire way to lose them from the start. If they refuse, leave them alone for the first two days.

2. Slow Down

Once they’ve mastered their J-turns and garlands, it’s time to take them out and show them what real snowboarding is all about, right? Not so fast there, Charlie. Unless they’re a snowboard wunderkind you’ll probably have to spend the next few times snowboard waiting for them and giving them pointers. It’s ok, it will all be worth it someday.

3. Tell your friends to fuck off.

They’re not just useless to you on a powder day, your friends will also not be helpful while trying to get someone hooked on snowboarding. But! I love my friends, you might say. Newsflash: your significant other probably doesn’t love them as much as you, and their zany antics will only serve to be annoying while he/she is trying to learn. Once your partner is at a moderate-intermediate level, you can then let snowboarding be the proof that you buddies aren’t all drunken buffoons (warning, it may not work.)

3. Take them on the stuff they like.

Remember, different people like different kinds of snowboarding, and until they’re hooked, you want to make it as pleasurable as possible. So, even though “the trail isn’t that steep,” don’t make your girlfriend/boyfriend ride through the park so you can hit the boxes. They will thank you, and so will other people who’s way they’re not in. Make it your goal to make sure she/he is having a good time. We promise, a few days of sacrifice and compromise won’t kill you.

5. Remember, they don’t love snowboarding, yet.

Some people will love snowboarding right away — just being outside, hanging out with friends, getting exercise — but many “normal” people will find something to hate. It hurts, it’s cold, they’re bad at it, whatever. All of these things pass with time, but it’s going to take patience to get there. Be understanding when they want to quit after an hour, or at least buy them a drink while you take a few more runs.

In time, the bug will be caught (how could it not be) and you’ll have a perfectly-trained riding buddy in addition to a loving life partner. And what could possibly be better than that?

Last week, pro skier Gus Kentworthy came out to ESPN. Overall, the response has been great and supportive, Kenworthy told the Wall Street Journal. “I’ve had a ton of people reach out to me, which has been amazing. I’ve had other athletes in my sport, Bobby Brown, Josh Christensen, Tom Wallisch, I’ve had snowboarders..” Unfortunately, one snowboarder, who’s legendary status raises his voice louder than the others, took to twitter with a poorly-worded joke.

This tweet has brought a firestorm of unwanted attention upon Terje, who just doesn’t seem to understand what the big deal is. “Every time someone shockingly “admits” to be gay he pins under “abnormality.” For me sexuality is insignificant,” Terje went on to tweet after receiving blowback on social media.

Terje is right in some ways – your sexuality doesn’t and shouldn’t matter when it comes to your skiing or snowboarding. But after the triple corking is done, Gus and every other athlete lives in the real world. In the real world homophobia still runs rampant, words and thoughtless jokes hurt, which is one of the things Gus opens up about in the article. Since Terje probably didn’t even read it, here’s the actual excerpt that explains it:

Kenworthy has watched carefully these past few years as the world around him has grown more accepting. Gay marriage is legal now, attitudes are changing. He was excited this spring when Caitlyn Jenner came out. He believes that people are more aware.

“But then at the same time,” he says, “people are literally oblivious.”

For him, there have existed day-to-day reminders. Take, for instance, the former sponsor who made a crude anti-gay remark about why Kenworthy was once late to a competition. Take his physical therapist, who once told Kenworthy that he couldn’t even imagine talking to a gay guy all night. (“I thought, ‘You’ve talked to a gay guy for two hours a day, four days a week for seven months.’ “)

Take the constant drumbeat of living in a culture that uses the words “gay” and “fag” as commonly as “stoked.” A daily check of social media for Kenworthy means encountering posts written by friends or peers who, without knowing it, reveal what they think about his sexuality. Today, it might be a Facebook rant or an Instagram post from a pro snowboarder who’s annoyed that “skier fags” have infiltrated another contest or complaining that a shoddy halfpipe is “gay.” Tomorrow, it might be a tweet written by an athlete he admires who is “sickened” by same-sex marriage.

“There’s a lot of testosterone in our sport, and those derogatory words get thrown around like crazy,” says Canadian freeskier Justin Dorey. “A lot of people don’t think twice about it because those words don’t mean anything to them.”

In 2015, where news travels at the speed of the Internet and you’re constantly inundated with new information, its easy for the non-affected to shrug and say, big fucking deal. But this is a big fucking deal, and it’s time for snowboarding and all action sports to remove homophobic slurs from our lexicon entirely. Terje made himself look like a moron and deserves every bit of media scrutiny he did and will receive. Todd Richards, who had a front row seat for the shitshow thanks to a seemingly out of nowhere mention in the tweet, said the whole situation is a case of stupidity.

“100 percent of comedy is timing, and if you’re going to diss someone in English, at least use spell check. Utmost respect for Gus’s courage in a close-minded world.”


All photos courtesy of Ski-bums.org

Thanks to androgynous snowboard gear and lots of layers, it can be hard to tell if someone is male or female on the hill, much less judge their sexual preference, not that it matters.  But we figured, if anyone knows how to pick out the gays and lesbians on the hill (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s Chris French, the owner of Ski Bums. Chris’s organization puts together trips for LGBT skiers and snowboarders to glamorous locations around the world, a chance for gay skier and snowboarders to unite and shred. So read on to learn what to look for and remember, acceptance is all the rage.

Where are most gay snowboarders who come on your trips from?

We’ve got more than 1,500 members from all fifty states – but we got our start in NYC, so we still have quite a few New Yorkers. That said, many of ‘em are folks who grew up in mountain states like Colorado, Utah, Vermont and California.

What’s the ability level of most gay snowboarders?

About half are intermediates, but we’ve got a lot of serious shredders! Thirty percent of the BUMS are expert riders.

They ride obscure snowboards.

What type of terrain do most of the gay snowboarders on your trips enjoy?

It depends on where we are. When we host an East Coast trip, for example, we’ll have a sizable group of people who are relatively new to the sport; they’ll hang out all day on the groomers and set their own goals – they just might be praying to make it down their first black diamond without biting it. But when we take trips to major destinations — like Japan, Bariloche, Chamonix or our upcoming hell trip to Alaska — people will be riding the hardest terrain they can find. Only a handful of our riders are real tricksters who spend the day in the parks or pipes; on last year’s trip to Jackson Hole, our advanced riders spent every day off-piste in the sidecountry


Do gay snowboarders dress better than straight snowboarders?

On the mountain? I hate to say this, but no, not really! The stereotype doesn’t apply… the gay boarders I know aren’t usually the ones in the huge oversized multi-colored outfits that grab your attention on the chair.

Really, there’s no gay mountain fabulousness?

Okay, fine, they may have chosen their lime-green goggle lens because it matches the accent color on their helmet, gloves, and bindings. But to tell the truth, gay snowboarders dress pretty much exactly the same as straight snowboarders.

How old are the gay snowboarders you’ve met?

A whole range. I know some awesome dudes who have been boarding since the early 80’s and they’re retired now – and last year, we got to do an amazing afternoon with high school kids from Park City High School’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), where we met 14-year-old gay boarders. They had never met any gay grownups who loved the mountains as much as they do. That was an inspiring day.


They ride the chairlifts!

Who’s the best gay snowboarder you’ve ever met?

Best at being gay? Best at snowboarding? Or just “The Best!” in all respects?

Best at snowboarding.

Hmmm. There a few out gay snowboarding instructors at Jackson Hole who have incredible technical skills. There’s also a group of young locals who ride just about every weekend at Whistler-Blackcomb, and some of those guys are gay. I got one of ‘em to wear my helmet cam for a few runs last year, and the footage was insane. But like all of us, I’ve met incredible snowboarders where the subject of who they love simply never came up, and I’ve learned not to assume that just because a guy is masculine, or just because a girl is feminine, doesn’t mean that they may not be gay.

They drink beer!

Alright, so you can’t tell. Enough of that, let’s get serious. Statistically there are enough pro snowboarders that at least one of them must be gay. Why don’t you think there are any openly gay (male) snowboarders? (There are definitely a few out lesbians!)

I truly hope that will change soon. There are pro riders who have come out socially – their friends and family know that they’re gay, lesbian or bi – but they’ve never said anything to the press. I met Travis Rice while SKI BUMS was hosting a trip to Chile. He was down there filming “The Art of Flight.” He told me that top-level male snowboarders had come out to him personally.

Why hasn’t any of them come out to the press? I’m not sure. I think the atmosphere is ready for it. Snowboarding is about freedom and individuality. It embraces counter-culture dynamics from people who don’t play by the rules. No matter who you are, of course it’s scary to be the first. But as other out athletes have learned — like former NBA player John Amaechi, who’s a good friend of mine — simply making one public statement can be enough to inspire an entire generation. Elite snowboarders who are gay have an incredible opportunity. When you’re being bullied in school, or simply feeling like you don’t fit in, one role model can be enough to help a gay teen make it through the tough years.


And don’t forget about lesbians.

Going into Sochi, how would you like to see snowboarding respond to Russia’s new anti-gay laws?

What’s happening right now in Russia is horrific. Under these new laws, I could be tossed in jail and deported for simply holding hands with a boyfriend. Any public statement in support of LGBT people – even if you’re straight – is against the law. They’ve already banned all foreign adoptions of Russian children to anyone in a country that permits same-sex marriage, and they’re proposing a new piece of legislation that would make it a crime for gay people to raise even their own biological children.

In some ways, I’m glad that Russia is hosting the Olympics. It’s bringing international scrutiny to a frightening program of oppressive laws, and Russian LGBT people need us to stand up and help protect them. Unfortunately, the IOC has very strict rules about political statements from participating Olympians, but they’ve pledged that they will allow no discrimination against LGBT athletes. For its part, Russia has pledged that it will uphold its laws – so it’s anybody’s guess what’s actually going to happen. The best and most powerful thing that any top-tier snowboarder could do would simply be to come out, as Aussie snowboarder Belle Brockhoff recently did. There were two dozen openly gay Olympians in London, and I think we could experience a tremendously powerful symbolic moment if an out gay athlete wins a medal in Sochi.

For equality-minded straight allies, Athlete Ally recently launched a campaign called “Uphold Principle 6,” where Olympians are holding the IOC to their pledge that every individual must be able to practice “without discrimination of any kind.”

When a top-tier snowboarder comes out, I hope we’ll see a full embrace from the snowboarding world, with public statements of support from sponsors, gear makers and riders everywhere. I happen to know a few hundred snowboarders who will be very, very inspired when that day finally arrives.

Until then, I hope snowboarders will simply do what they do best. Get out on the mountain, be themselves, and let nothing hold them back from having a blast out there!

Interested in learning more? Visit http://www.ski-bums.org/