Snowboarding’s Award Show: Riders’ Poll 19 Recap + Gallery

The winners and what went down at Riders Poll 19 in Breckenridge, Colorado.

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Vans: Trickin & Waffles—An Interview with the Landline. Crew

A sweet and greasy conversation with the Vans Landline. crew.

Read the full Vans: Trickin & Waffles—An Interview with the Landline. Crew article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Risk Maturity: Pat Moore’s Avalanche Class at Baldface Lodge

There is rarely a matter that brings people together faster than that of safety. As humans we tend to learn what not to do only after it has been done and when it comes to avalanches our greatest lessons are learned when lives are lost. By studying what went wrong, deconstructing the glaring clarity of

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Different, with a Side of Danger: Drink Water Double Tap 2017 Results + Photos

Now in its second annual iteration, Drink Water’s Double Tap is an event format that is the first of its kind.

The post Different, with a Side of Danger: Drink Water Double Tap 2017 Results + Photos appeared first on TransWorld SNOWboarding.

Snowboarding, Surfing And The Culture Of Yesterday

Snowboarding, Surfing And The Culture Of Yesterday

Bryan Fox explains the motivation behind his latest project.

Boards. Water. Slopes and speed. Snowboarding and surfing are born from the same simple formula. But somehow, their cultures found a way to grow apart. They spawned different industries. Different ideals. Different concepts of how things should work at pretty much every level.

A simple, timeless Method with Bryan Fox. // Japan // PHOTO: Bob Plumc

These days, though, things are changing. There are more snowboarders taking an interest in surfing and more surfers taking an interest in snowboarding. And suddenly, the cultures seem closer than ever.

Yesterday // Japan // PHOTO: Bob Plumb

Bryan Fox’s latest project, Yesterday, is a good representation of that. The film features three road trips in three different countries, a lot of pure snowboarding and even one quick wave. I called Bryan to ask him about the fusion of snow and surf and what we can learn from it all.

And as far as the riding goes, his overall message was resounding — just because something is simple doesn’t mean it can’t be highly enjoyable. And now enjoy the interview below.

Bryan Fox in Japan // PHOTO: Bob Plumb

Tell us about Yesterday.
BRYAN FOX: I wanted to keep it simple. Whenever I put out content, my whole goal is to make people want to go snowboarding. Yesterday is the sum of three different road trips, so I guess I wanted to inspire people to go on road trips with their homies and have some fun.

How were the trips?

Each of them was cool in its own way. In Japan, we rented a van in Sapporo and drove up the coast to Rishiri Island. There were no hotels or restaurants open, so we slept in the van and would eat, charge batteries and warm up at a gas station. Oregon was cool because we climbed Mt. Hood and camped near the top, then rode down and went surfing. And in New Zealand, we had a full plan but then Yoder met a guy hitchhiking the first day who happened to work for a heli-boarding company and offered to hook us up. So we literally changed all of our plans and did that.

We’d be stoked on a trip to Japan too if we could turn like this. // PHOTO: Bob Plumb

Alex Yoder and Bryan Fox // New Zealand // PHOTO: Bryan Fox

Climbing Mt. Hood. // Mt. Hood, OR // PHOTO: Bryan Fox

The film has a really surfy feel to it — you even put a wave in there. Is that what you were going for?
Yeah, in a way. I can say that we intentionally didn’t put any real tricks in it. We wanted to see if we could make a short film just riding down the hill. And according to most of the people I’ve talked to about it, it’s coming across in the way we hoped: simple. I think it’s cool that people are calling it surfy.

What inspired that?
Probably some of the super-tech shit that hinders snowboarding culture from moving forward because it’s so acrobatic. That stuff is crazy to watch and I love that it exists, but it seems like they’re trying to make snowboarding a viewer-oriented sport instead of a cool activity that people can participate in. And there’s no culture that comes with that. There’s nothing for people to identify with. So I wanted Yesterday to sort of be an antithesis to all that.

“We wanted to see if we could make a short film just riding down the hill.” // PHOTO: Bryan Fox

Do you feel like snowboarding and surfing are getting more similar?
There are definitely more people doing both now. I think a lot of ideas are crossing over, too. I have this line of boards with Nitro called the Quiver. The concept is to have options that you’re meant to ride in different conditions, which is a complete rip-off of surf mentality. And I think snowboarding culture is becoming like surfing in the sense that you can age with. You can have fun and love it without having to do crazy shit. That’s one of the coolest things about surfing. A 70-year-old can enjoy the ocean just as much as a 12-year-old. Now, more people are realizing that you can be old and have a great time just riding a board down a mountain. I love that.

One person that truly enjoys riding down the mountain—Austen Sweetin. // PHOTO : Bryan Fox

How are snowboarding and surfing alike?
They relate a lot more to each other than either of them do to skating because they’re both so dependent on weather occurrences. It keeps you way more into it because it’s futile. You have to go when it’s good because it might not be good again for a while. It’s like a human nature hunting thing — it makes it more rewarding.

Bryan Fox // Japan // PHOTO: Bob Plumb

What about in terms of the actual feeling?
Riding power can be somewhat similar, but people try to compare more than they should. There is something about riding natural terrain though — it’s real spur of the moment. You can’t plan what’s going on and you have to react instantly. There are times when you end a wave or a line and are like woah, I can’t believe that actually worked out.

In surfing right now, wave pools are getting popular and people worry that the sport will become routine-based and suffer as a result. Do you think there’s a parallel there with snowboarding?

100%. Parks gave us an era of all these crazy robot kids in snowboarding. They might have a board on their feet, but what they’re doing is more like gymnastics than anything else. Now there might be a generation of weird jock kids in surfing. I don’t know if it will hurt the sport though. In the end, it’ll probably just inspire the other side more. That’s what happened in snow. It gave people a reason to say fuck that, that’s not my culture and push things in the other direction.

We hope to see more of this in the near future. // New Zealand // PHOTO: Bryan Fox

How has your appreciation of snowboarding changed over the years?

You go through phases. Sometimes you get bored with it, then you get rejuvenated — it’s like a relationship. But right now, I enjoy it as much as I ever did. With all the fucked up things going down in the world, it’s good to have activities that enable you to fully check out, to be in that moment and not have to think about anything else.

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

Legend Award – TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll 19

Legend Award

Todd Richards

It’s obvious that the term “legend” is thrown around in snowboarding a tad too much. We get that. However, when used properly and in regard to the right person, it’s truly the ultimate descriptor for the deserving party. This year’s Legend Award is being presented to Mr. Todd Richards to celebrate his decades-long career in the snowboard industry. Both as a professional rider, business owner and television personality within our culture, Todd has been a guiding voice and trendsetter within snowboarding. From being a part of snowboarding’s debut in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics to covering the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as a broadcaster for NBC, Todd’s tenure in snowboarding has come full circle and his efforts to remain embedded in our culture’s daily discourse have proven that he’s in it for the long haul and very deserving of this coveted award. Thanks for all you have done, Todd. We look forward to hearing what you have to say more than ever before.

Check out all the nominees here!

Women’s Video Part of the Year Nominees – TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll 19

Women’s Video Part of the Year

While contests are a good medium to get your name known, a solid video part can propel a rider to renowned ranks within their peer group, and that’s exactly what Kimmy Fasani, Marie-France Roy and Robin Van Gyn have been doing for years now. All three of these ladies are capable of winning Women’s Video Part of the Year but only one can. However, this isn’t the last time you will likely see their names on this roster, as they are three of the world’s best in front of the lens and last winter, they logged enough clips to put them at the top of their respective trade.

Check out all the nominees here!

Kimmy Fasani // Revelstoke, BC // PHOTO: Erin Hogue

Kimmy Fasani, Turbodojo

Kimmy Fasani has paved the way for females who film over the last few winters. By spending her time less on in-bounds footage and more on the steep and deeps of places like British Columbia and Alaska, she’s forging her own path and last winter, with Justin Hostynek and his Absinthe Films crew focusing solely on her, Kimmy pillaged pow across the globe and put out what may be her best video part to date.

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Marie-France Roy, Cosa Nostra

Marie-France Roy grew up with the Déjà Vu crew riding street rails and earning her accolades in an urban environment but years back, she decided to hone her sights on the alpine and successfully made the transition into backcountry boardin’, and the fruits of her labor are evident now. Marie’s part in the Arbor movie Cosa Nostra are inspiring, entertaining and amazing all wrapped up into one and she is more than deserving of this nod for Women’s Video Part of the Year.

Robin Van Gyn // Galena, BC // PHOTO: Andy Wright

Robin Van Gyn, Depth Perception

There are few riders on earth who can hang with Travis Rice in the high alpine, and you can officially consider Robin Van Gyn one of them. Together with Bryan Fox, Sweetin and Rice, the four of them put out Depth Perception, one of the most entertaining films of the year, and Robin’s footage is ridiculous. From three-story pillow lines to gargantuan backcountry kickers, she destroyed everything that lay in her way and rode away unscathed…and worthy of this nod.

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

Men’s Video Part of the Year Nominees – TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll 19

Check out the nominees for Men’s Video Part of the Year and find out who wins in Breckenridge, CO on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.

The post Men’s Video Part of the Year Nominees – TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll 19 appeared first on TransWorld SNOWboarding.

Dialed: A Profile of Jake Blauvelt

Photos: Adam Moran

Of the many appealing aspects of a career as a professional snowboarder, longevity is not one which should be assumed. It is the negative characteristic of an otherwise unbeatable job. Like any compensated athletic endeavor, it’s not forever, and standing the test of time’s constant tick is a combination of multiple factors. Relevance and physical wellbeing are the most important. Jake Blauvelt is among a minority that not only understands the necessity to maintain these traits but has the foresight and understanding to do so. The life he’s built for himself is testament to this while simultaneously perpetuating it, and the absurd talent he demonstrates in the mountains season after season reminds us why Jake has a place among a certain echelon of riders and will remain there. From his signature boots to his East Coast roots, below are brief insights from someone who seemingly has it all figured out.

Home mountain
Now, it’s Mt. Baker. But I grew up in Vermont, riding Bolton Valley and Stowe. Mainly Stowe.

Getting to the Northwest
When I was 17 I moved to Mammoth, then Tahoe, then I landed in the Northwest nine years ago and haven’t left.

The draw to the Northwest
It must have been in ’07 that I took my first trip up to Whistler to film with the Forum guys. Devun Walsh and JP Walker and all those guys. I got a taste for Northwest terrain and the coastal mountains. I had some buddies living in Bellingham as well, so I’d crash at their place and ride Baker, then go a little further north up to Whistler, and I just realized that I liked the terrain better than down in California.

“The light was beautiful. It was pretty early in the morning. The snow was like a meter of Japan champagne powder, and there were all these little snowflakes coming down, and the light was hitting them. Right before going into that heelside slash, I remember thinking, ‘Damn, we’re in Japan, and I’m about to go shred some crazy snow. I must have done something right in my life because I’m so happy right now.’”

I moved there when I was 18. That’s when I cut my teeth in the backcountry. Tahoe was a super nice learning ground for backcountry riding because the terrain is pretty mellow in relation to the Northwest or Alaska. It was a great place to learn, but I was like, “Alright, I think I’m ready to advance to the Northwest terrain.”

The crew from that time
I was riding mainly with Cole Barash and Travis Kennedy. And I was filming with Defective Films, with Sean Johnson. Kennedy was filming on the same crew with me, so we got to team up a lot, and Cole was starting to shoot a lot at that point. We lived in a house together in Truckee. Those were some funny times. Me, Cole, Travis, and Mitch Reed. The four of us in a little A-frame on the top of Northwood Boulevard in Truckee. Cole’s actually coming out to my house from the East Coast today. It’s dumping at Baker, so we’re going to crew up and shoot some photos.

Current residence
Glacier, Washington. It’s such a cool sleepy little town. It’s so quiet up here. It’s really nice. You’re definitely out here. I lived in Bellingham for nine years, then this past spring we sold our place in Bellhingham and moved up to Glacier. It’s pretty much the last stop before Mt. Baker. It’s about the closest you can get before you enter the National Forest.

Asahi stop in Hokkaido.

Yearly migration
My wife and I spend our winters here in Washington. Then for the other six months of the year we go back to Vermont, where we’re both originally from and spend the summer with our families back there. It’s kind of the best of both worlds for us. As soon as the leaves fall on the East Coast it’s time to go west and get some snow. You can’t beat it.

Terje, Nico, Gigi, Devun, Noah, guys like that. I like watching Temple a lot. Guys who know how to turn are my favorite guys to watch.

Being the first rider on adidas
I was off Forum,and had gotten on Oakley, but I was still looking for a boot sponsor. Nike was in the game at that point. Myself and Greg Martin, my manager, we decided to just drop adidas a line and see if they had any plans to get into snowboarding. Lo and behold, they did, and I was already on their list of like five riders that they wanted to contact. I was like, “Hell yeah!” So I met up with them and got a good relationship going with Jascha Müller, and it’s kind of history from there. It was just a really good power move by Greg. He puts the feelers out. He thought I would fit the brand well, and they thought the same thing. I think it was a little bit of luck for sure, but I’m so glad it worked out.

“Everyone thinks of Forest as a rail rider, but he’s so much more than that. He stomps so well in the backcountry. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. I bet you he’ll start riding big lines. He’s incredibly talented when he stands sideways.”

The adidas team
I’m always pumped to ride with Forest [Bailey] and Kazu [Kokubo]. The OG crew is amazing, and then the new guys too. That new rail edit from Japan is so sick. It’s good to see this next generation of riders killing it in the streets. Nik Baden too. He’s an incredible tranny rider and all-around jumper. It’s good to see. adidas has always been good about hooking up and making sure to get the right vibe of riders on the crew. If you’re on the team you’ve got to jive with everybody on the crew and have that style. They’ve done a good job keeping that style true. adidas wants to have riders that have their own vision and support that as well. They want to make sure their style jives but help them pursure their own style as well. It’s cool.

Developing the boots
Initially, that first year, as soon as I signed with them, we got my hiking boot out. That was a way to introduce adidas in snowboarding and get some product on the line quick. I’ve always worked really closely with them, and for those first couple years it was a lot of trial and error. Then three or four years in, we finally got a boot I was really happy with, and since then they keep getting better and better.

The guy hauls ass.

Design process
We normally go back and forth with a bunch of CAD drawings and just go over aesthetics, and they can kind of explain how the boot will feel and perform. But at that point, you kind of just have to say, “Alright, the boot looks good on paper, now let’s get some testing done.” Once we get on-hill, we go through at least two, if not three or four, rounds of testing before we feel good to put it in the line. They mock up a bunch of different takes on the boot, different constructions. Then I test them out and say what I like or don’t like about each. Then they’re able to pump out another boot in a couple weeks to a month, so I do some field-testing on that. Then we start to dial it in.

The ideal boot
I hesitate to say I like a stiff boot because I like a boot that articulates and feels good, but overall I like support where you can come down from a big air into a hard or flat landing and the boots will help absorb that impact, so a lot of it doesn’t go to your ankles. Since I’ve been on adidas I haven’t had ankle problems, just because the boots I’m riding are supportive and work well for the riding I like to do—fast with big airs. I’ve got to have a supportive boot to take it all.

This is one of those fatty to flatty scenarios Jake has a propensity for.

Stance: Regular, 21.5″, 15, +3
I feel like running positive three on the back foot makes the outside of my back foot exactly perpendicular to my edge. That gives me good knee alignment and good initiation into turns, as opposed to having a duck stance, which feels weird on my knee and doesn’t let me drive turns as hard. It’s trying to find that balance of getting good drive out of our turns but not having too much angle so you still can ride switch without feeling too crazy. Positive three seems perfect. Your body’s always changing too, so it’s good not to get stuck in one stance or equipment choice; it’s good to change it up and even little changes can feel really good. I kind of adopted my stance from watching Terje; he was my idol growing up, and he had like positive nine on the back foot in the late ’90s, early 2000s. And that guy knows how to turn. I think it’s good to take little things from people who you aspire to be like.

Boots: adidas Acerra ADV
I just started riding this boot. I love it. It’s super lightweight, and it’s got great support. It’s a little stiff in the beginning, but once you break it in, I feel like it holds that perfect flexibility. A lot of boots feel good in the shop, then you ride them for a couple days and they’re mush. These have a little break-in period, but once you get past that, they hold. They have great Achilles hold; J-bar hold is great. Super good boot. I love it. I used to be a lace guy, but I’ve grown to like Boa. It tightens smoothly and evenly throughout the boot. There aren’t pressure points. You can also get it really tight if you want as well.

“I dragged Kazu, Forest, Justin Hare, and Adam Moran up this crazy hike. It was chest deep powder for four hours straight. I thought we were going to find good snow at the top, and we didn’t find anything. So I offered to take Justin’s RED camera bag on the way down. He didn’t want to give it to me, but I insisted. Then we shredded pow on a 3000-vertical foot run. It was sick, but I was trying to rip too hard. The extra weight of the pack actually wore my meniscus down. There was never a definite tweak, but at the end of that run and later that night, my knee swelled up, and it wasn’t the same after that. I had to go in about a month later and get an orthoscopic clean-up on my knee.”

Bindings: Ride El Jefe
Super solid. With my toe straps, I like going over the top of my foot. I just feel like it gives me better hold down for hard heelside turns. When you’re really railing on your heel and your toes want to lift up, if you’ve got that toe strap directly over the top of your foot, then it really helps to hold your foot down, but I felt like the toecap technology wasn’t holding as well. Otherwise, I just rotate my highback and keep ’em pretty stock. They’re pretty stiff, supportive bindings.

Board: Ride Berzerker
It’s an all-mountain hybrid camber board. It’s really good for charging Baker. But then I also love riding it in the pipe, like when I’m down at Mt. Hood. It rips all terrain. We’ve been developing the Berzerker for six years now, and after about two years we redesigned the tip and tail shape. The camber profile was redesigned a bit as well, and I feel like we really dialed it in these past two years, to where I didn’t really want to change much. But this summer we were screwing around with different tapers to see if that would help give it a better feel. As of now the Berzerker has no taper. It was funny. I learned—well, I think I learned—that I don’t like taper. [Michael] Chilton’s got another batch with taper tweaks. You really learn a lot with those blind tests. I always feel more confident on my gear after learning exactly what you like and why you like it. It makes you feel more confident, which is cool.

The product of continual tweaking.

Goggles: Smith (unreleased)
I’m on these new Smith goggles. I’ve got a signature series goggle coming out with them next year that uses magnets. It makes changeability super easy. A little over a year ago I joined up with them, and I already feel like part of the family.

Hiking Boot: adidas Jake 2.0
You’ve got to have something to slip into after snowboarding, and these are exactly that. It’s perfect after you’re done riding; you can put this on and tromp around in a muddy parking lot or even bring it in to the bar or to dinner and you don’t look like you have your shit-kickers on.

Other essentials: adidas soccer ball

Get warmed up and go shred pow.

TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll 19 Men’s Rookie Of The Year Nominees

Men’s Rookie of the Year

Professional snowboarding, much like any elite level of athleticism isn’t just about the current superstars. It’s about the next generation, the new vanguard, and the future of our sport. Every year, it seems that although the moniker “rookie” gets quite confusing, there are a handful of kids who step up and stamp their place in our culture. This past winter, one soon-to-be competitive superstar, a dual-sport crossover sensation and a newcomer to the video part-based model of pro riding have earned the nod for our potential Rookie of the Year titles.

Chris Corning

Summit County-based Chris Corning made his name well known at last year’s Burton US Open of Snowboarding when he put down one of the most ridiculous slopestyle runs in the history of the event and landed in fifth place, but he had a hell of a season before people started asking who in the hell this kid was. He won the overall FIS World Cup championship and took home 5th place at the Air & Style in Los Angeles. Plainly put, Chris is set to make a massive debut at the 2018 Winter Olympics and he utilized last winter to make his official introduction to the entire snowboard world.

Brock Crouch sending it at Mammoth Mountain during Superpark 21. PHOTO: Mike Yoshida

Brock Crouch

While Brock Crouch is just as apt on a surfboard as he is on a snowboard, the piste is where he shines. Last winter, Brock showed up to SNOWBOARDER Magazine’s Superpark and barely speed-checked in his week of sending and setting the bar for every session, earning himself his first Superpark Charger award in the process. He also crushed it at The Launch while balancing a healthy dose of slopestyle contests as he aims to make the 2018 US Olympic slopestyle and big air team. Brock is legit, and he’s leading the new wave of up-and-comers while climbing the ladder to the top tier ranks of pro snowboarding.

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Mike Liddle

The Midwest ripper whose name was relatively unknown before the start of last winter, Mike Liddle rocketed to the top of this list the minute that his ridiculously technical and balls-to-the-wall part came out in Arbor Snowboards’ first-ever film, Cosa Nostra. Liddle’s last name seems to be an oxymoron, due to the fact that the features he chooses to session are gigantic, and if this is his first big offering in the video realm, the sky is the limit for this young gun.

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

adidas Snowboarding in Quebec—The Making of Beacon with Louif Paradis

Behind the scenes with adidas Snowboarding in Quebec City during the making of Beacon with Louif Paradis and Hayden Rensch.

Read the full adidas Snowboarding in Quebec—The Making of Beacon with Louif Paradis article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Win Two Pairs of Boots from Adidas Snowboarding

Follow adidas Snowboarding and SNOWBOARDER Magazine on Instagram for a chance to win two pairs of adidas snowboarding boots!

Read the full Win Two Pairs of Boots from Adidas Snowboarding article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Behind the Cover: November 2017 with Rusty Ockenden and Cole Navin

From Germany to Whistler, the latest issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding dawns impressive work in front of and behind the camera!

The post Behind the Cover: November 2017 with Rusty Ockenden and Cole Navin appeared first on TransWorld SNOWboarding.

Product Spotlight: New DC 2018 Snow Gear with Iikka Backstrom

Sit down with Iikka Backstrom and DC for an exclusive look at their latest 2018 snowboards, outerwear, and boots in the TransWorld SNOWboarding office.

The post Product Spotlight: New DC 2018 Snow Gear with Iikka Backstrom appeared first on TransWorld SNOWboarding.

Nick Russell Snowboards in Mexico by Himself

Curiosity Fed the Cat: Nick Russell snowboards in Mexico, by himself

Originally published in the October 2017 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding Magazine.

Through the voyeuristic channels of 2017 I saw that Nick Russell was in Mexico. At that point, I recalled an instance months prior when he expressed in passing a fascination with snowboarding on a peak down there, and I was glad to see he pulled the trigger. I sent him a text that turned green and asked him to call when he had a chance. When my phone rang a couple days later, I inquired as to who went, what photographer, the plan for content. His response was the most refreshing thing I’d heard in some time. He’d gone by himself, with nothing but his phone on airplane mode for documentation and for no reason other than the desire to fulfill a daydream about snowboarding on this particular volcano. He did, however, agree to write some words and share the photos on his phone’s camera roll from his solo mission to Mexico. — Taylor Boyd

PHOTO: Nick Russell

There are places that currently only exist within the mind. We’ve studied photos, researched Google Earth and checked weather. Perhaps some are known classics, others more obscure. Until pixels are transformed into tangible earth, imagination runs wild as to what it would be like to stand in the presence of fabled giants. That line is always somewhere in the back of my mind.

March 19th — Truckee, USA

Feelings of restlessness arise with my morning coffee. An extended period of unfavorable weather dominates the extended forecast. Thoughts dig deep and circle back to a peak that has been on the list for several years. A weather search soon expands beyond the Sierra Nevada and outside of the country. It looks promising—high pressure and minimal winds. I open a new browser window to Expedia; there is a cheap flight that leaves later tonight. A recent hashtag search and message to a random climber reveals that there is indeed snow.

I call up a couple friends that might have a wild hair. No luck. In phases, I’ve been somewhat obsessed, simply due to exotic mystique. I have been loosely monitoring the weather in this region for over two years in an attempt to determine the best time for riding such a line. It’s no surprise to me that no one is convinced to pack their bags and leave in a matter of hours for a mountain they’ve never heard of.

Casually, I begin to organize my gear while I consider the logistics of embarking on a solo mission of this magnitude. The cutoff time to drive the four hours to the airport is rapidly approaching. Weighing the factors of going alone, I rule out crevasse danger due to my route choice; chances of avalanches are unlikely because of the current forecast and the typical snowpack of high altitude peaks like this one. Confidence and a willingness to turn around if needed overrule doubt. I can’t think of a good enough reason not to go. I enter my credit card and contact information and get in the car. By 10:45 pm I’m sitting by myself in the international terminal at the San Francisco airport. At a mere 90 feet above sea level, I ask myself, “Is this crazy?”

PHOTO: Nick Russell

“Yes, of course it is.” A desire to fulfill a human necessity for firsthand experience can bring us to the strangest of places. A voice booms over the intercom, “Now boarding, United Flight 412 to Mexico City.”

March 20th — Mexico City, Mexico

Standing at 18,491 feet high, Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltepetl, is the tallest peak in Mexico. It is also the third tallest peak, and tallest volcano, in North America, I first learned of this southern behemoth a few years back, amidst a classic Pacific Northwest volcano tour. No matter where you are in the world, a volcano is an inspiring sight. They proudly plant their roots in the lowlands, rising high into the skyline with alluring presence. Their glaciers and defiant snowpacks are icing on the cake. Any enthusiast can attest; volcanoes draw you in and keep you coming back for more. The appeal for this one in particular is the simple fact that there is a mountain in Mexico with snow. A short drive from the Gulf and surrounded by prehispanic archaeological sites, even the most creative imaginations couldn’t recreate a geographical landscape such as this. To deprive myself of a tropical descent would be a travesty.

Landing just after sunrise, I apprehensively sign a rental car insurance form written in Spanish. I’m not sure if I am paying a deposit or getting fully ripped off. Regardless, I’m here and need to drive three hours southeast to the state of Puebla. I somehow navigate through the anxiety-inducing city center and onto to an open highway. The smog and traffic dissipates, concrete traded for barren flats. Periodic jagged peaks with glimpses of snow rise through the haze on the horizon. Is that a mountain or a mirage? Small towns with oddly located furniture and tire stores pop up every so often. The disturbing sight of dead dogs on the side of the road is a cringing reality of these roadways. Women and children line the shoulders with small umbrellas, selling juice, fruit, and candy.

PHOTO: Provided by Nick Russell

Cresting a small hill nearly an hour outside the small town of Tlachichuca, I receive a virgin glimpse of the peak. She is stunning. Her round white cap looks out of place amongst this desert terrain. Knowing my low-clearance rental car wouldn’t make it up to the starting point on the mountain, I had searched for an outfitter in the area prior to my flight and came across a place called Servimont. Knocking on the gate, a woman slides a large fortress-style steel door open. There is a short man with a sombrero working on an old car. I learn that this is Señor Reyes, the fourth generation of a climbing family in the area and owner of the company that offers trips to Mexican volcanoes.

I timidly ask, “Hola, are you the mountaineering guys?”

“Si, you want to climb the mountain?”

“Si. Well, snowboard. I’d like a ride up to the hut.”

He looks around to see if anyone else is walking in behind me. “You are alone?”

“Si, I’ll need some water and fuel too.”

He pauses and checks his calendar, “When do you want to go?”

“This afternoon if possible,” I say.

There is another long pause, “Okay, come in and have lunch first, and then we go.”

Once an old soap factory over a century ago, the building has been transformed into an alpine lodge. Old climbing gear and expedition flags line the walls. There are dozens of photos of the mountain from decades past around every corner. Silently noting the healthy snowpack in the grainy pictures, it’s as if Señor Reyes is reading my mind. “Tell Trump there is no such thing as global warming,” he says with disappointment.

Basecamp is found at the Piedra Grande hut on the north side of the mountain. From town, a steep winding dirt road leads the way past farms, through the forest, and into the National Park. We top out above treeline, traversing across an open plain and into the sun. In the US, our tallest peaks are fourteeners, and most take a strong effort to reach their summits. Here, a truck takes me directly to over 14,000 feet. Views of and from the hut take my breath away.

Inside, it feels like an infirmary. It’s only 5 pm, and there are a handful of climbers in their sleeping bags, ghostly pale and silent. A girl sitting on one of the bunks holds her head up with one hand, a roll of toilet paper in the other. She rushes outside to throw up. Even at the base of the climb, the altitude is no joke. I make myself a thermos of tea and go outside to watch the sunset. A sea of clouds engulfs the valleys below. Above, lies the biggest mountain I have ever stood upon. Seemingly validating Señor Reyes’ comments on climate change, the snowline is drastically further away than imagined based on photographs. But I have no doubts on my decision to be here. My goal of descending the Jamapa Glacier will still hold a couple thousand feet of fall-line freedom.

March 21st — Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

Pico De Orizaba. PHOTO: Nick Russell

I’m woken just after midnight to the sounds of jacket zippers and ice axes falling on the floor. The climbers are starting to make their trek upwards. I happily drift back to sleep knowing that today is not my summit push. Waking to a warm sun and moderate temperatures, the plan is to acclimate with a hike to just below the snowline. Cairns line the lower stretches of the trail as the switchbacks increase in steepness. Lizards sunbake on stones heated from the midday sun. My pace decreases as the air thins out. Higher elevations require an increased intake of fluids and snacks, something I came well-prepared for. Each large flat rock provides the perfect opportunity for a quick break. Gaining a small ridge just below 16,000 feet, I reach a high camp below what is known at the Labyrinth, a tricky maze of rocks where the snowline begins. I’ve brought my board up with me to stash in a nook for tomorrow morning’s push to the top.

Back at the hut, the Mexican climbing guides are somewhat tripping that I am solo, with a snowboard. “We start at midnight. This is a big mountain; you need to start early,” they warn. After dinner and another thermos of tea, I set my alarm for 3:30 am.

March 22nd — Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

PHOTO: Nick Russell

Midnight comes, and a small party of climbers give another gear-shuffle wakeup call. Three hours later, I rise to an empty hut. Alpine starts initially give a gut-wrenching feeling caused by a lack of sleep and slight apprehensiveness surrounding the climb. As soon as walking commences, however, tension subsides and one enters an entranced state of perpetual motion.

Reaching my cached board in the morning’s darkness, I swap approach shoes for snowboard boots. Navigating by headlamp allows the mind to shut off and focus only on what lies few feet ahead. The mountain’s route options split off in various directions. With only slight shadows in the distance, I unknowingly zig where most have zagged. Crampons and an axe are now necessary, and I’m front-pointing up a 40 degree slope with no clue if the pitch goes or dead ends. Optimism prevails, and thirty minutes later a crux is defeated. An orange glow on the horizon line begins to illuminate vision and spirits. Above 16,000 feet, a shadow of a lone canine roams the lava flows presenting what I consider to be a powerful omen. Another mirage? I blink and he’s gone.

Stepping onto the glacier, the realization hits that I am several hours too early. The sun has barely shown its colors, and there is not a chance in hell this snow is going to soften up. The altitude is taking a toll. I’ve forgotten my puffy and cannot wait around any longer. I need to keep moving forth in order to stay warm. At a snail’s pace, I French step diagonally, one foot in front of the other. Three roped climbers descend the slope above, with the lead guide basically dragging two deadweights.

Peaceful solitude. PHOTO: Nick Russell

Hours pass and steam vents rise from around the corner. Along the summit ridge, a view into the depths of a dormant stratovolcano becomes visible. Tattered flags on a cross mark the ceiling of Mexico and a new personal high point. Layers of green and brown more than 10,000 feet below exist in a daze of beauty.

A moment of peaceful solitude atop a cold, windy summit is disrupted by nausea and a pounding headache. Time to descend. I remove the crampons from my boots and place my feet into bindings. A harsh reality of high-altitude peaks is that they are usually aggressively windswept and rugged. Citlaltepetl is no exception.

There were no misconceptions of riding blower pow or perfect corn, and I knew I was in for a wild one. Turns are cautiously linked down the face, resting every so often to catch my breath and appreciate the views. A bittersweet feeling of gratitude to experience this Mexican snow field before it’s gone is met with disheartening sentiments. I laugh at the fact that this is by far the worst snow, or rather, ice, that I have ever strapped in on, and at the same time a highlight of my life thus far. Regardless of conditions, it is these spontaneous decisions that make for lasting memories.

PHOTO: Nick Russell

The Jamapa Glacier has receded upwards of 50 percent over the last two decades. It is our duty to explore these endangered places and showcase their beauty to the world. The wilderness lands of our planet are not to be taken for granted. Driving back down the bumpy dirt road to town, I stare out the rear view mirror of the truck at Orizaba. With one dream line checked off the list, I ponder what’s next.

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