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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.