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.

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!

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.’”


Tahoe
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.

Influences
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.

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.

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

Setting Up: A Profile of Tommy Gesme

Tommy Gesme is mellow as they come. His modest Midwest mentality comes through when he speaks, understated and unpretentious. That he comes from Minnesota makes sense given the legacy of rail talent the state has produced, but Tommy’s style is original and not easily pinned to one specific region. Perhaps his time in Tahoe played a role in shaping his unique approach. But there’s a bit of Bear Mountain in there, and at the same time, his execution is proper enough to stand alongside the Quebecois Louif Paradis. What you’ll find below are insights into the eclectic and indefinable Gesme, from his induction to the adidas AM team to the oversize overalls he wears. It’s tough to put a finger on what it is, but Tommy has it.

Tommy, a long way from Hyland. Half-cab 50-50 in Otaru, Japan. PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

Hometown

Deep Haven, Minnesota. It’s a suburb just west of the Twin Cities.

Home hill

Hyland. It was cool growing up there. It was so close to my house. I’d see Jonas [Michilot], and Joe [Sexton], and John Hodge, and all these local dudes who were a bit older than me, just ripping. I had a lot of good inspirations growing up there. Jonas was a huge inspiration. They just opened up for the season, and it was a blast. I’ve got a snowboard on the wall there with all these guys I looked up to. Froni has a board on the wall, and Danimals, and Jonas, Joe, Zac Marben, Those are the dudes I grew up idolizing. So that’s pretty amazing.

Getting started

I moved to Tahoe to go to school with my good friend Brady Lem. I ended up dropping out to do that Dragon “We Are Frameless” tour. That was like a four or five week tour, and I talked to my teachers and I couldn’t miss that much school. That’s when I just pulled the plug. I knew I wanted to be a part of that tour, and we ended up doing it for three years, which was amazing. So basically I moved back home from Tahoe to Minnesota and moved in with my parents to save some money. Free rent.

Derek and Tommy. PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

Getting on adidas

It was at Mt. Hood, Oregon. I had just got done with the Knowbuddy program, and I was at Hood staying at the Demo Center, and I was talking to Evan [LeFebvre] through text. Derek Lever definitely was the plug for that. He’d been riding flow for them for the past year, so he had like more than a foot in the door. And he basically put the connection in. So we’re hangin’ at Hood, and Evan was like “Yo, you should come do this adidas event with the campers.” So I did that and just talked to Evan, and we got dinner that night, and that was kind of the start of it all.

Filming for Beacon

I got an email from Louif [Paradis] probably about a year ago around this time. I think it was early December. He just said like, “I’m doing this project, and I’m wondering if you want to be a part of it. We’re going to Russia.” And I was on a trip with Mark Wilson, and he got the same email, which was amazing ’cause I’m very good friends with Mark. We were both like, “Holy shit, we’re about to go to Russia with Louif.” I mean, he’s the best to do it. I’d spent some time with Lou before, but I’d never been on a full-on film trip with him. He is one of my biggest inspirations. Just seeing how hard he works for everything—he’s definitely an idol. But I didn’t know what to expect from the movie. I obviously knew Lou was sitting on heavy footage, but we didn’t get leaks, and I only went on one trip. It was amazing to see it come out and realize how insane of a film they had made. I’m grateful and honored to be a part of Beacon. That movie is incredible. Hayden did an amazing job.

Air-to-fakie in Otaru. PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

Japan this past season

We went twice. I think we went in January and in March. It ended in a scary way, but before that it was good. We were dealing with a lot of kickouts, but that’s part of the game as well. It’s always fun going to Japan. Ordinary things are so different, like going to the 7-Eleven—it’s vibrant with crazy food and anime. It’s just cool. We always stick out like a sore thumb. There was so much snow. One night we went to the resort and rode night pow. I’m from Minnesota; I don’t get into powder that much, so that was an amazing experience for me. That was the best snow I’ve ever ridden, and it was at night, and were just duckin’ ropes and going under the chair and whatnot. We eventually got yelled at, but we kind of just played the ignorant American card. That night was amazing.

The adidas AM team

We’re all boys and we all jive. We were all friends before this.

2 AM + 1 TM. Tommy in Japan with Alex Sherman and Derek Lever. PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

The mishap

Wizard [Alex Sherman] got injured on our second trip to Japan. That was crazy. Just full-blown worst nightmare type of deal. It was a pretty high-consequence spot. Like if it goes it goes wrong, it’s going to go really wrong. Then worst-case scenario happened, and Wizard broke his leg. Obviously none of us speak Japanese, but we flagged a guy down who luckily spoke English. And we’re like, “Ambulance, right now!” Just in panic mode. And thank God for Joe Carlino, ’cause he handled it very well. I was all over the place. I was like ten feet away when it happened. Almost fainted. When we got him to the hospital, we were like, “Alright, he’s going to be okay.” So then we booked tickets for the next day and flew home with him to Salt Lake, and we got there and were like, “We made it; we did it.”

“This was actually a very stressful day. This rail was two blocks away from the Airbnb we were staying at. Joe saw it driving in. We set it up and went the next day, but it was a bit of a bust. It was in a neighborhood, just the most mellow spot, and then all of a sudden pedestrians were looking at us, and nine cops roll in, and it was a pain in the ass. I didn’t get what I wanted, but it kind of worked out.” PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

Stance: Regular, 22.5″, 6, -6

Boots: adidas Tactical ADV, size 9

It’s a normal lace boot, a little on the stiffer side, more than soft, which I like. It’s got the Energy Boost sole, and it’s super comfortable. I like the colorway and the simplicity of it. I like more structure—with a nice medium or stiff boot, I feel like your presses are all fat, and you have a lot more control.

Tommy’s setup: adidas Glisan bibs and Tactical ADV boots + Salomon Sleepwalker and District. PHOTO: Adam Moran

Board: Salomon Sleepwalker 155

It’s my style of board. Classic shape with regular camber. Not too stiff, not too soft. It’s just what you would picture a snowboard being.

Bindings: Salomon District, size M

They’ve got the loose heelcup. It’s kind of funny. I’m in Duluth right now, hanging with all the Impaler kids, who I grew up with, and every single one of them ride the Salomon District. Some of them are so beat up; they’re like five years old, and they still run ’em. It’s the binding of choice. With a little bit stiffer boot you can do a loose binding and it’s the perfect combo.

“I like this kit. That’s what I’ve been riding at Troll and Hyland this year. I like the vest. Obviously, the hoodie’s classic. That’s a timeless look. The vest adds a little flare to the get-up, and it’s pretty functional. It keeps me warm but doesn’t constrict me.” PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

Sweatshirt: Blackbird Solid Hoodie, size XL

It’s a classic. Riding rails with a jacket, I feel constricted, and I like being super loose. I’ve always been a hoodie guy.

Hat: adidas Cane Beanie

It’s normal and warm.

Gloves: Nolan Athletic Mitt, size M

I met Brandon, who runs Nolan, when I moved out to Tahoe, and he’s a rad dude. He’s a good friend and started that brand. Nolan’s actually his middle name. That’s where it comes from. It’s the homie company that I back.

“I was super hyped on this. We’d see these tunnels everywhere ’cause Japan gets so much snow. Dream spots. Films cool, photographs cool. It’s amazing. A rail in a tunnel that’s buried in snow! So we were seeing a lot, but they were kind of endless, or they’d go down and then elbow. Or they’d end it in another tunnel. They just didn’t work. Then we were cruising through a neighborhood; I was in the back seat, and I just looked up and saw the end of this and knew right away it would work. I didn’t know how big it was or anything, but it turned out to be the perfect rail. It was long and pretty spooky. I fell off a couple times, and it was so loud, being in the tunnel. It was raining outside at the time. We had our whole squad there, and Joe was filming at the bottom with the trunk of the van open, just in the car, trying to stay dry. Then Jon Ray was in the tunnel filming fisheye, so he was out of the rain. But every time I was strapping in, I was just getting downpoured on. It was a cool experience. This was the highlight of that trip for me. ” PHOTO: Adam Moran

Sunglasses: Dragon Marquis

Good look. They’re polarized, and I do a lot of fishing the summer. They’re bomb for that. And then I wear the NFX2 goggles. I don’t wear goggles too much in the street, but at the resort I like runnin’ ’em.

Pants: adidas Glisan bib and rider pant, size XL

I like the loose, kinda baggy fit. I like the bibs cause I can get ’em in a bigger size, but because they’re bibs you don’t have to wear a belt. And they’re basic. Just black or tan. It’s a pretty simple pant that looks good.

Jacket: adidas Glisan jacket, size L

This one goes with the bibs. It’s dope. It’s got a nice workwear-style texture. But it’s waterproof. It’s a good matte black, not shiny. I like that.

Tommy and Keegan Valaika in Otaru. Keegan in the adidas Civilian Jacket. PHOTO: Julien Perly Petry

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

Resort Guide 2017-2018 – TransWorld SNOWboarding

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Mountain GOAT: Tom Burt, From Teacher to Rider of the Year

Usually, it’s the student who drops out of school to become a professional snowboarder, not the teacher.

Read the full Mountain GOAT: Tom Burt, From Teacher to Rider of the Year article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Crafted: Mike West and 686 Still Don’t Care What Anyone Else is Doing

Words| Taylor Boyd   Photos| Erik Hoffman and John Schwirtlich

As I jockey for position to exit in Los Angeles traffic, I realize I don’t much about the guy I’m headed to interview. I know plenty of the brand he’s built but little of the mind behind it. “I mean, Mike’s interesting, dude. He’s climbed Mount Kiliminjaro. He’s done all these interesting things, but he’s never positioned himself the same way some founders have positioned themselves,” 686 Vice President of Marketing, Brent Sandor, tells me. “No one knows he’s hiked Mount Kiliminjaro except for fifteen or twenty people. He doesn’t tell anyone. One time he went to Russia in the dead of winter with the clothes on his back, wearing a pair of Vans Slip-Ons. He had a blog on Hypebeast. It was tight.”

Mike West. PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

It never goes as planned. Such is Mike West’s story. Twenty five years in with a brand going strong is by all measures a success, but West explains, “It was never like, ‘I’m going to start this and this is what I’m going to do.'” We’re chatting in his office, in a building that sticks out like a modern thumb in Los Angeles’ industrial Compton neighborhood, the walls lined with archival 686 products, many of which are collaborations with other brands—Union, New Balance, Dickie’s, Dragon, Levi’s, and a recent one with Pabst Blue Ribbon. West loves collaborations.

Compton is an atypical location for an outerwear brand to be headquartered. But Los Angeles is home for West. He grew up here in the ’80s, South Bay to be specific, skating with the local crew. World Industries founder Steve Rocco was around at the time and put West on the team. It’s a theme in West’s story. He’s been surrounded by people playing critical roles, though perhaps he and they were oblivious at the time. They were doing what they wanted, whether it was skateboarding, snowboarding, or creating art, and have gone on to become revered individuals within these respective cultures. West is one of these types as well.

West showing product at SIA. PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

It was here in Los Angeles, during a particular session in Hermosa Beach in the mid ’80s, that snowboarding appeared on West’s radar. “Wow, what? You can skate on snow?” West recalls his initial thoughts on this budding offshoot of skateboarding, three decades ago. “The first thing I saw about snowboarding was actually in Thrasher Mag in high school. It was Damian Sanders and Steve Cab in Tahoe,” he explains. So West made the drive up to a place called Snow Forest, near Big Bear. “It’s not even there anymore,” says West. “Snow Forest was probably ’85, and ’86 I went to Snow Summit. The second day I went to Snow Summit I was struggling. This guy in a bright jumpsuit was like, ‘Just lean forward and twist your body.’ It was freaking Tom Sims. I didn’t know. He had this mustache and this bright hat.”

This was in high school. A few years later, Mike got a job at Big Bear and became one of the first snowboard instructors in the US. “There was only a handful, like seriously a handful. I was there in ’89 or ’90, something like that, and Mike Parillo showed up in probably ’92, maybe around there. From then until ’96-’97 was when that whole thing was coming up. That’s where I met all those guys. Parillo, Bobby Meeks, Ryan Immegart was there, Todd Proffit was there—all these guys were doing this stuff. Guch [Bryan Iguchi] was there, and [Jeff] Brushie was there. I was just working there, not knowing what was going on.”

Measure twice, cut once?
PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

In the 686 lab. PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

During this time, West did a couple years at a community college then enrolled at USC in the entrepreneurial program, which, as much as he’ll say he didn’t learn from his business curriculum, he explains provided a foundation for his ability to found and run a brand. “I wasn’t really a smart kid; I just worked my ass off,” he says. The people, the connections, and the inspirations he took all played a role in taking West to present, the CEO of a 25-year-old and thriving brand. “At school, we’d have guest speakers. One guy came in named Steve Klassen, and he was like ‘I graduated from here too, and I started this shop called Wave Rave.’ I was like, ‘Wow Steve, I have this clothing company I started.’ He said to send him a catalog, and he’d buy some stuff. I was like, ‘what’s a catalog?'”

At this point, 686 was a t-shirt and a beanie. And it was called Jib 686. Why the prefix? “A friend of mine used to work at this cool store called ET Surf. He said ‘jib’, and I was like, ‘Oh cool, jib. I’ll just call it Jib 686.'”

“We really didn’t know what we were doing. We were making everything up as we went.” It looks they know now. PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

And the number? “It’s interesting; for the longest time, and still to this day, people don’t really know what it means. I didn’t tell a lot of people. I was 20 when I started the company, so 6 plus 8 plus 6 is 20. June of ’86 was also important for my grandmother. We didn’t say anything about that though. So people used to come up with these ideas of what it meant. I read all sorts of things, but the funniest and most consistent was that it was when I lost my virginity. I remember in the lift line in Tahoe, probably in the late ’90s, I hear people talking about like, ‘Oh that’s when the guy lost his virginity.’ I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I also heard someone say I killed someone on that date. It was weird. People have also said I’m some kind of satanic worshipper.” This is likely due to the number being one digit off from the occult associated 666. “We used to get a lot of hate mail back in the day,” Mike says. “But we came from skateboarding; we definitely weren’t accepted. Snowboarding in the ’90s—people didn’t like us. So I didn’t give a shit.”

By the time 686 had dropped the jib prefix, snowboarding was hitting its upswing. “Throughout the ’90s, shit was freaking blowing up. Then it dropped. There were too many brands. I couldn’t even get into the SIA tradeshow, because it was too crowded. We had a hotel room outside. It was that crazy that we had to go on the show floor and go, ‘Hey, come to my hotel room.’ When I see that something is going too good, I know things are going to go the opposite way.”

PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

It wasn’t until the ’99 – 2000 season that West says 686 turned a profit. And up to that point the brand’s full-time employee count was at three or four. One of those people is the current president of the company, Doug Sumi, a longtime friend of West from their days at USC. West hired Sumi out of necessity. “He was always more worried about making product, getting product delivered, and building the brand than a lot of other aspects of the business, and that’s a big part of how I started working for him,” Sumi says. “He was like, ‘I need to file my taxes; what are we gonna do?’ We just started going through one envelope at a time trying to figure out what everything was.”

Sumi recounts West’s frugality, “Because we really had no money, he was always very conscious of trying to save money—what I always called stretching a rubberband. He had this thing where he wanted to have zero waste. He always thought we could use everything. We would cut out garments at cut houses. They’d cut out the pattern, and there’d be leftover pieces, kind of like the remaining part of a sticker sheet, and he would say, ‘Dude, bring all that back to the warehouse, all these cut Velcro pieces, all these little scraps. We bought it; we own it.’ And we’d bring trash bags back and pile them up.”

PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

This is around the time that 686 was in the same building as Plain Sane. “We really didn’t know what we were doing. We were making everything up as we went. We took a lot of stuff from Plain Sane—knowledge, supplies, concepts, vendors, and everything else we could,” Sumi recalls. Where West’s frugality comes from I can only speculate. Maybe it’s something he picked up on from his upbringing; perhaps he learned it in business school. But his concept of prudent allocation is something that without a doubt has pushed 686 to where it is today. While many brands put every spare dollar into marketing athletes, 686 has always diversified its spending. At first, it’s easy to conclude that a snowboard brand should spend the bulk of its marketing dollars on the team, in the interest of supporting snowboarders. But the longevity 686 has achieved through this fiscal responsibility is undoubtedly part of the reason they’re still around and now able to pay a stacked team of ambassadors that includes Forest Bailey, Sammy Luebke, Tor Lundstrom, Matt Belzile, Phil Jacques, Riley Nickerson, Mary Rand, and Parker White— the first skier to be added to the program. White’s addition to the team was something that happened organically through Forest Bailey. The two grew up together on the East Coast, and when 686 felt it made sense to include a two-planker, Bailey put Sandor and 686 team manager Pat McCarthy in touch with White. To be an outerwear brand and not market to skiers is not to tap half of your potential market. Again, it’s an example of 686 stepping outside what may be considered “cool” at the time. In ten years, however, how many brands in this space will be marketing outerwear to solely and respectively to skiers or snowboarders? Less than there are now, that’s for sure. Mike West has never been especially concerned with what’s cool. And somehow that will always be inherently cool.

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This isn’t to say 686 never emphasized its team. Leafing through back catalogs, there are staples like Shaun McKay, Charlie Morace, and Pat McCarthy, who’s now 686’s team manager and has played a critical role in building the brand. McCarthy remains based in Washington, and his cabin near Mount Baker, 1200 miles from the office in LA, provides the home base for 686 during the extensive R&D sessions that go down at the sloppiest location in the US. He explains 686 from his perspective: “Many of the people who work at 686 have been at the company for 20 years plus. Every season they always make time to get out on the hill together and put boots on snow. When I go to the office it feels like a family reunion walking the halls and saying hello to everyone.”

But before McCarthy’s generation, there other noteworthy names that graced roster. Kevin Zacher, Dean ‘Blotto’ Gray, and Ethan ‘E-Stone’ Fortier are each among snowboarding’s most marked photographers and all rode for 686 at some point. Is there any other team in snowboarding that’s turned out that many successful lensman? Probably not. Is there any significance in that fact? Hard to say. Maybe West is drawn to those with creative vision or uncommon drive more than athletic talent alone. “Blotto and E-Stone, those guys are hustlers,” he says. “Kevin, Blotto, E-Stone, they taught me a lot. Zacher and Blotto helped build this creative aspect that pushed me ahead, for sure. They influenced me.” Then he remembers another influence who once rode for 686. “Travis Parker. He was just a creative, quiet kid, who really made an impact.”

It seems what West and 686 have derived from the team has always been about more than marketing to the consumer. Their direct influence on the brand and product itself are equivalently important to their involvement. E-Stone, who outside of his photographic endeavors has worked behind the scenes with brands of his own, makes clear the value that West puts on the team. “Mike always wanted to hear the team riders’ feed back about current product and ideas for new products. I remember Blotto and I would spend all sorts of time sketching out jackets and planning new pocket ideas that were more efficient for snowboarding, and Mike would listen to us. We would see our ideas implemented in future lines. It was a rad feeling to have a sponsor that actually cared to hear your ideas and took them seriously.”

Blotto echoes E-Stone and McCarthy’s sentiments when he explains his time riding for the brand. “Mike and his team took good care of us—on the road, when we’d visit the office, at events, you name it. They treated us like family,” he explains. When Blotto recalls who else was riding for 686 around that time—the mid to late ’90s—two names aside from E-Stone pop up: Josh Zickert, who went on to become a professional skateboarder and found skateboard brand Natural Koncepts, and Jesse White, who has managed the business side of his younger brother Shaun’s business empire for the better part of the past decade. It’s always been an eclectic and enterprising bunch at 686. “By the early 2000s, we were getting notoriety, but we were just from LA doing our thing. The collaborations became a big part of it too. Back then, the brighter focus was on your team. ‘Who do you have?’ We never really went heavy in that. We had great guys, but we weren’t the hype. I just didn’t have the money to spend. So I wanted to create things that were true to us. I started with artists that we knew of, and then with brands. It resonated because no one had collaborations back then. I think we were the first in our industry to do that. The first collaboration was with Shepard Fairey.” Fairey is yet another example of someone influential who West just happened to know.

Around the time 686 was starting, Fairey, the founder of OBEY, would’ve been sketching his now iconic “Andre the Giant has a posse” graphic. He would later go onto create his most iconic piece, the HOPE poster for Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. Meanwhile, the snowboard industry was hitting its recession with the rest of the US economy. 686 weathered that storm.

PHOTO: Erik Hoffman

West then had the vision to extend these collaborations to other brands as well. “The first brand was Dragon,” West says. “We did a goggle with Dragon. We made the jacket match the goggle and put a goggle pocket in it. The pocket was shaped like the goggle. It went crazy.” At this point, nothing about this sounds original. A collab? Sure, everyone does those. A goggle pocket? Those are stock. But in 2005 it was a novel concept, and this collaboration perhaps sparked what has become ubiquitous today. “Hell yeah, we want to work with cool people and cool brands,” West says.

It’s not just collaborations that make 686 an innovative brand. Three-in-one, zip-in-zip out pieces also fall into their realm of originality, though West admits, “Columbia did that before us,” 686 is the brand that brought it to snowboarding. The toolbelt however? “Yeah, we claim that,” he says.

A toolbelt and zip-in-zip-out tech didn’t carry 686 to a quarter century. Certainly smart management of finances and strategic hiring decisions have played a major role, but I’m curious what West attributes his brand’s success to. “I was able to work in a little bit of an uprise. I was able to get loans from people and pay them back. It’s a lot more difficult now,” he explains before continuing, “More than anything else, like I said, different shit works.” And now West is the one speaking at USC. “Any time I go back to talk to the kids, I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah, man. Do it.’ I love going back to USC and speaking. I was in that same seat. I was that kid in the back, just falling asleep.”

E-Stone sums things up well, “Mike West is a G. He’s a very smart and genuine guy. It’s amazing that he was able to start 686 25 years ago, as a college student at age 20, and turn it into one of the largest outerwear brands in snowboarding. He did this all with his original partners, keeping it an independent rider-owned company. He grew the brand right and has kept it legit 25 years later. This is something to be proud of.” E-Stone is right.

West in Japan. Say hi if you see him.

“It was cool hearing that conversation with Mike,” says Sandor. “He’s like, ‘We just did us.'” And that’s what I’ve gleaned from talking with West. At every turn he’s done what seemed right, despite that it wasn’t necessarily written into the playbook. In fact, it usually wasn’t, and that is the mark of great brands. How many success stories are based on following the crowd? If the first trend in accomplishment is that it never happens as planned, this is the second. A quarter century in, 686 fits both archetypes. I can’t predict what’s next. But I’d guess Mike West will be at his desk in Compton, collaborations on the walls nearby, and I’m sure he’ll head up to McCarthy’s cabin when the snow gets deep.

More from TransWorld SNOWboarding here!

Winter is here: Mammoth Mountain Opening Weekend kicks off 2017-18 Season – Winter has returned to the Eastern Sierra.

Winter has returned to the Eastern Sierra.

Read the full Winter is here: Mammoth Mountain Opening Weekend kicks off 2017-18 Season article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Mountain GOAT: Shawn Farmer, Shirtless Over The Baker Road Gap

The archetype for the modern day video part, Shawn Farmer lands high up on the Mountain Goat list.

Read the full Mountain GOAT: Shawn Farmer, Shirtless Over The Baker Road Gap article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Fakie News: Sneak Peek Inside SNOWBOARDER’s Latest Issue—In Shops Now

Inside the newest issue, Volume 30 Issue 2, available for free at your local shop now!

Read the full Fakie News: Sneak Peek Inside SNOWBOARDER’s Latest Issue—In Shops Now article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Burton’s 2018 U.S. Snowboarding Winter Olympic Uniforms Are Out of This World

The U.S. Snowboarding Team Uniforms for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea have landed.

Read the full Burton’s 2018 U.S. Snowboarding Winter Olympic Uniforms Are Out of This World article on Snowboarder Magazine.

U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team Uniforms Unveiled for PyeongChang Games 2018

Here’s what the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team will wear

With the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, less than 100 days away, the official uniform for the U.S. Snowboard Team has been released. Burton Snowboards, who has been in charge of designing and manufacturing the Olympic Snowboard Team uniforms for the past four Olympics, released their latest uniform which has a U.S. space-inspired vibe.

From the unveiling event of the USA uniforms for the 2018 Winter Olympic Snowboarding Team.

“This is the fourth Olympic uniform that Burton and myself have had the distinct pleasure of working on,” says Greg Dacyshyn, Head Designer of Burton’s Olympic uniform program.

“Like the previous three which had a retro inspired influence, the 2018 theme is also a heavy nod to Americana, because its main influence is the iconic suits of the United States’ leading space exploration program. I have always loved the astronauts’ suits, because not only do they have such a cool and amazing aesthetic, they also were designed to function under the most extreme conditions, so this gave us an incredible platform to push the innovation and technology of the garments as well. My hope is that these pieces help the athletes go where no rider has gone before.”

Take a quick stroll down memory lane with the past 2014 and 2010 uniforms below, and the full press release from Burton on their choice for the design of the 2018 Winter Olympics uniform.

Patchwork 2014 Olympic Burton Uniform.

Who can forget the blue jeans in 2010?

Check out the full release from Burton below.

BURLINGTON, VT (November 2, 2017) Burton Snowboards is proud to officially unveil the 2018 Olympic uniforms to be worn by the U.S. Snowboard Team. PyeongChang 2018 will mark the fourth consecutive Olympic Games where Burton has partnered with U.S. Ski & Snowboard to create one-of-a-kind uniforms for the halfpipe, slopestyle and first-ever big air snowboarding competitions.

“The sport of snowboarding is neither nationalistic nor team-oriented in nature; however, all of that changes for a minute every four years during the Olympic Games,” said Jake Burton, Founder and Chairman of Burton Snowboards. “If the global expectations are that U.S. snowboarders represent their country in a uniform, then Burton wants to design and manufacture it. By doing so, we assure U.S. riders that they will have outerwear they can trust to perform at the highest level with a look they have input into and ultimately respect. Simply put, they want snowboarding outerwear, not athletic wear, and who better than Burton to provide it.”

Inspired by the rich history of the American space program, the 2018 U.S. Snowboard Team uniform is both innovative in function and retro-futuristic in design. On the futuristic side, both the competition jacket and pant have a liquid metal look, thanks to an exclusive iridescent silver fabric coated in very fine, real aluminum. Burton custom developed the fabric solely for the 2018 uniform by infusing an extremely lightweight aluminum-coated fabric typically used for audio equipment with highly technical properties ideal for snowboarding in any weather condition. The end result is a super technical, lightweight and waterproof fabric that reflects and deflects light as well as sound. Next, to pay homage to the spirit of the American space program, the competition jacket also features hand-drawn patches depicting the American flag and ‘USA’ in space-age font. Even the inside of the jacket is highly detailed, with artwork sewn to the lining that includes Korean translations of helpful lighthearted phrases like ‘Do you speak English?’ and ‘Wish me luck!’.

In addition to the competition jacket and pant, two stand-out pieces in the uniform collection include a spacesuit-inspired down one-piece and village down jacket, both created with bright white non-woven Dyneema® fabric, which is the world’s strongest fiber. Extremely lightweight, breathable and waterproof, the fabric itself has a very space-age feel inspired by the iconic 1960s moonwalk suit with a texture that breaks in over time, giving it a weathered look. To wear with the competition jacket and pant, Burton also created a super soft fleece jacket and pant made with custom Polartec® High Loft™ fabric that was originally created for the U.S. military. The uniform also includes a lightweight down insulator in a ‘moonbeam’ colorway and drirelease wool base layers in ‘international orange’, a signature color used by the American space program for astronaut suits. Leather mitts, fleece gloves, tech tees and beanies complete the uniform.

“This is the fourth Olympic uniform that Burton and myself have had the distinct pleasure of working on,” says Greg Dacyshyn, Head Designer of Burton’s Olympic uniform program. “Like the previous three which had a retro inspired influence, the 2018 theme is also a heavy nod to Americana, because its main influence is the iconic suits of the United States’ leading space exploration program. I have always loved the astronauts’ suits, because not only do they have such a cool and amazing aesthetic, they also were designed to function under the most extreme conditions, so this gave us an incredible platform to push the innovation and technology of the garments as well. My hope is that these pieces help the athletes go where no rider has gone before.”

“As one of the most recognized global brands in snowboarding, Burton brings tremendous value to our Olympic snowboard team with both its product quality and brand essence,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Chief Commercial Officer Dan Barnett. “We have very ambitious targets for all our athletes in South Korea. Success at the highest level of global competition comes from acute attention to detail and we know that Burton shares that philosophy. The shared vision Burton has with U.S. Ski & Snowboard and our world class roster of athletes is another of the vital building blocks being put in place to help our athletes achieve the medal targets set for PyeongChang.”

The U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team will be nominated based on a series of selection events this season including the three-stop Toyota U.S. Grand Prix with stops in Copper Mountain, Aspen/Snowmass and Mammoth Mountain.

Check out more about the Olympics here!

2018 Winter Olympic Slopestyle Course Preview

Brandon Davis offers his thoughts on the Slopestyle preview released to celebrate the 100 day countdown to then 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Read the full 2018 Winter Olympic Slopestyle Course Preview article on Snowboarder Magazine.

Mountain GOAT: Jeff Brushie, Hip-Hop in Snowboarding

“And up on the mountain, there was snow, caught big air like nobody know, went back to the bottom, hopped in my 6-4, got leather seats and a whole lot mo’.” – Jeff Brushie

Read the full Mountain GOAT: Jeff Brushie, Hip-Hop in Snowboarding article on Snowboarder Magazine.