Small Is Beautiful
When I got the strange notion to plan a snowboarding trip to the Midwest, I wasconvinced I’d have a hard time finding anyone to go with me. I mean, really-winter’s only so long, and whatself-respecting professional rider would leave Tahoe, Utah, or Whistler during prime time to go road-trippingthrough Minnesota and Michigan? Not too many, I suspected. Luckily, I only needed one, since my goalwas not to make a spectacle, but rather to unobtrusively check the pulse of Midwestern snowboarding. Afterall, a decent chunk of this fine magazine’s readership calls the Midwest home, yet I didn’t have the slightestidea of what went on out there. First I had to find someone to go with me. Although prepared to settle foralmost anyone, I decided to troll around a little, just in case I could hook a worthy travel partner.
I gave itsome thought, scribbling down a few names on a piece of paper-riders I considered good candidates for themission. Then, with an apprehensive “here goes nothing” sigh, I started at the top of my list and dialedShannon Melhuse’s number. Shannon’s been around the block a few times so I knew he’d make a goodtravel companion, and I figured his freecarving approach was tailor-made for the Midwest’s icy snow. I wasfairly flabbergasted when Shannon agreed to join me without hesitation. He said it sounded fun-a nice changeof pace. He mentioned something about growing up in Wisconsin and learning to race at some place calledRib Mountain.
I had a similar experience when lining up a photographer. Once again, I expected littleenthusiasm for the Midwest assignment, but former Snowboard Life Associate Photo Editor Andrius Simutissigned on almost immediately. What was going on? I was a bit puzzled, but thanked my lucky stars withoutgiving the topic another thought. It wasn’t until weeks later, somewhere in the middle of northern Michigan,that it all started making sense. As we passed through the town of Gladstone not long before sunset, wespied what appeared to be a small ski hill just off the highway. We’d been cooped up in the car all day as wemade our way across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and were itching for any excuse to pull off the road for afew minutes.
We decided to investigate. Before long, we stood at the top of Gladstone Sports Park. Theplace had maybe 200 feet of vert serviced by a rope-tow, with some dug-out gullies and the possibleremnants of a halfpipe. It looked to be a tiny municipal hill, although we couldn’t be sure. You see, therewasn’t a soul around to confirm or deny our suspicions. The Midwest was experiencing an unusually warmwinter, and up until two days before, it hadn’t snowed in six weeks or so. As far as we could surmise,Gladstone Sports Park hadn’t survived the thaw and called it quits for the season. But there we were, just thethree of us, looking down at the foot of fresh snow covering this humble city slope, wondering whether toslash up the banked gullies or get in the car and drive away. The place was closed-that was clear-and weguessed the gentle citizens of Gladstone would probably look none too kindly on our impromptu afternoonsession. Unable to resist, we went for it anyway (Did you really think we wouldn’t?). It was then-as
Shannoncarved up the gullies of Gladstone Sports Park-I figured out why he and Andy had agreed to join me on thismost unusual road trip. Shannon was from Wisconsin. What was that resort he’d mentioned-Rib Mountain?Shannon grew up on small hills just like this one. So did Andrius, whose local mountain in Alpine, NewJersey was a tiny hill much like Gladstone Sports Park. Despite the fact that Shannon and Andrius visit theworld’s best mountains as a professional snowboarder and snowboard photographer, they still have softspots for the kind of mom-and-pop resorts scattered all across the Midwest. It dawned on me that mostsnowboarders have a resort they’d call their “local mountain.” And for many of those riders, it’s a small hilllike Rib Mouuntain or Gladstone Sports Park. Suddenly smiling, I looked around at the modest slope andquietly said, “Thank you” for all the small resorts everywhere. The story of my road trip with Shannon andAndy, “Lake Effect,” starts on page 40. I hope you enjoy it, along with the rest of the issue. Best Regards,Ewan Morrison Managing Editor