Mikey Leblanc really needs no introduction. If you’ve picked up a snowboard mag’ any time in the last decade, you’ve caught more than a glimpse of him. He’s cultivated a life out of snowboarding, as a pro-shred, and a businessman. Captain of the ship at Holden outerwear, he still took time to film with Absinthe films this past season. I caught up with him in Portland, Oregon. — Rian Rhoe

1. What’s new at Holden?

Holden’s pretty much in full tilt mode right now. We’re getting the 07/08 lines ready to show at the trade show in Las Vegas in late January, and we’re really excited because we’re going to launch a full-sized women’s collection there. We made five women’s coats for the 06/07 line, but have expanded it for next season to eighteen women’s coats. The drive behind the huge women’s push is just that we love making it. I want to also be clear that unlike a lot of our competitors, these are not just takedowns from the men’s outerwear line—men’s styles made to fit women. These pieces are all treated as their own entities. And we think they’re all beautiful. We’re also excited because our 06/07 line is hitting stores really soon and we think it all looks amazing as well.

2. You split your time between Portland and SLC, two major destinations for pro shredders. What do you think about each place?

Portland and SLC? Theoretically I do winters in SLC, and summers in Portland. But it seems to be working out more like late spring and summers in Portland, and falls and winters in SLC. I also commute back and forth to Portland a lot in the winter, as most of our design goes down in the late winter. As far as what I think about each place, I love them both. SLC is so calm. It also has the most consistent snow and sunny weather in between snows of anywhere on the planet. The people in SLC have a “live and don’t bother each other” type of thing going, which is nice as well. When I’m in SLC I have little to no fear of anything except avalanches. I also live ten minutes form the airport, and ten minutes from the real mountains.

Portland is a really interactive city. So much activism, all types of people, art, bars, local organic foods, homeless, drug addicts, the ocean and so on. The thing I love most about Portland right now is the food, and it’s heavy emphasis on local organics. I love the concept of supporting local farmers, and knowing what you’re eating. I also love being one hour from the ocean, and one hour from the mountains. The people are a bit more into themselves in Portland than in SLC, which is good and bad. From that we get more art, culture, music, style, activism, and politics that I can back. And all the ego that comes along with those as well. Portland has the necessary elements for a truly progressive city.

3. What do you think drives innovation in snowboarding and design?

At its core I think it’s a basic instinct to survive. To be the best and make the best. I think that drive to stay alive is the source that drives us all to do most everything we do. Once we add some layers of humanness and analytical thought to what we do, we can get headier about it. For instance why we at Holden want to make the best outerwear on the planet. You could say I want to be rich, that it’s about survival for me and mine. But, I can justify it with things like; “I want to make earth friendly outerwear to save lives, by reducing waste. Again this is a survival thing, just with less of a “me, and more of an “us type of thought behind it. But it’s still about survival.

In the big picture I don’t think the “survival of the fittest” thing is all that drives innovation in snowboarding, and in design. It seems to be the reason for making better things, and doing things better. To be better than the next person is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin driving innovation is not to separate us, but to connect ourselves to other people—to make us all stronger.

4. What happened to Kidsknow?

Kiknow was a project that I dreamt of for maybe six or seven years. We made some good videos that served what we wanted to serve up to snowboarding. A taste of style and fun. In general we looked at it like we were giving back to snowboarding some of the things that we loved, and had gotten from snowboarding. Things like the love of friends, activity, skill, creativity, and music. Kidsknow was Shelby Menzel and I, and we both felt like if we did another video we would’ve been faking it—just going through the motions. It was time to follow other interests, so we put Kidsknow down, and picked up our new loves. Shelby and I both try and live our lives in such a way that when we wake up every morning, we love what we are doing. Sure sometimes it’s a drag to do some stuff, and nothing is easy, but there are endless possibilities and interests but not endless time. So we try and do what really makes us happy every day.

5. How was filming with Absinthe this winter?

Absinthe is a whole different ball game. They’re not going through the motions of “we gotta get the video done.” The difference between say a Kidsknow and Absinthe is that Justin Hostynek, Brusti, and Shane Charlebois are doing what they feel like they are here to do right now—in a more long term way. They’ve found a stronger calling than Kidsknow did to make snowboarding videos. The Absinthe guys are amazing cinematographers, and amazing people. I’ve worked with almost all the major snow film companies but Absinthe is so different—they are absolutely no pressure. They suggest places to go because of snow conditions, and weather patterns, but beyond that they’re there to document the riding. Where as another company might suggest that you do this trick, or that trick, the crew at Absinthe is more concerned with making their art, filmmaking, look beautiful. I also loved working with them because I got to ride with some of my modern day snow favorites like Gigi Ruf, J.P. Solberg, J2 Rasmus, and Justin Bennee.

6. If you had to pick one rider who you think embodies the future of snowboarding, who would it be?

A hybrid between Nicholas Mueller, and Gigi (Ruf) for truly creative shredding, and Shaun White for sheer amazing talent. I read a quote from Shaun that broke down where he’s headed and broke down progression in general. Loosely quoted he said, “If I worry about whether I’m better than, and gonna beat these other guys in halfpipe competitions, then I’m just barely better than them. But, if I push myself to do what I can only dream of, I will be my best …” That’s pretty damn impressive thinking for a twenty something year old. He’s headed for greatness.

7. You’ve been all over as a snowboarder and designer, is there a time or place when you felt the most out of your element?

As far as in snowboarding I feel completely out of my element in a contest setting. I only did a few contests at the request of sponsors but it really felt just plain wrong. The snowboard trickery thing is more of a private, “prove it to myself” type of thing rather than a, “check out what I can do in front of people” kinda thing for me. But I don’t look down on contests. I filmed a lot, and that’s also a way for people to see what I can do on this piece of plastic.

8. What’s your opinion on shredding at Hood in the summer?

If you need to get out there on the board year round, enjoy the hell out of it. If you wake up in the morning in mid-July and dream of the woods, the beach, or other things, do that instead. But I also get to ride as many days of the year as I want, and I get it all out in the winter. Some are not so lucky as I.

9. What do you think about MySpace?

I think it’s a great thing. It’s a tool that can radically change the way we communicate with people in large scale. It can be good simple fun, or dangerous at its extremes. It can also expose people to all sorts of music, art, and ideas. I think MySpace and the Internet in general are very positive for keeping human evolution moving towards us all being seen as one race, all human beings—no separation.

10. You’ve been “in it” for a while, how do you stay stoked on snowboarding?

It’s been interesting being a person who’s made his living at what he dreamed of doing since fourteen. I’ve loved snowboarding more than anything in the world at points in my life. Staying stoked is as easy as keeping it simple. What’s snowboarding about? Enjoyment.

For me it’s an old love affair—the honeymoon is long over. I kinda have kids with snowboarding now. So many of my relationships are directly related to it in friends, and in business. I have respect for snowboarding’s gifts and its pains. Like any relationship snowboarding can be a quick fling, a life-long love, and everything in between. Just be honest with what makes you happy, and do that.

Mikey’s been at the top of the game for a hot-minute. We sifted through the deep TransWorld archives and put together a select gallery of shots. Check ‘em out.rnet in general are very positive for keeping human evolution moving towards us all being seen as one race, all human beings—no separation.

10. You’ve been “in it” for a while, how do you stay stoked on snowboarding?

It’s been interesting being a person who’s made his living at what he dreamed of doing since fourteen. I’ve loved snowboarding more than anything in the world at points in my life. Staying stoked is as easy as keeping it simple. What’s snowboarding about? Enjoyment.

For me it’s an old love affair—the honeymoon is long over. I kinda have kids with snowboarding now. So many of my relationships are directly related to it in friends, and in business. I have respect for snowboarding’s gifts and its pains. Like any relationship snowboarding can be a quick fling, a life-long love, and everything in between. Just be honest with what makes you happy, and do that.

Mikey’s been at the top of the game for a hot-minute. We sifted through the deep TransWorld archives and put together a select gallery of shots. Check ‘em out.