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An Icon and an Influencer : Noah Salasnek Retrospect

Editor’s note: We’ve just recently learned of the passing of Noah Salasnek. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and the rest of the snowboarding community that he influenced so greatly.

Words: Jesse Huffman

It's hard to calculate influence, especially when the digital age has sent snowboarding's attention span spiraling with all you can eat, on-demand content. As if that's not hard enough to cut through, just consider that at one point your average pro snowboarder had a pretty good chance of wearing hard boots and rocking head to toe neon. Yes, long before the internet, snowboarding looked, well, pretty bad. Talk about influence— without Noah Salasnek, who knows where snowboarding would be?

The Nor-Cal local grew up riding ramps, and by the late 80's was a legit pro vert skater, sponsored by none other that H-Street. It only made sense that when he got into snowboarding, style and technical progression became his benchmark. Soon, Salasnek was talking to Mike 'Mack Dawg' McEntire— then a skate filmmaker— into filming him snowboarding. Before that, Mack Dawg wasn't interested in anything having to do with mountain. Together, they sparked a revolution of sorts.

In seminal Mack Dawg films like "New Kids on the Twock" and "Pocahontas," Salasnek brought a skate-inspired attack to the slopes, bonking, buttering, tweaking and spinning his way to being one of the pioneers of "new school" snowboarding. By 1992, when the Hatchet brothers and Standard Films set their lenses on Salasnek for "TB2: A New Way of Thinking", the former pro skater had a polished, loose and ultra boned out style across the whole mountain. "The Salaz" had mastered transitions of all degrees— incorporating cliffs, lines and natural takeoffs into his video park just a fluidly as he ripped the burgeoning terrain parks and of course halfpipes. 

Throughout the 90's, Salasnek's presence was heavy, and his riding progressed even further with stomped rotations off massive Tahoe drops, and first descents down sheer Alaskan spines. As any kid from that era can attest, you just had to open TransWorld SNOWboarding and you'd see a Salasnek still image or sequence that burned the era's blazing temperature of progression into your mind. From his signature deck with skate truck graphics to his library of video parts and magazine photos, Salasnek defined skate-influenced riding for a whole new generation.

Right now, Salasnek is battling very serious cancer. As Mike "Mack Dawg" McEntire puts it: "Noah needs a lot of financial help to do the treatments he needs to survive. He has no family and is facing this fight alone. His friends and I are helping him but he needs much more then we can provide— please check out his GoFund Me page and help out one of the true legends of snowboarding, it would be much appreciated."

Cancer is no joke, and we'd like to see Salasnek get the care he deserves, and the recognition of his status as a true icon. Here's what other pros and legends have to say about his influence.

Mike "Mack Dawg" McEntire:

I was hired by the late Mike Ternasky to help make the H-Street skate video “Hokus Pokus”.  Noah got on the team and we got started filming for his part. Noah was into snowboarding and wanted a snowboard shot for his video part. I pretty much had no respect for snowboarding or interest in it at all. I was all surf and skate and snowboarding was really weak at that point. We got the shot and I started to become much better friends with Noah. He kept telling me that snowboarding was super fun and I should try it. He got me to go up to Squaw to ride not long after that, and took me up first thing on a spring day. I fell all the way down the mogul field and wanted to beat the crap out of him, but I could not catch him. Somehow it all made sense, and after Hokus Pokus, I started hanging and filming with Noah, Chris Roach, Jon Baiocchi, Monty Roach, and the gang up there. 

To sum it up, if I had not met Noah I would never have gotten into making snowboard films and Mack Dawg Productions would not be a part of snowboarding.  I owe all that to Noah.

Noah loved to film and was a really motivated individual. He had a crazy focus to progress and put all his energy into pushing his limits and those around him. He took his skateboarding skills and brought them to the mountains. He did the freestyle and pipe thing for a while then took his act to big mountain riding. To this day, I don't think there has been a more well rounded snowboarder then Noah Salasnek. He crushed everything on the mountain. Kinda of like Cab or Hosoi who would show up at sketchy demo ramps that were basically unrideable and destroy. That was the difference with Noah, he would destroy everything regardless of how good it was. That is the mark of true talent— Noah Salasnek is a legend in our sport and is the reason I love snowboarding.

JP Walker:

The first footy of Noah I saw was in Fall Line Film’s "Critical Condition." It was the first snowboard video I ever saw. The way he was riding was so different from almost everyone back then, with heavy skate influence and a super smooth approach. He just looked good on a board, and was way more trick and style focused than the other big name riders at that time. To me it was almost like he showed how you should ride and almost made it seem like other pros were doing it the wrong way.

When I first started riding Noah was the one and only influence for me. I tried to emulate everything about him right down to the goatee. I had his pro deck and tried to do the same tricks as him. I love spinning backside and grabbing tail. Noah's bs 720 tail grabs are still the best to this day and I think of them every time I do one myself.

A big part about Noah was he would have a part in and MDP video that was super jib, bonk, and butter based and then he'd drop a part in a Standard vid the same year or maybe a year later and it was all crazy AK lines and sick pow jumps. He was always so good at every aspect of riding but never seems like he had to try for any of it. All the late spins and butter stuff was the newest progression and every time a part came out it was guaranteed that he would have the most progressive riding. He could just make anything look good from the smallest log bonk to the biggest lines and every hip and chronic in-between.

Without his influence snowboarding wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting or progressive and style wouldn't have been a big of a factor. 

Jeremy Jones:

Noah’s influence on snowboarding is every bit as important as Craig Kelly’s. No snowboarder has had as wide ranging of an influence on the sport as Noah. He was the first to bring true skate style to freestyle, then freestyle into freeriding and finally freeriding to spines. His Super Spines descent may be the most game changing descent in skiing and snowboarding history. At that point we considered them unridable.  Since then both sports have been on the search for dream spine walls and amazingly Super Spines is still the gold standard.

Andy Hetzel:

Snowboarding with out Salaz would have meant that a big chunk of its fucking heart was missing. In the mid-to-late 90’s when I lived in Tahoe, CA, I spent a fair amount of time with the Salaz aka the ‘Bald Turk.' This was a time when skating, backcountry snowboarding and shit talking were at an all-time high.  That era in snowboarding was my favorite. We were all pushing each other to progress, but Noah was the best at both skating and snowboarding during that time.  His energy and wit were unmatched.  Nobody can describe a run better than Noah or rip somebody else's riding style apart, quite like Noah– he’s fucking hilarious.  I have always felt strongly that Salaz is one of the best to ever stand on a snowboard. I never questioned that, and I have seen a lot.  He was the best skater/snowboarder combo, hands down. 

I spoke to Noah a couple weeks ago. I know he is sick, but feel he is gonna beat that shit and get his life back. When he does I hope Sims, Billabong, and Smith step right the hell up and give the kid some money so he can get back on the board.  I know I'm not the only one who would love to see that fat little bald guy, bunny down a pow field.  Bigs if you read this, nothing but love and respect for yah. And one more thing, peace out.

Check out more posts about Noah here.