Chris Engelsman Interview

When Chris Engelsman asked me if I’d write an introduction for his interview, I thought it was the last thing I wanted to do. I take photos¿I’m not a writer. Basically, I hate to write for public consumption. The editors of this fine publication usually cringe when I send them anything other than snowboarding photos, but I feel so strongly about Engelsman’s riding I figured, “What the hell? I’ll take a crack at it.”

It’s real simple. Kids, this guy can ride a snowboard. Put Chris in any situation, and he lays it down. Take him to Alaska or to a 25-step kinked rail in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you know you’re going to come away with keepers; his riding is so solid and so well rounded, I can hardly think of many other riders I’d say the same thing about.

Chris doesn’t put much stock in the “what’s cool” or “what’s dope” trends. What you see is what you get, which is a very respectable characteristic in a sport where some people put just as much effort into their image as they do their riding.

This is what I know about Chris as a snowboarder and as a person. Those of you who think he is overrated or has bad “steez” are entitled to your opinions, but I encourage you to study the photos on the following pages, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something.¿Kevin Zacher

When TransWorld got a hold of me to say they wanted to do an interview, I was stoked. I started to think about what I wanted to do.

This summer at Mt. Hood, I realized I’ve been snowboarding longer than a lot of the kids at snowboard camp have been alive. I thought it would be cool to have the kids ask me questions about topics they’re interested in. What follows are their questions in their own words.¿Chris

Ryan Myers: You’re working at Windell’s Snowboard Camp as the head digger. Is it really work, or is it all just fun and games knowing you build the kickers campers tell stories about because of how awesome they are?

Working at Windell’s is definitely not all shits and giggles. We just try to make it look that way. July is always a super hectic month. So many pros, photographers, filmers, campers¿it gets taxing trying to have the raddest stuff. Often when we build really big jumps, I get scared. There are always kids hungry to be pro, so they head up to Hood to make it into the big time. They see these kickers with twenty photographers shooting photos, and hit the jump¿sometimes they’re fine, other times they get sledded away by the ski patrol. I just hate seeing people get hurt. I don’t want to end someone’s future with a jump I built. Other than that, it’s pretty damn fun.

Cody Liska: Why are you a digger at Windell’s if you’re pro?

Ah-ha, that’s a good question. I guess I’m a digger ’cause it’s the most fun job at a summer camp. I get to ride all the time, build the kinds of jumps I want to hit, and it allows me the flexibility to be able to take an afternoon off and go to the motocross track. Why do I work if I’m pro? It keeps me on the snow learning new tricks and makes me a better snowboarder.

Ryan Myers: Sum up Mt. Hood in three words.

One, Hollywood. Two, recreation. Three, friends.

Ryan Myers: Did you go to college or have ambitions of going to college?

While I was going to high school I totally planned on going to college. I wanted to be out west so I could snowboard. I thought the logical choice was the University of Colorado at Boulder. Then I went to Windell’s Snowboard Camp the summer after my junior year in high school. I told some of the pros there I wanted to go to Boulder. They quickly informed me I should attend Western State Colorado. Crested Butte is located 30 miles away, so you can ride every afternoon. That winter my parents sent me out to Western State Colorado to check it out. It only tooone day of riding at Crested Butte for me to make up my mind. The next fall I attended Western State Colorado and finished two and a half years before I had to decide between school and snowboarding. I think I made the right choice.

Ryan Myers: If snowboarding didn’t work out for you, what would your profession have been?

Damn, that’s a good question. I’m not really sure. Most likely I would’ve graduated with a business degree. Then I would’ve worked for some company. Snowboarding has shown me that anything is possible when it comes to work. You should never have to do some shitty job you hate. Find out what you love doing, and figure out a way that it can make money for you. Then it’s not even like work. So I hope I never work a day in my life.

Bryan Gortikov: How long have you owned E-Tree Clothing?

E-Tree Clothing has been around since ’90. Throughout that time period it’s gone up and down. Now I’m just doing simple stuff: T-shirts, sweatshirts, et cetera. It’s super low-key; the only place it can be purchased is at Windell’s, or on my Web site: Chris Engelsman dotcom ChrisEngelsman.com.

Freeman Rock: At what age did you start snowboarding?

I got my first snowboard for Christmas in 1987; I was thirteen years old. The snowboard was called a Saunzee. It was made locally in my hometown and was dubbed a snow/sand board. That same Christmas my friend Dan Looman also got a snowboard, but he had to sit at home because we didn’t have any snow in Michigan. Since mine could also go on sand, I went out to the dunes and made my first turns. I only went a few more times in the sand, though. It was way too slow.

Ryan Myers: When did you turn pro?

The first pro contest I did was during the winter of ’94. It was at Snow Summit in Big Bear, California. I road-tripped out there with Dave Basterrechea. We arrived the day before the contest, so we decided to go freeride. Basterrechea suggested we clip tickets to save some cash. I wasn’t to sure about it, but a few minutes later he came back with two tickets. I put my ticket on my jacket and continued getting ready. Meanwhile every few minutes I’d have to pick up Dave’s ticket from the ground because it kept falling off his clothes.

Finally we got in the liftline. As we got close to the ticket checker I tugged on my ticket to see if it would stay on. The wire wicket bent free, so I scurried to the back of the liftline to fix it. While I was fixing the ticket, Dave made it through no problem. He motioned that it was super easy to get through. My luck was not so good. I got busted. They brought me into the security office, police were called, a mug shot was taken, and I was given a summons to appear in court.

The next few days during the contest I was super low-key and managed to do pretty well. Even though that was my first contest, I didn’t get paid to snowboard until the next fall. That was when K2 first hooked me up.

Ryan Myers: While growing up, who inspired you the most to ride?

When I began riding, I looked up to all the guys in the magazines¿dudes like Brushie, Terje, Noah Brandon, Dale Rehburg, Nate Cole, all kinds of people. The one person who inspired me the most, though, had to be Chris Forrest. He was from Michigan and was sponsored by Burton. One year I believe he won the slalom at the U.S. Open¿back when racing was the big thing. He was living proof you could be a pro from Michigan.

Freeman Rock: What do you like best about road trips?

Right now the best thing about road trips is even though it’s work, it’s more like a vacation. When I’m snowboarding in Utah, it’s all hectic¿get up, go ride, get back into town before everything closes, run some errands, pay bills, take care of the house. When I’m on the road, all that stuff is left behind. I just get to ride and then sit in the hot tub afterward, eat a good meal, and hang out. What I also like about road trips is getting to see different parts of the world. You get to meet so many different people. It lets me appreciate what I have even more.

Freeman Rock: What do you do with your free time besides snowboarding?

Hang out with my girlfriend Kate, motocross, skateboard, hike, take care of my house, or pay the dreaded bills.

Freeman Rock: What sports did you play as a kid?

Growing up I did everything: traditional sports, skateboarding, motorcycles, BMX, basically anything and everything. I never played baseball in school ’cause springtime was meant for skateboarding, but I played football all the way through high school.

After my sophomore year I quit basketball so I could snowboard more. My football coaches thought I would use the free time to focus on football, doing stuff like lifting weights and throwing the football. Instead, I went snowboarding as often as I could. They were pretty bummed. Another time, while I was still playing high school basketball, we had a half day of school two days before the crosstown rival game. The parking lots were dry, so my friends and I went skating. That afternoon I rolled my ankle on a gap. I ended up tearing tendons in my ankle, sidelining me from the big game. Man, was my coach pissed.

I still play basketball, and of course on Super Bowl Sunday we pro friends who live in Utah always play our own football game called the Pabst Bowl.

Freeman Rock: What do you think of Shaun White?

That kid is going to be awesome. Right now he’s incredible and he’s only like thirteen. By the time he’s 21 he’ll probably be considered a legend in snowboarding.

Ryan Myers: Has the K2 team been good to you, and are you planning on staying with them for a while?

K2 has been great to me. I’ve been with them throughout my entire professional career. Because of them I’ve been able to travel the world and do things most people only dream of. Will I stay with them for a while? I’d like to, but my contract with them is up this spring. We’ll have to see what happens.

Ryan Myers: What’s your opinion on the new era of step-in bindings, yea or nay?

The new stuff, if it comes out right, is going to be way better than what’s in the stores this year. If you’re into easy, lightweight, simple-to-use bindings whose parts won’t break, then yea.

Drew Rosen: Hey, are you going to challenge Abe Teter again?

No, I don’t think a rematch is really necessary. Although the unofficial rematch can be seen at Chris Engelsman dotcom ChrisEngelsman.com.

Drew Rosen: What’s it like when you see each other now?

It’s pretty mellow. Abe tries to be all nice, which is cool. I just don’t know if it’s for real or some sort of cover up. Before, Abe said I was the most overrated snowboarder. I totally respected his riding, and I thought he respected mine. I just don’t know what to think now.

Bryan Gortikov: How the hell did you recover from the fall off the rail in Technical Difficulties?

Oh man, that was crazy. I can’t believe I didn’t break my arm. It turned out I got a two-inch-deep puncture wound. Because the wound was so deep and right next to my bone, the doctors couldn’t stitch it up. For four weeks I had a tube sticking out of my arm so fluids could drain out and a pressure wrap so no air pockets formed in my arm.

Every two days I’d have to go to the doctor, who’d pull the tube out a little bit more each visit. One day we took the bandage off, and the tube slid back into my arm, so the doctor had to fish it out. When they took the bandage off, they’d have to massage my arm to make sure there were no pockets of fluid. Every time they did that, one doctor would hit the floor because he was afraid blood and fluid would come sot tub afterward, eat a good meal, and hang out. What I also like about road trips is getting to see different parts of the world. You get to meet so many different people. It lets me appreciate what I have even more.

Freeman Rock: What do you do with your free time besides snowboarding?

Hang out with my girlfriend Kate, motocross, skateboard, hike, take care of my house, or pay the dreaded bills.

Freeman Rock: What sports did you play as a kid?

Growing up I did everything: traditional sports, skateboarding, motorcycles, BMX, basically anything and everything. I never played baseball in school ’cause springtime was meant for skateboarding, but I played football all the way through high school.

After my sophomore year I quit basketball so I could snowboard more. My football coaches thought I would use the free time to focus on football, doing stuff like lifting weights and throwing the football. Instead, I went snowboarding as often as I could. They were pretty bummed. Another time, while I was still playing high school basketball, we had a half day of school two days before the crosstown rival game. The parking lots were dry, so my friends and I went skating. That afternoon I rolled my ankle on a gap. I ended up tearing tendons in my ankle, sidelining me from the big game. Man, was my coach pissed.

I still play basketball, and of course on Super Bowl Sunday we pro friends who live in Utah always play our own football game called the Pabst Bowl.

Freeman Rock: What do you think of Shaun White?

That kid is going to be awesome. Right now he’s incredible and he’s only like thirteen. By the time he’s 21 he’ll probably be considered a legend in snowboarding.

Ryan Myers: Has the K2 team been good to you, and are you planning on staying with them for a while?

K2 has been great to me. I’ve been with them throughout my entire professional career. Because of them I’ve been able to travel the world and do things most people only dream of. Will I stay with them for a while? I’d like to, but my contract with them is up this spring. We’ll have to see what happens.

Ryan Myers: What’s your opinion on the new era of step-in bindings, yea or nay?

The new stuff, if it comes out right, is going to be way better than what’s in the stores this year. If you’re into easy, lightweight, simple-to-use bindings whose parts won’t break, then yea.

Drew Rosen: Hey, are you going to challenge Abe Teter again?

No, I don’t think a rematch is really necessary. Although the unofficial rematch can be seen at Chris Engelsman dotcom ChrisEngelsman.com.

Drew Rosen: What’s it like when you see each other now?

It’s pretty mellow. Abe tries to be all nice, which is cool. I just don’t know if it’s for real or some sort of cover up. Before, Abe said I was the most overrated snowboarder. I totally respected his riding, and I thought he respected mine. I just don’t know what to think now.

Bryan Gortikov: How the hell did you recover from the fall off the rail in Technical Difficulties?

Oh man, that was crazy. I can’t believe I didn’t break my arm. It turned out I got a two-inch-deep puncture wound. Because the wound was so deep and right next to my bone, the doctors couldn’t stitch it up. For four weeks I had a tube sticking out of my arm so fluids could drain out and a pressure wrap so no air pockets formed in my arm.

Every two days I’d have to go to the doctor, who’d pull the tube out a little bit more each visit. One day we took the bandage off, and the tube slid back into my arm, so the doctor had to fish it out. When they took the bandage off, they’d have to massage my arm to make sure there were no pockets of fluid. Every time they did that, one doctor would hit the floor because he was afraid blood and fluid would come squirting out. The whole ordeal healed in four weeks.

Cody Liska: Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever snowboarded?

Definitely Alaska¿the snow, the terrain, and the helicopters all combine to create the best stuff to ride anywhere. Russia was cool, but the old rickety helicopters were scary. China was nutty. They actually have guys shoveling snow from the woods onto the runs. I want to check out the Himalayas, though. They sound pretty similar to Alaska, just more spendy.

Cody Liska: Does it get tiring with kids saying, “Oh my god, you’re Chris Engelsman?”

No, usually kids are pretty shy. Typically they’ll just say, “Hey, what’s up?” or something like that. So it’s not too overwhelming.

Cody Liska: Does your arm ever get tired signing autographs?

Sometimes my hand freezes up, and I write my name all illegible. Then my spelling gets real bad and I misspell people’s names. That sucks.

Ryan Myers: Finally, how cool is it to know you’re one of the greats in snowboarding, and that you’re the idol of thousands of amateur snowboarders?

It’s pretty cool to have kids look up to you. The crazy thing is I used to be like you, looking up to all the pros. Then one day I was good enough to be in videos and magazines and hanging out with all the people I used to look up to. Pretty strange.

Final Words: One last thing, I’d like to thank a few people: K2, Dragon, Bluebird Wax, Snowaccess.com, Tim Windell, my mom and dad, my brother Rob, and especially Kate.

Cody Liska: Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever snowboarded?

Definitely Alaska¿the snow, the terrain, and the helicopters all combine to create the best stuff to ride anywhere. Russia was cool, but the old rickety helicopters were scary. China was nutty. They actually have guys shoveling snow from the woods onto the runs. I want to check out the Himalayas, though. They sound pretty similar to Alaska, just more spendy.

Cody Liska: Does it get tiring with kids saying, “Oh my god, you’re Chris Engelsman?”

No, usually kids are pretty shy. Typically they’ll just say, “Hey, what’s up?” or something like that. So it’s not too overwhelming.

Cody Liska: Does your arm ever get tired signing autographs?

Sometimes my hand freezes up, and I write my name all illegible. Then my spelling gets real bad and I misspell people’s names. That sucks.

Ryan Myers: Finally, how cool is it to know you’re one of the greats in snowboarding, and that you’re the idol of thousands of amateur snowboarders?

It’s pretty cool to have kids look up to you. The crazy thing is I used to be like you, looking up to all the pros. Then one day I was good enough to be in videos and magazines and hanging out with all the people I used to look up to. Pretty strange.

Final Words: One last thing, I’d like to thank a few people: K2, Dragon, Bluebird Wax, Snowaccess.com, Tim Windell, my mom and dad, my brother Rob, and especially Kate.