How was the transition from being in film crews like Forum and Absinthe to being the leader of a film crew producing your own Fuel TV show (Blauvelt’s Backcountry), and now the Naturally webisodes?
It’s a little more pressure than working on a regular video, but I feel like, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. To be successful in life, you gotta take risks, right? Maybe it’s more work, but it’s also more rewarding. I’ve always wanted to be that misty, Tom Penny-style rider, but at the same time I was just turning out video parts each year. I reached a point where I felt like I wasn’t doing anything new. Maybe I was doing some new tricks, but to work toward the same final product year after year—a video part—I was kinda bored with it. That’s why I took on the TV show, I wanted to do something new. I figured I’d learn a lot in the process whether it worked out or not. I had also just signed two three-year contracts, and I was in a good position to do it. It was a good way to get myself out there, too. It was funny when I went back to Vermont. In the past when I went home, people would be like, “Are you still snowboarding—still doing that?” And then with the show, people were like, “Dude, I see you on TV all the time!” Which is cool. And I basically did the exact same thing with my riding, I just got the footage out there a different way.
In a relatively short time, you’ve climbed to the pinnacle as a pro rider. A US Open title, Forum team, pro model gear, video parts, a TV show, and so on. Where do you find the focus and confidence to make all these things happen?
I’ve always believed you shouldn’t be afraid to change it up and keep learning new things instead of getting stagnant or too comfortable. That’s kind of my philosophy of life: keep learning. I think back to how it felt when I first learned how to snowboard—how exciting it was, I was so amped. I don’t know if it releases endorphins in your brain or what, but it just takes over. It fully took over.
And I’m lucky I learned from great people, too. Back on the East Coast, I had the best coaches: Bud Keene and Jenner Richard really showed me how to ride my board, how to turn. Being able to watch Kyle Clancy, Colin Langlois, Zach Leach, Jeff Kramer—those were the guys I looked up to. I was fortunate to learn solid fundamentals as a kid. That meant learning how to ride the pipe well and learning how to compete in slopestyle. I came up through all that—it was really all I knew. I got to the point where I was doing well in contests, but then I was watching video parts from Devun, Terje, and Müller, and being like, “I want to do that!”
Experiencing the backcountry for the first time opened up a whole new world. I was lucky to be part of a good film crew with the Forum guys, and with them I learned the ways of the backcountry—how to ride and film out there. Then I hit a point where I felt like I knew what I was doing and was ready for a new challenge—something different again.
But it’s all just snowboarding isn’t it, what do you get out of shaking it up?
Well, when you’re riding new places and different types of terrain you do things you wouldn’t normally do. You have to adapt, and that’s a form of learning. Why would you just keep going back to the same spots and building the same old cheese wedge? When you get out of your comfort zone and onto some new face, you’re learning about the mountains, you’re gaining new skills.
At this point how do you see yourself evolving as a rider?
There’s always room for improvement in all areas and there’s also bigger, heavier terrain to be ridden. I’m not one to charge those huge lines yet, but it feels like that would be the next step. The terrain in BC is amazing, but it’s definitely smaller than the stuff guys like Jeremy Jones and Xavier are doing up in Alaska. The next step for me is to get up there and start all over again with another big learning curve. I feel like I’ve got some time to figure it out and if I can keep myself in one piece, that’s definitely where I’ll be going.
You recovered pretty fast from a minor back injury, how’s the body holding up, anyway?
With yoga and taking care of my body, I felt so good this year, even compared to when I was like 18 and 19, when you’re supposed to be like a noodle. Back then I was so stiff, so tight all the time. I remember being so stiff from snowmobiling that I didn’t even want to ride. This winter was totally different. Being disciplined about taking care of my body and getting into yoga has really helped. I get off the sled or out of the heli and I feel good, I have energy.
Yeah. I mean, I’m just learning it, but it’s a new stimulant for me and it’s super cool. Obviously, it makes you feel limber and builds up core strength, but it’s also mental. It seems like in sports—action sports in particular—the mental side of things gets ignored. We just work on the physical. But with yoga, you focus on breathing and controlled movements. Every day since hurting my back, I do 45 minutes to an hour of yoga before riding and get super limber. But you know, you’re really concentrating on breathing, so it’s meditation. When I finish I feel centered and mellow and my whole body feels good. Do that every day before riding and your mind, body, and board feel like one. And actually all of this stemmed from my injury. It showed me that even getting hurt could teach you something. I’m stealing this quote from somebody, but it’s like, you can either let an injury take something from you, or you can take something away from your injury. Turn it into a positive.
When you were 18, if I had said that you should get into yoga, what would your reaction have been?
Dude, I know. But the funny thing is, my mom and girlfriend always said it. They’re not really even into yoga, but they’re both just super wise like that. I dabbled with it a few times when I was younger—clueless and with the worst form—but with injuries and getting a little older and wiser, you realize that you need your body to keep up with your brain. But it’s not like my mindset is train, train, train, or something. Party all night and then go shred—that’s the snowboard mentality, and I love that, too. But I rely on my body to do the things I love, and I look at guys like Terje or Nicolas, even Kelly Slater, and those guys are so on it—so strong.
Yeah, the yoga seems to be working for Terje.
Seriously. That guy is my role model. No doubt about it, he’s a hero to me and seeing how he does it, riding with such power and style for so long, it’s inspiring.
You’ve kinda surrounded yourself with legendary riders: Haakon, Nicolas, Fredi, Gigi—these are all great guys to learn from and steal secrets from.
Definitely. When these guys strap in, you pretty much just shut up and observe. Lots of riders don’t know how to drain everything out and focus—all these guys know how to do it and that’s exactly how snowboarding is supposed to be done. Everyone puts their own personality and style into the riding, but these guys all have that same mental focus. There’s definitely lots to be learned from more experienced riders.
When you step back and look at snowboarding as a whole, is there stuff that bugs you?
It’s all good, you know? But I guess there’s one thing that bugs me—and it’s just kids being kids—but when you’re in line at some resorts, it’s like a fashion show: “What’s he wearing, what’s he riding? He doesn’t have next year’s shit, he can’t be that good…” Just kinda vibing. That’s part of why I like Mt. Baker so much. When I first came up here four or five years ago, I was like, “This is sick!” Sick mountain, such sick terrain, and that dude over there is on a 175 Winterstick in his Carhartts, and he’s f—king shredding. And he’s so happy, he doesn’t give a f—k. I don’t fault kids for getting all caught up in what gear they’re rocking, or what board they’re riding—that’s just high school stuff. When I first started coming up in contests, I remember being told that I needed an image. Like, ‘You gotta have an image to make it in snowboarding.’ Really? I do? I have a snowboard. I thought you just had to snowboard good and people would be stoked. Isn’t it all about the riding?