Chasing down the Swedish ripper legacy with Team Quiksilver.

By Jennifer Sherowski

Every snowboarder wants the same thing-a place to let their board run free. And while for some people it might mean just that-a mound of snow with a T-bar running to the top, others reach for something a little grander. Sweden, for instance-land of the midnight sun, of rolling hills and gentle mountains, has made up for what it lacks in skyscraping steeps and dramatic powder dumps with precision terrain parks. Yeah, in Sweden you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a perfect kicker or a man who knows how to build one. And if you think about it, that’s one of the reasons Swedish riders are such trick-stomping madmen.

At the top of that Swedish ripper list are two good friends named Jakob Wilhelmson and Hampus Mosesson. While off the snow Jakob and Hampus are in many ways diametrically opposed-Jakob is a mellow family fellow into going to bed early, while Hampus is a ladies’ man with an affinity for dance-infused all-nighters-on the snow both riders exude an effortless talent marked by power, control, and loads of finesse. No one who experiences this phenomenon can cease to wonder, where does that intrinsic snowboard supremacy come from?
Lucky for us, the two Swedes invited a few friends back home to explore their motherland and bear witness to all things Sweden, including the true roots of the Swedish ripper legacy. Because both Jakob and Hampus ride for Quiksilver, the trip became a Quiksilver team tour of sorts, with Yankee Quik riders Austen Smith and Bryan Fox jumping on board and Quiksilver Team Manager Brian Craighill organizing the mission. On the media front, Norwegian photog Frode Sandbech snapped still shots, MDP’s Justin Eeles recorded film, and I, of course, took mental notes. No moment went undocumented.

I once said that I never get writer’s block. “Rider’s block is what I get!” I slurred, or some other such nonsense. However, as I sat down to write about Sweden, a bit of the block really did hit me. How do you write about such a simple and pleasant trip, where everything unfolded with a decidedly natural ease? The food was good, and as I said before, there were kickers aplenty. No real crowds or traffic got in our way, everyone spoke English, and the entire land was in the grips of such forward thinking sophistication and stylishness that I couldn’t help feeling a little shabby, slovenly, and, I don’t know, I guess a bit behind the times.

As Americans I think we are, for better or worse, accustomed to traveling to lands “less civilized” than ours, whatever that means. I suppose it’s part of the adventure-the idea of gripping for dear life on some rickety chairlift built in 1908 or having to say good-bye to all phone and Internet access for a trip’s duration. But going somewhere more civilized? That’s precisely how our Sweden journey struck me.

Allow me to elaborate. The airport in Stockholm has rich, shiny hardwood floors throughout. Seriously, where was the hideously ornate airport carpet? And people on the street don ruthlessly savvy wardrobes. The roads, while devoid of litter, are packed with brand-new, fuel-efficient cars. Tiny hole-in-the-wall coffee shops are home to incredible dishware and furniture. Ikea originated in Sweden, remember? It’s really no stretch to see why this country is famous for its good style, good design, and urbane good taste.

Then there was us-five Americans dressed in jeans and dark hoodies like it was some kind of uniform. How did we measure up? Not that it’s a competition or anything, but when you get to thinking, it really does make sense. Swedes know about style, and so on a snowboard, style would obviously be important. No chucking some 1440 five feet in the air. They’ll do something with lofty charisma or not do it at all. Style is an ingrained part of their cultural identity.

Frolicking in the snow is another embedded cultural characteristic. Sandwiched betweesister Scandinavian nations Norway and Finland, Sweden’s real estate reaches deep into the Arctic Circle, with the northern parts of the country spending nearly seven months in the grips of cold temps and snow. Winter recreation is obviously a huge part of these people’s everyday lifestyle. “Yeah, snowsports are big in Sweden,” says Jakob, who grew up in Tanndalen, a small resort in the north. “My family has been into alpine skiing for many generations. Both my parents worked at the hill, and my brother and I skied every day growing up.”

We spent a week shooting at a famous resort called Are. It was packed for spring break, and man, I got so hyped on the Swedes’ expert noontime setup. Every day right around lunchtime, there were suddenly families posted up in every nook and cranny all over the mountain. The moms would lay out their yoga mats-one to sit on and one to block the wind-and an elaborate picnic would unfold. Coffee from a thermos, cheese, bread, chocolate, pickled fish of some sort. The adults would kick back, unbuckle their boots, and work on their tans while the kids crittered around and made sandcastles from the snow. I was immediately jealous-it looked like seriously good livin’.
But we had good livin’ of our own to partake in, because the resort of Are showed us that famous Swedish kicker-building hospitality. There was the public park to session all day long, an entire run dedicated to finely crafted jumps and jibs. We could barely keep Austen and Bryan contained as they lapped the park in a mouth-foaming frenzy. Also, on the “other side” of the mountain, which ended up being some four painful T-bar rides away, the park builder had constructed another double line for us that caught the golden rays of the evening sun.
And then, of course, there was the Jon Olsson Jump. Any jump that has a name is cool in my books. My friends and I would name every little hit and feature at my local resort when I was growing up. A wayward mogul for doing Cross Rockets became “The Bat Out Of Hell,” while a three-foot cliff into trees was ominously dubbed “The Elevator Shaft.” However, the Jon Olsson Jump was not of this variety. It was a 95-foot-long, several story high monstrosity with a channel cut out of the middle for added effect. Constructed for local skier Jon Olsson’s yearly invitational big-air contest, it was the kind of thing that strikes fear and awe into the hearts of onlookers. I mean, you could get hurt just trying to scramble up and peek over the takeoff, much less jumping off of it.

As the sun neared the horizon one frosty eve, the boys booted up and began the process of preparing to hit this thing. After hiking up to the drop-in spot several hundred yards away, they’d haul ass in and throw it sideways at the last second to get a feeling for how much speed they’d have and need. The sight of them flying toward the lip with their legs bouncing like frantic shock absorbers, the wind whipping their jackets, and then that hard noise of a board edging on newly salted corduroy-man, it was stressful. I closed my eyes like I have a thousand times before and thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t a pro snowboarder.

Of course, one time when Jakob was doing a test run, he just didn’t throw his board sideways, and off he sailed as we all gaped our mouths open and leaned forward. Despite our disbelief, he continued to fly through the air and even grabbed method before stomping down perfectly. And that was that-it was on. With a snowmobile to relay people to the top, rider after rider sent it off Jon Olsson like a barrage of machine-gun fire in a several hour session that only simmered down once it got dark. And no one got hurt. Thank. God.

Anyhow, I’d like to tell you that we discovered territories unknown and that we Americans were worshipped as gods for bringing snowboarding to a bunch of savages. I’d like to tell you that a band of roving wolves nearly ate our faces off as we trekked to some remote mountain village to spread the word of shred. However, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We simply drove a couple brand-new Volvo rental cars to some nice resorts in Sweden to ride buffed-out kickers and eat Swedish meatballs. And at the end of the day, I guess that’s how it should be.

Take It Or Leave It: The Best And Worst Of Sweden
Every place has things about it that rule and things about it that suck. Of course, Sweden is no different. I mean, if we didn’t know darkness, how could we ever appreciate light? Or whatever.

Take It
Food: Swedish meatballs. Reindeer meat. Chocolate. Cheese. Rich, creamy coffee. Breakfast buffets with hardboiled eggs, brown bread, and all manor of pastries. Now that I think about it, all we really did was eat in Sweden-and that’s just fine by me.

Hot chicks and dudes: The rumor that people around these parts are essentially “hot” proved to be true. Yep, Swedes tend to be fair-haired and olive-skinned, strutting around with lean builds, blue eyes, and high cheekbones. Premium human specimens, really.

Epic kickers: Everywhere we turned, people were building jumps for us. In fact, our first stop after the Stockholm airport was a remote private hill that a couple snowboarder friends had recently bought. There was a rope tow, a bunny slope, a mini ramp, and a freshly constructed giant gap booter built over a dirt patch. Welcome to Sweden!

Leave It
Salty candy: Candy is supposed to be sweet, right? I mean, doesn’t the very definition of it entail cavities or an instant diabetic coma? However, Jakob and Hampus spent the entire trip popping handfuls of this horribly salty black licorice “candy.” No beuno!

Techno: As far as I can tell, there’s a massive cultural rift between Americans and Europeans on the subject of techno music. Sadly, I’m not here to mend it. I cannot find the musical virtue in something that sounds like a video game, whether it be blasting at an anxiety-inducing, packed dance club or piped out of huge speakers on the side of the halfpipe-all day long.

High prices: Sweden is damn expensive, and as well it should be-the economy is good, and it has that strong currency thing going for it, too. Still, when I got home and inspected my receipts, I realized that I’d spent twenty dollars on a vodka tonic. I was hurt.






village to spread the word of shred. However, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We simply drove a couple brand-new Volvo rental cars to some nice resorts in Sweden to ride buffed-out kickers and eat Swedish meatballs. And at the end of the day, I guess that’s how it should be.

Take It Or Leave It: The Best And Worst Of Sweden
Every place has things about it that rule and things about it that suck. Of course, Sweden is no different. I mean, if we didn’t know darkness, how could we ever appreciate light? Or whatever.

Take It
Food: Swedish meatballs. Reindeer meat. Chocolate. Cheese. Rich, creamy coffee. Breakfast buffets with hardboiled eggs, brown bread, and all manor of pastries. Now that I think about it, all we really did was eat in Sweden-and that’s just fine by me.

Hot chicks and dudes: The rumor that people around these parts are essentially “hot” proved to be true. Yep, Swedes tend to be fair-haired and olive-skinned, strutting around with lean builds, blue eyes, and high cheekbones. Premium human specimens, really.

Epic kickers: Everywhere we turned, people were building jumps for us. In fact, our first stop after the Stockholm airport was a remote private hill that a couple snowboarder friends had recently bought. There was a rope tow, a bunny slope, a mini ramp, and a freshly constructed giant gap booter built over a dirt patch. Welcome to Sweden!

Leave It
Salty candy: Candy is supposed to be sweet, right? I mean, doesn’t the very definition of it entail cavities or an instant diabetic coma? However, Jakob and Hampus spent the entire trip popping handfuls of this horribly salty black licorice “candy.” No beuno!

Techno: As far as I can tell, there’s a massive cultural rift between Americans and Europeans on the subject of techno music. Sadly, I’m not here to mend it. I cannot find the musical virtue in something that sounds like a video game, whether it be blasting at an anxiety-inducing, packed dance club or piped out of huge speakers on the side of the halfpipe-all day long.

High prices: Sweden is damn expensive, and as well it should be-the economy is good, and it has that strong currency thing going for it, too. Still, when I got home and inspected my receipts, I realized that I’d spent twenty dollars on a vodka tonic. I was hurt.