“It’s already four o’clock-give ‘em something really hard!” We’re armpit deep in a game of PIG at the 2004 Team Challenge in Tahoe. TWS Editor Cody Dresser is calling the tricks-I’m standing on the giant kicker deck keeping track of who lands what. And in the interest of wrapping up the game before everyone gets a third-degree sunburn-or it gets dark-Dresser calls out switch backside 540 as the next trick.

Groans issue from around the jump area, and skinny ams start twirling shakily off the huge lip. Most of them butt check and ride away with a shrug. The trick isn’t undoable, but it’s definitely hard-and pulling it off without practice on a 65-foot table with everyone staring at you and the fate of your team riding on your shoulders is, well, impressive. That’s when Chad Otterstrom straps in representing Academy. Yup, he just points his snowboard toward the jump and does it. Switch backside five. No arm flapping. No hand dragging. Whatever.

Suddenly, it hits me-wow, Chad Otterstrom could possibly be one of the best snowboarders I’ve ever seen. Not because he knows how to do SBS fives, but because he did one that day under those circumstances, just after pulling whatever tricks were asked of him on the rail setup, and just before destroying the giant wallride we’d had built for the event-not to mention visibly dominating the nighttime pipe jam.

The thing is, Chad does everything quietly, with a strange relaxation that makes it look easy. And being a self-proclaimed “not picky” snowboarder means that his subtle shred annihilation happens on whatever’s in front of him-park kickers, powder booters, halfpipes, handrails. Chad Otterstrom is not larger than life; he’s just an amazingly talented, extra-humble snowboarder from America’s Midwest who shreds everything every day and does it all with his friends-just like you.

You’re one of those misty riders who’s been ripping forever but still doesn’t have, say, one of those snowboarding action figures made after them. Do you think not having some gimmicky image-hesh or hip-hop or whatever-has made you less of a household name today than you otherwise would be?

I wouldn’t say I have a lack of hesh or hip-hop-you should see my iPod. But I’m 28 and still a pro snowboarder after almost eight years. I guess I might be a little better known if I had some crazy gimmick, but I’m fine with where I’m at right now.

Do you consider yourself shy?

Not around people I hang out with all the time-I just don’t say much to people I don’t really know.

So how do you feel about image and marketing? Is it right for companies to promote a rider’s image over their snowboarding skills?

Marketing a snowboarder today is a crazy game. I think it’s good to market someone’s outside-of-snowboarding style, but they’ll always have to know how to ride or it won’t last long. Trends come and go in snowboarding, and do-rags sell when they’re hot-ya might as well market it.

Speaking of which, how long did you ride for Forum?

A little over a year. Peter (Line) had always asked me to ride for Forum, so when I cut ties with M3, I hit those guys up. I thought that if you rode for Forum, you had a smooth ride for the rest of your snowboard career-it turned out to be pretty bumpy.

What do you mean? What was it like riding for Forum?

I really liked everyone on the team and most everyone who worked there-it was just kinda stressful. They were always freaking out about everyone getting their video parts done and why is Boznuts (Nate Bozung) slacking? It’s ’cause he’s Boznuts-that’s what he does, he hangs out a lot and does something cool every once in a while.

Anyway, I don’t have anything against those dudes, but all the freakin’ out isn’t really my deal. It’s in my nature to try to get stuff done. My favorite thing is to call (photographer) Jeff Potto and go shoot somewhere. I don’t want to stress out about that stuff.

Your personality seemed like kind of a strange fit on tt team-you’re low profile and on your own program, and Forum marketing seems more about huge image and glam.

I always looked up to those Forum guys, so it was pretty cool to be on a team with them for a year. The company’s image might be kinda glam, but everyone on the team is real cool. I never felt overshadowed-it was a good time hanging out with everyone, and they all seemed happy that I was riding for Forum.

Did you have to break your contract to move on to Academy, or was it a pretty smooth transition?

No, it was really smooth. My Forum deal had just ended, and Forum and Academy were offering about the same amount for the next year. I had to choose between being on a team with friends I’ve known since high school-the friends I shred with every day at home anyways-or going back to Forum, so I chose Academy. Things have been awesome since then.So you’re happy with Academy?

It’s the best. I get to do whatever I want-I don’t have someone telling me where to go or who to film with. Also, everything is pretty open with everyone on the team-it’s not like other companies where you have to hear through the grapevine about your buddy getting cut from the team you’re on. We’re pretty tight, and everyone helps each other out. We’re all about keeping snowboarding fun and getting stuff done along the way.

You won Best Overall Rider at the 2004 Team Challenge ’cause you annihilated everything-that huge kicker, the pipe, the wallride. What do you think it takes to be a good all-around snowboarder, and why isn’t everyone one? Are they just lazy?

I think I’m an all-around rider because I’m not picky-I like riding everything in front of me. I don’t feel like I’m better at any one part of snowboarding. I can understand how someone would be just into powder, because that’s the best part, but just being a jibber or a pipe rider-I don’t really understand that. Maybe they are lazy-I don’t know.

But if you had to pick one part of snowboarding you liked best, what would it be?

I like jumping in powder. Everything you build is different, and the jumps always feel way bigger than park kickers. Cliffs are real fun. And I like a good halfpipe, too-when the pipe’s perfect, it’s just as fun as powder. You can do seven or eight tricks in a row. And I love riding a good transition.

Did growing up in the Midwest, where you had to really use the available terrain, have something to do with your all-around shred status?

Yeah, in Minnesota all we had were a couple of small jumps and jibs. You hit the same line like a hundred times a day. I also got into rails really early there, so that helped when jibbin’ started to get serious. When I finally moved to Breckenridge, I wanted to ride everything I could because I was so deprived of good snowboarding back home. It really makes you appreciate what you have when you move to bigger mountains.

Who were your early influences? Did you look up to the old Ride-team guys from the Midwest like Roan Rogers, Dale Rehberg, and Jake Blattner?

Yeah, all of them. I used to watch The Hard, The Hungry, And The Homeless and Upping The Ante all the time. We’d always try to do their jib moves. Besides that, probably Peter Line and Blaise Rosenthal. I went to camp at Mt. Hood when I was in high school and they were coaching. My friends from Minnesota also influenced me a lot.

Isn’t part of your old Midwest crew living with you in Breckenridge right now?

Most of us moved to Breck right after high school, but Matt Peterson is the only one left of the original Wild Mountain and Trollhaugen crew. Breckenridge is still like a little Minnesota, though. Everyone seems to move here from there. As far as snowboarding friends, it feels like I never left home.

With how much pros have to travel these days, you seem like you make a special effort to chill at home and ride Breckenridge.

Yeah, that matters the most to me-being at home and riding with your friends is the best part about shredding. Traveling all year is really cool, but I’m always traveling with different people, so I’m sort of on my own. I usually get burnt quick and want to go home. It’s nice to hang with the same people every day-I get to know friends better that way.

Last year you were banned for life from all USSA events, including the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers, after testing positive a second time for a drug banned by the USSA but still legally prescribed to you for a medical condition. What happened with that? Why didn’t you speak out more about it?

I didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it. I’ve never been a big USSA competitor, and the media jumpin’ all over it kinda pissed me off. I didn’t even care that much about the whole thing, but the media was trying to make it a big deal, like I was another shredder on drugs.

But you won that 2003 Grand Prix that you were drug-tested for. You could’ve easily been in the running for a 2002 Olympic quota spot. Doesn’t it bother you that the Olympic experience might’ve been stolen from you by all this?

Not that much. I’d like to go to the Olympics and all, but contests like that just stress me out, and that’s not really snowboarding to me. I learn a lot more when there’s just a good halfpipe or jump session with a bunch of friends going for it. It’s way more rewarding than sitting in the cold waiting to take your two, maybe three runs all day. Like I said before, I’ve never been a USSA dude-the event just came to Breck, so I did it. I think I’d rather watch the Olympics on TV. But anyway, we got them to reduce it to a two-year suspension, so I can try out for 2006 if I want.

What about filming? Are you down for working your ass off all winter to get a good video part?

You could say that. I usually spend most of my winter filming. I constantly watched snowboard movies growing up, and I always wanted to be able to ride as well as the dudes in the movies. It’s pretty cool to actually be in them now. I also like filming because you can fall-in contests, you have to land everything.

What’s up for the near future?

I’m going to go back to filming for Mack Dawg. I worked with Sean Johnson the last two years on Video Gangs and then Promo Copy. I really liked those guys, it’s just that Dawger was the first one to give me a legit video part, and I thought it’d be cool to hook back up with him.

What about when snowboarding is over-got any plans in the works?

I want to stay in the snowboard industry for sure-maybe help out and film snowboard movies, or shoot photos. Something like that. I want to be on the hill for a while, whether or not I’m the one hitting the jumps.

Better hook up your sponsors now. Who do you ride for?

Academy, Active Ride Shop, Defcon, Breckenridge, Zeal Optics, ThirtyTwo, etnies, Bluebird Wax, Delphic Design, Alycium Clothing, and Neff.

ing. Traveling all year is really cool, but I’m always traveling with different people, so I’m sort of on my own. I usually get burnt quick and want to go home. It’s nice to hang with the same people every day-I get to know friends better that way.

Last year you were banned for life from all USSA events, including the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers, after testing positive a second time for a drug banned by the USSA but still legally prescribed to you for a medical condition. What happened with that? Why didn’t you speak out more about it?

I didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it. I’ve never been a big USSA competitor, and the media jumpin’ all over it kinda pissed me off. I didn’t even care that much about the whole thing, but the media was trying to make it a big deal, like I was another shredder on drugs.

But you won that 2003 Grand Prix that you were drug-tested for. You could’ve easily been in the running for a 2002 Olympic quota spot. Doesn’t it bother you that the Olympic experience might’ve been stolen from you by all this?

Not that much. I’d like to go to the Olympics and all, but contests like that just stress me out, and that’s not really snowboarding to me. I learn a lot more when there’s just a good halfpipe or jump session with a bunch of friends going for it. It’s way more rewarding than sitting in the cold waiting to take your two, maybe three runs all day. Like I said before, I’ve never been a USSA dude-the event just came to Breck, so I did it. I think I’d rather watch the Olympics on TV. But anyway, we got them to reduce it to a two-year suspension, so I can try out for 2006 if I want.

What about filming? Are you down for working your ass off all winter to get a good video part?

You could say that. I usually spend most of my winter filming. I constantly watched snowboard movies growing up, and I always wanted to be able to ride as well as the dudes in the movies. It’s pretty cool to actually be in them now. I also like filming because you can fall-in contests, you have to land everything.

What’s up for the near future?

I’m going to go back to filming for Mack Dawg. I worked with Sean Johnson the last two years on Video Gangs and then Promo Copy. I really liked those guys, it’s just that Dawger was the first one to give me a legit video part, and I thought it’d be cool to hook back up with him.

What about when snowboarding is over-got any plans in the works?

I want to stay in the snowboard industry for sure-maybe help out and film snowboard movies, or shoot photos. Something like that. I want to be on the hill for a while, whether or not I’m the one hitting the jumps.

Better hook up your sponsors now. Who do you ride for?

Academy, Active Ride Shop, Defcon, Breckenridge, Zeal Optics, ThirtyTwo, etnies, Bluebird Wax, Delphic Design, Alycium Clothing, and Neff.