An old-fashioned train ride through the Wild West with the ir-77 crew.

Montana was calling us. And by us, I mean the ir-77 crew. And by that, I mean Lukas Huffman, Andrew Crawford, Shandy Campos, Jon Cartwright, and filmer Jess Gibson-with me and photographer Kevin Zacher along for the ride. ir-77 is a complex multimedia project Huffman fired up this past year. It started off as something smallish, an art book about snowboarding and passion. But as creative things often do, it snowballed into something huge involving a movie and a Web site, with a full staff of filmers headed up by Jess Gibson of Robot Food fame. The core members of this posse are rather eclectic-all good friends, with strong personalities of many different sorts. This would be one of the crew’s very first trips together this season.
And actually, it wasn’t quite Montana that was calling us, but rather Crawford on the phone from his ranch in Montana, just outside Whitefish-a town where he grew up shootin’ guns and riding Big Mountain. “Get out here and we’ll shred and hang at the ranch and play baseball in my backyard and go hunting and fishing and it’ll be great!” he yelled into the receiver in typical Crawford fashion, all energy and enthusiasm and pure, unadulterated stoke.
So by late Wednesday afternoon of that week, we had the troops gathered up and ready to make a hasty exit out of Portland, Oregon via overnight train-destination: Whitefish. Almost before we’d finished hoisting bags onto the locomotive, we were off, barreling east through the dusky northwest. Excitement was turned outward. Big picture windows in lounge cars and nothing else to do but stare out of them makes trains a perfect way to see the country. But as darkness fell, the excitement-for better or worse-was directed inward. Nothing to look at, only a sizable bottle of whiskey to sip, big stories to tell, and cockamamy personal theories to flesh out and expand upon.
This was when we encountered the first of those previously mentioned “distinct personalities.” Shandy Campos, homegrown outside Nelson in interior British Columbia, unleashed the wild woodsman that night. With enough of the spirits down his throat, the “F-bomb” became a call to battle, as well as a filler word, a verb, a noun, an adjective. It squeezed through every crack of the locomotive, echoing through paper-thin sleeping compartment walls and shocking the virgin ears of youngsters the train over. Needless to say, Amtrak is not a fan of this sort of articulation, and after several warnings, the conductor threw Campos out into the dark, starry night of Spokane, Washington. This happened only after Shandy had ignored his threats of, “You’re off when we get to Spokane!” and passed out in his sleeper anyway. The shocking truth of getting booted at three a.m. was thus made more violent by virtue of him being freshly awoken (if you can call a newly revived, semi-drunken stupor “awake”).
So we left him behind-what could we do? We had a few more hours of dark track ahead of us, and then the game of snowboarding to play upon arrival. Pillows went back over our heads, and the land of uneasy sleep was once again reached. Come eight a.m., we unloaded the train with cautious resolve into a shiny, crisp Montana morning. We were met by Crawford, his brother, a giant truck, and two decommissioned cop cars for our driving pleasure. Our strange procession wound through town and directly up to Big Mountain, where we eventually nodded in full understanding of all those stories Crawford had spun about this place.
As we lapped the top chair and flew past snow-ghosted trees, we learned about Big Mountain’s place in snowboard history. A lot of Critical Condition was filmed throughout the resort’s lurking cliffs and stumpy terrain, including one of Dave Seoane’s famous cornice drops, which we swiftly located and then all barreled toward in a big train, flying off one after another into a bit of Montana’s finest-someanding, some not, everyone laughing. Crawford also pointed out a cat-track jump that was the site of an infamous near-fight between him and Travis Parker back when they were kids and leaders of rival shred gangs. It was on that very day that the two finally settled their differences, buried the hatchet, and became the bestest of friends-or so the story goes.
Montana is beautiful. Not much to add to those three words, except maybe that it’s a wide-open beauty, rugged, with a big lonely wind that whips through the huge valleys. Standing on top of Big Mountain, you can look out across a giant sprawl of miles and watch storms roll in over the brown and blue plains. I never got tired of looking out the windows as we drove the 40 or so minutes back and forth each day between the resort and Crawford’s ranch out near Flathead Lake.
And Crawford’s ranch … wow! A real physical manifestation of Andrew’s strange and wonderful mind: A garage containing a couple old hot rods, barbells, and walls covered with hellish graffiti. A full-sized baseball field with a set of wooden bleachers. A team’s course. An old farmhouse he fixed up himself with a labyrinth of rooms throughout the three stories, including a “rock-out room” in the basement with a full hesh-rock setup.
Andrew exhausted himself being our host, because that’s what he does-never a moment’s rest, always metal on the stereo at top volume, forever checking in to make sure we were hyped up and having fun. Relaxing does not come easy to Crawford’s sort, and although we all secretly wanted him to chill and stop worrying about us so much-for his own good, really-we eventually realized that this vigorous behavior is the very thing that keeps Andrew ticking, and obviously, it’s why he absolutely rules.
Now, Lukas Huffman is, first and foremost, a man of intellect, and so the verbal sparring that ensued between him and the other brainy sort, Jon Cartwright, was incisive to say the least. But this meditative approach to topics and issues completely contrasted with both the boys’ get-’er-done on-hill attack. Yep, they are men of action when it comes to the boards. Billy-goating into cliff lines or launching off what-have-yous-it’s always strap in, count to three, and go. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this paradox.
Anyway, intellectual talk aside, once Jess Gibson had quietly troubleshot his way into getting the wireless Internet up and running, the ranch was filled with silence-all faces gazing down into the soft glow of electronic screens, minds a million miles away in the realms of Interwebs. Weird. A knock on the door, though, brought Shandy back into our midst, travel- and life-worn after a grueling bus ride from Spokane to Missoula, several lost hours in strange Montana casinos, and finally a hitched ride up to Whitefish from a friend of the Crawford brothers. Our crew was whole once more.
Morning again. A big car ride up into Glacier National Park, past wood-carvings for sale and junky souvenir shops. Giant mountains loomed all around. Shandy the wild woodsman made another appearance and insisted on snowboarding down a hill and out in the middle of an ice-cold lake (after a 200-dollar dare from Zacher). Considering the temperature of the water, this was, of course, dangerous. I’m not gonna lie-the several slow-motion seconds it took for Shandy to unstrap his snowboard beneath the water’s surface and swim to the top after he’d ripped straight into the lake were a little tense. My heart was in my throat. The forest service ranger was running toward the water. Everyone else held their breath. Then up he popped, screamed an expletive, swam to the dock, and dragged himself out. “I would’ve done it for 50,” he said afterward, grinning, with a pocket full of Zacher’s bills to warm him up. Wow.
The trip ended with a giant meal at an Italian joint and another wild train ride. This time we talked politics, I think, and maybe touched a little on life, love, and death. All the important stuff. Everyone was delivered safely to their proper places of residence-more than glad to be home. Although traveling itself is a wonderful mystery, there’re few things in life sweeter than coming home after a long journey, dropping your bags where they may fall, and collapsing face-first onto a bed of your very own making. Sweet deliverance.

Home Sweet Home
A verbal tour through the amazing Crawford estate.

Please describe the crutch collection in your garage.
Basically, I built a gym in my garage and hung up all the crutches, braces, casts, and canes I’ve used for every injury since I started snowboarding. I use them for motivation when I’m working out or doing physical therapy. They are kind of a reminder of how bad it can be, but also of how things can be overcome. There’re ankle braces; knee surgery braces; femur crutches; canes; shoulder, sternum, and clavicle holsters; and various other stuff. Some of the worst times in my life were spent in those things, and after having to be pushed around in a wheel chair, that gym makes me remember the struggles-but also the blood, sweat, and tears that helped me overcome the struggles.

Tell us about your hot rods.
Well, I wouldn’t really call them hot rods, more like “works in progress” and “project cars.” The 1979 Camaro is the most sentimental for me because I bought that with prize money I won at the Innsbruck Air And Style. That contest was one of the best moments of my life-I was kind of a rookie, but they gave me a chance to compete against all my heroes, like Peter Line, Ingemar Backman, David Benedek, et cetera, and I wound up getting second place. I flew home with ten grand in each sole of my shoes and bought the meanest muscle car I could find. I still get goose bumps when I drive it.
The next car is a ’39 Plymouth Road King-an original cruiser I bought off my brother. It’s a cool car-looks like a Dick Tracy car, but a total pain in the ass. Then there’s the ’66 Malibu that will be one tough street machine. I’m going to restore it with my buddies, and it’s gonna be so loud and fast it’ll have the guys scared and the girls smiling. The license plate is “2FST4LV,” but it’s gonna take a lot of cash, so it won’t be done for years.
Finally, there’re the two Crown Victoria cop cars. I bought one off the sheriff and the other at a police auction, each for around 400 dollars. They’re my daily drivers-they run forever with little maintenance, so they’re perfect cruisers. I accidentally scare a lot of people out on the road, which I didn’t intend, but I bought them for the price and the reliability.

Why the team’s course in the front yard? Are you in training for the military?
It was an idea I had to just stay in shape and have fun. My grandfather was a marine, my father was in the service at one point, and although I have no intention of joining, I deeply value the training regiment, physical fitness, and mental toughness of the marines. I guess it’s a way for me to stay in shape and also pay a little respect to my grandpa and pops. I’m not a fan of war or killing-just wanted to make that clear-but I really enjoy pushing myself to the breakin’ point. We used trees from my parents’ house and various logs and stuff from around the yard, so it looks kind of natural I suppose, but it’s also a work in progress.

What’s the story with the baseball field?
The baseball field has been a longtime dream of mine, and when I found this property, it was a match made in heaven. I’ve always loved baseball-there’s just something therapeutic about throwing the ball around. It’s my field of dreams. I built it all from recycled materials around the property-the bleachers from the old cow corral, the outfield is all grass, and the homerun line is tall wheat. In the summer, I fly a skull and crossbones flag from one foul pole and the American flag from the other. There’s also a pair of Canadian geese thatd death. All the important stuff. Everyone was delivered safely to their proper places of residence-more than glad to be home. Although traveling itself is a wonderful mystery, there’re few things in life sweeter than coming home after a long journey, dropping your bags where they may fall, and collapsing face-first onto a bed of your very own making. Sweet deliverance.

Home Sweet Home
A verbal tour through the amazing Crawford estate.

Please describe the crutch collection in your garage.
Basically, I built a gym in my garage and hung up all the crutches, braces, casts, and canes I’ve used for every injury since I started snowboarding. I use them for motivation when I’m working out or doing physical therapy. They are kind of a reminder of how bad it can be, but also of how things can be overcome. There’re ankle braces; knee surgery braces; femur crutches; canes; shoulder, sternum, and clavicle holsters; and various other stuff. Some of the worst times in my life were spent in those things, and after having to be pushed around in a wheel chair, that gym makes me remember the struggles-but also the blood, sweat, and tears that helped me overcome the struggles.

Tell us about your hot rods.
Well, I wouldn’t really call them hot rods, more like “works in progress” and “project cars.” The 1979 Camaro is the most sentimental for me because I bought that with prize money I won at the Innsbruck Air And Style. That contest was one of the best moments of my life-I was kind of a rookie, but they gave me a chance to compete against all my heroes, like Peter Line, Ingemar Backman, David Benedek, et cetera, and I wound up getting second place. I flew home with ten grand in each sole of my shoes and bought the meanest muscle car I could find. I still get goose bumps when I drive it.
The next car is a ’39 Plymouth Road King-an original cruiser I bought off my brother. It’s a cool car-looks like a Dick Tracy car, but a total pain in the ass. Then there’s the ’66 Malibu that will be one tough street machine. I’m going to restore it with my buddies, and it’s gonna be so loud and fast it’ll have the guys scared and the girls smiling. The license plate is “2FST4LV,” but it’s gonna take a lot of cash, so it won’t be done for years.
Finally, there’re the two Crown Victoria cop cars. I bought one off the sheriff and the other at a police auction, each for around 400 dollars. They’re my daily drivers-they run forever with little maintenance, so they’re perfect cruisers. I accidentally scare a lot of people out on the road, which I didn’t intend, but I bought them for the price and the reliability.

Why the team’s course in the front yard? Are you in training for the military?
It was an idea I had to just stay in shape and have fun. My grandfather was a marine, my father was in the service at one point, and although I have no intention of joining, I deeply value the training regiment, physical fitness, and mental toughness of the marines. I guess it’s a way for me to stay in shape and also pay a little respect to my grandpa and pops. I’m not a fan of war or killing-just wanted to make that clear-but I really enjoy pushing myself to the breakin’ point. We used trees from my parents’ house and various logs and stuff from around the yard, so it looks kind of natural I suppose, but it’s also a work in progress.

What’s the story with the baseball field?
The baseball field has been a longtime dream of mine, and when I found this property, it was a match made in heaven. I’ve always loved baseball-there’s just something therapeutic about throwing the ball around. It’s my field of dreams. I built it all from recycled materials around the property-the bleachers from the old cow corral, the outfield is all grass, and the homerun line is tall wheat. In the summer, I fly a skull and crossbones flag from one foul pole and the American flag from the other. There’s also a pair of Canadian geese that nest on third base in the summer. My therapy is mowing the outfield on the John Deer-it helps me decompress from the long winter seasons.

What do you miss most about Montana when you’re away?
The basic principal of staying young, running around the front yard, doing projects, and working with dirt and wood, building various things for no reason. When I’m crammed in hotel rooms and airplanes all winter, I dream about running around the front yard like a wild banshee building things or diggin’ in the dirt. I just got a tattoo on my arm with the outline of the state of Montana with the line “Home Sweet Home.” This place is my dream come true-the house that snowboarding built. Montana keeps me young and reminds me how crazy my life is and how after all these years, I’m still in one piece-luckily.






that nest on third base in the summer. My therapy is mowing the outfield on the John Deer-it helps me decompress from the long winter seasons.

What do you miss most about Montana when you’re away?
The basic principal of staying young, running around the front yard, doing projects, and working with dirt and wood, building various things for no reason. When I’m crammed in hotel rooms and airplanes all winter, I dream about running around the front yard like a wild banshee building things or diggin’ in the dirt. I just got a tattoo on my arm with the outline of the state of Montana with the line “Home Sweet Home.” This place is my dream come true-the house that snowboarding built. Montana keeps me young and reminds me how crazy my life is and how after all these years, I’m still in one piece-luckily.