What It Means To Be A Snowboarder

Not everyone who rides a snowboard is a snowboarder, but for those who do bear this illustrious title, it’s an undeniable way of life. High school ends, and the road starts calling-off to mountain towns and the assimilation into weird, transient tribes full of people who work nighttime jobs cleaning toilets or handing you your coffee in the early mornings, all so they can shove a fistful of tips in their pocket and ride, their real motives betrayed by goggle tans or chins scuffed raw by Gore-Tex. In this world, people don’t ask you what you “do,” they ask you where you work-knowing that what you do is snowboard, just like them, and any job you might have is simply a means for it.

Now, this life is not for everyone. You have to take guff at work from rich tourists peddling snobbery; steal furtive night-sleeps on lumpy, odd-smelling couches; take fearful rides down in ski-patrol sleds with a broken wrist or blown knee; spend holidays in the stink and sweat of a restaurant job-far from home and family; and of course, surrender carefree college fun in favor of a different rite of passage. However, for those who live it, all this is part of the reward-freedom from the chain-link fence of a nine-to-five and the privilege of being outside in the mountains every single day.

Welcome To The Service Industry

The mountain town is a rare miracle of nature-a thriving symbiosis of bankrolled tourists and the community of seasonal employees who serve them. Bellhops, busboys, lifties-there’re plenty of ways to make a buck, each with its own benefits and humiliating pitfalls.

“I worked at KFC frying chicken and cleaning the fryer when I first moved to Whistler. It was pretty funny, but not that rad. I never ate KFC again after that-for obvious reasons. That ain’t good stuff-too many factors make it disgusting. But it paid the rent, so … “-David Carrier-Porcheron

“I used to be a nighttime janitor, or what I like to call a ‘Nocturnal Custodial Engineer.’ The best part about it was that there were no bosses around, so we kinda ran our own ship. We used to pull some pretty harsh pranks on people-most of them involving shit, so I won’t go into detail.”-Eddie Wall

“I worked as a hostess at Earl’s Restaurant in Whistler. It was good because I only worked nights, so I could snowboard during the day. I remember getting sent home once because I showed up with a black eye-you can’t work at the front of a restaurant looking all beat up! Anyway, because of the tips, working the food and beverage industry is good money fast, even though it sometimes sucks dealing with tourists 24-seven.”-Leanne Pelosi

Couch Tours

Snowboarders are nomadic by nature. Giving and getting the hospitality of couch or carpet for the night is part of the noble code that makes snowboarding a community. What, it’s dumping in Jackson Hole, and your buddy from back home lives there? Grab a sleeping bag, a case of beer, and cash in! The next storm might be in your zone.

“A few of my good friends used to rent an apartment in a low-income complex in Truckee. It changed often, but names on the lease over the years have been Scott E. Wittlake, Stephen Duke, Sean Tedore, Jared Johnson, et cetera. I’ve stayed or lived on the couch for extended periods of time there. It worked ’cause we’re all great friends, and I used to pay my way by cleaning the bathroom, buying booze, getting milk and donuts, or even paying the electric bill. It’s been some of the best times and some of the worst. The couch-sleepin’ lifestyle definitely humbles you a bit and makes you more appreciative of the comforts you’ve got.”-Robbie Sell

“I remember my first big couch tour. I didn’t have any sponsors, but I was coming off a big summer working on the wharf in Maine, so I had enough loot to travel and still pay rent in Breckenridge. I was with Randy Walker, Jason Toth, and Janna Meyen in Tahoe during one of those winters that rarely happens now-literally every morning whad to shovel at least three feet of fresh Tahoe to get out of the driveway at the place we were staying. We bought beer and dinners for our hosts-that’s a must. And be clean, do the dishes, and clean the bathroom. That’ll tame the roomie who’s hating on you for lurking.”-Mikey LeBlanc

“I love couch surfing. I think it brings the snowboard community together as one. And I’ve spent many of my sleeps in the U.S. on couches. It all started at Joe Eddy’s household back in 2001 when I first moved to Mammoth. I spent two years there. Whenever any visitors came, the family just moved me to the floor. Also through that period I spent a lot of time on Lane Knaack’s couch. I could smoke cigarettes there and not get in any trouble.

“When I came back to the States in September of 2003, I again found myself at Lane’s for a while. Then I think I started to wear out my welcome, so I left all my shit there and went to Danny Kass’, who finally pulled me upstairs and said, ‘Well, Dingo, I guess we’re gonna have to work something out … ‘ He even gave me half a bedroom to share with Kevin Cassillo and a futon bed, but I only slept on the futon maybe two nights before I found myself back on the couch. I think I’m addicted to couches.”-Luke “The Dingo” Trembath

Seasonal Beat-Downs

It’s possible for the average person to go through everyday life and never get hurt-or if they do, it’s a twisted ankle from tripping over dirty laundry or falling down the stairs. They have no idea what it’s like to blow all the ligaments in their knee casing a jump and spend the next six months in physical therapy, just to go back up the hill and do it all over again the next season.

“I stressed my ankle two seasons ago and got back on it a little too soon-not cool! One flat landing later I was limping like Snoop Dogg without his cane for at least another month. It took two or three to get back on snow, and I was still a wussy for one more after that. But I’d rather break a bone having real fun than watching cable thinking I was having fun.”-Jon Cartwright

“I dislocated my shoulder by falling back on my arm, and that led to a couple more dislocations after that. It turned out that my ligaments were stretched out, and some bone was chipped out of my shoulder socket. I got surgery in May of 2004-they took some bone from my hip and screwed it into my shoulder.

“I don’t think snowboarding is worth long-term physical damage-I don’t want to turn forty and not be able to ride a bike and whatnot. But if I have to take a summer and be really mellow so that by winter I’ll be strong, that I can live with.”-Lukas Huffman

“I’ve had lots of injuries over the years, but this past season’s was by far the worst. I dislocated my hip without knowing it and then pulled my hip flexor muscles on my right side. Now when I walk or turn sideways, it feels like I’m getting stabbed in between my boys and my hip. And it hasn’t gone away quickly-I’ve seen eleven doctors; had four MRIs, nine X-rays, multiple therapists, and three cortizone injections; and tried about ten different medications for the anxiety and depression that go along with injuries and pressure.

“You really start wondering if it’s worth it to throw yourself down concrete stairs or land in bomb-holes off cliffs when you can’t even barely walk or get in and out of the shower. But the simple fact for me is that I love snowboarding. I can’t be sidelined.”-Andrew Crawford

Holidays Away From Home

Right around the time when your average person is boarding a plane home with a wicked holiday-party hangover, that’s when resort towns are blowin’ up. No time for going home-it’s dumping, and work is hectic with the influx of vacationers. Besides, you have a new family now-it’s called snowboarding.

“We had a huge, family-style Thanksgiving at my house in Mammoth last year. It was a group effort, but my roommate Amy pretty much took on the brunt of the cooking. She cooked a huge turkey, potatoes, a cake, and all the fixin’s, and everybody brought stuff over. I think we had six pies! It was a good time. We even brought out ‘The Crab.'”-Hana Beaman

“When I first moved to Tahoe, I didn’t have any money, so I was with all my janitor friends for Christmas and stuff. The holidays were always fun, ’cause we’d be working and partying at the same time. We had one janitor pass out in a bathroom stall, and when security locked up the lodge-by accident-he was stuck inside until the morning crew found him. That was awesome.”-Eddie Wall

The University Of Shred

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that prime college years are also prime shred years. Part of being a snowboarder is caring about riding and nothing else-or just knowing that school will be there when resort life gets old. Will you regret skipping the dorms to live on your friend’s couch for a season? Who knows. But tomorrow’s gonna be a powder day.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot of other things about myself snowboarding that I wouldn’t have learned at school by just traveling and experiencing all the up and downs and injuries, et cetera.”-DCP

“The only thing I miss about the college life is all the parties and the hot college chicks who want to get down with the S-C-O-double-T! Besides that, I hate school.”-Scotty Arnold

“When other kids in high school started applying to colleges, I made a decision to charge head-first into snowboarding. I was so consumed and fulfilled by riding that one way or another I was going to make a living on my snowboard. I knew turning my back on college was risky, and I had very little support from teachers and adults, but it made me work harder.”-Jeremy Jones

Freedom From The Man

When all the bank tellers and computer programmers are tightening up their ties for the day, you’re crunching across the cold morning snow to hop on an early chair. You have to work later delivering pizzas, but whatever. It pays the rent, and you can ride. Let’s face it, The Man will probably catch up to you sooner or later-but for now, you’re free.

“I’m really grateful to live the life of a snowboarder right now. When I think back, sitting behind a desk working some white-collar job was the easy choice. I finished university, and then moved out to Whistler to be a poor snowboarder while all my university friends are making cashola right now. But my choice was definitely better now that I look back, because I’m living my dream, meeting amazing people, and snowboarding year round. I love it.”-Leanne Pelosi

“Since I was really young, sitting behind a desk is something I have been very driven to avoid at all costs. The value of being in the mountains is priceless, and one way or another, I’ll always spend a lot of time in them.”-Jeremy Jones

“‘It’s not my place in the nine-to-five world,’ as one Ramone so eloquently put it. I love being outside and doing all the things we get to do. I’m just trying to figure out what will compare after this is over.”-Hana Beaman

key, potatoes, a cake, and all the fixin’s, and everybody brought stuff over. I think we had six pies! It was a good time. We even brought out ‘The Crab.'”-Hana Beaman

“When I first moved to Tahoe, I didn’t have any money, so I was with all my janitor friends for Christmas and stuff. The holidays were always fun, ’cause we’d be working and partying at the same time. We had one janitor pass out in a bathroom stall, and when security locked up the lodge-by accident-he was stuck inside until the morning crew found him. That was awesome.”-Eddie Wall

The University Of Shred

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that prime college years are also prime shred years. Part of being a snowboarder is caring about riding and nothing else-or just knowing that school will be there when resort life gets old. Will you regret skipping the dorms to live on your friend’s couch for a season? Who knows. But tomorrow’s gonna be a powder day.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot of other things about myself snowboarding that I wouldn’t have learned at school by just traveling and experiencing all the up and downs and injuries, et cetera.”-DCP

“The only thing I miss about the college life is all the parties and the hot college chicks who want to get down with the S-C-O-double-T! Besides that, I hate school.”-Scotty Arnold

“When other kids in high school started applying to colleges, I made a decision to charge head-first into snowboarding. I was so consumed and fulfilled by riding that one way or another I was going to make a living on my snowboard. I knew turning my back on college was risky, and I had very little support from teachers and adults, but it made me work harder.”-Jeremy Jones

Freedom From The Man

When all the bank tellers and computer programmers are tightening up their ties for the day, you’re crunching across the cold morning snow to hop on an early chair. You have to work later delivering pizzas, but whatever. It pays the rent, and you can ride. Let’s face it, The Man will probably catch up to you sooner or later-but for now, you’re free.

“I’m really grateful to live the life of a snowboarder right now. When I think back, sitting behind a desk working some white-collar job was the easy choice. I finished university, and then moved out to Whistler to be a poor snowboarder while all my university friends are making cashola right now. But my choice was definitely better now that I look back, because I’m living my dream, meeting amazing people, and snowboarding year round. I love it.”-Leanne Pelosi

“Since I was really young, sitting behind a desk is something I have been very driven to avoid at all costs. The value of being in the mountains is priceless, and one way or another, I’ll always spend a lot of time in them.”-Jeremy Jones

“‘It’s not my place in the nine-to-five world,’ as one Ramone so eloquently put it. I love being outside and doing all the things we get to do. I’m just trying to figure out what will compare after this is over.”-Hana Beaman