Blake Geis is real as they come. Once you finish this interview, you'll know what I mean. But before doing so, what you should understand is that Blake has dedicated his life to snowboarding in the truest sense of that cliché. After a considerable tenure as a High Cascade digger, his dedication has found him in a role under another whose existence is equivalently committed to this lifestyle. Krush Kulesza can guide Blake's path in a direction that will have him involved in snowboarding for the duration.
This is what Blake has done, and wisely so. He's surrounded himself by those who care as much as he does, and under the tutelage of Krush and Corey McDonald, he has turned his passion into a paycheck. Not that it's ever been about the money for Blake, but he's got to put gas in his truck and Folgers in his Thermos somehow. And as long as both are filled up, Blake will be navigating between some of the most celebrated events in our world, ensuring the features are ready to rip, so the rest of us can enjoy these masterpieces. -- Taylor Boyd
Birthdate: November 20th, 1990
Current title: Snowboarder, Digger/Apprentice at Snowboy Productions
What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.
My current position entails, first and foremost, snowboarding. It also entails making features that allow for creativity driven snowboarding and learning about event production. The day-to-day differs depending on whether it's a build day, an event day, or between events.
During the builds, a typical day starts with a big coffee and meeting Krush for the first chair and head to the build site. Krush will lay out what he's got cookin' for the build, then what he wants started first. He heads off and ties in with the cat drivers and starts mapping out more features while I tie in with the resort's dig crew and get everyone on the same page and set up with a task to get the ball rolling.
Then I shape for a few hours, cue thrash metal and tranny-shoveling mode. After a decent bit of progress is made I link up with Krush and the process repeats. Usually, there is a good bit of joke telling, snack breaks and brainstorming sessions everywhere in between. During builds, the nights are usually spent putting pins together, stretching, and picking Krush's brain about the behind-the-scenes aspects of putting together an event.
If mother nature is cooperative during the build, the final day will be a lot mellower--just final touches, a few last minute feature additions, and if I'm lucky I might get to test a feature or two. Unfortunately, I haven't been lucky yet, but I’ve got a good feeling about this winter!
The day-to-day at events is fully dependent on weather. If the weather is calm overnight the day starts easy--a quick once-over on all the features to make sure everything is looking bitchin', then jump in and help Krush set up the inflatables and any branding. If the weather is stormy overnight, the morning can range from long to longer and involve lots of "super fun" activities like digging up a fence line, finding lost branding, and digging out features.
Once the park is ready to go, I switch gears back to snowboard mode, usually over a coffee. If the inflatables and branding don't get blown away I'm pretty much footloose and fancy-free, boarding with new and old friends--most times a handful of my favorite boarders. It's the best job perk I've ever heard of, and one I'm sure I’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
A little before 3:00, I tie in with Krush and start getting dialed on the end-of-day rake-out. Cue thrash metal and tranny shovel mode. After the park is dialed in for the next day, we head down and call it a day.
Between events, I try to link up with any friends that are filming nearby or in the general direction of the next event and continue the slow stack for another video part. Thank you to all my friends who let me jump in on filming missions; I wouldn't be able to film without your help and hospitality! If there isn't a filming mission to get in on, usually there is a friend or two nearby who are trying to go on an adventure, and we'll load up in my truck and head out for whatever seems like the most fun boarding we could possibly do given the weather forecasts and how far we can get before I have to get back to work.
Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
I'm from Bend, Oregon and am currently calling it home for the off-season. During the season, home is more or less behind the steering wheel.
How did you start snowboarding?
My stepdad took me the first winter he was married to my mom. I fucking hated it. He kept getting me to try it, and I kept hating it. It never really stuck until I was in 5th grade and we had snow on the ground for all of winter break. Pretty hard to skate with a foot of snow on the ground and a street that doesn't get plowed, so I built a park on the hill behind my house; that's when I got hyped on snowboarding. So for me, building and boarding will always go hand in hand.
That led to me dragging my stepdad to the hill for the first chair every Saturday and Sunday. He'd even let me stay until the last chair if I could handle it. And that was the program every weekend, all winter season, every year, until they let me start taking the bus to the hill when I was 14. Thanks for always being down for boarding over sleeping in, Pop!
At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?
I wanted to be a digger when I was 13 and went to snowboard camp for the first time. The diggers were doing everything I wanted to do; making fun features, boarding on them, and skating all evening. At that time the head digger, James Jackson, owned a snowboard shop in Bend, and most of the dudes a little older than me who were really ripping from Bend would go up and dig for him in the summer. So I just figured if you wanted to be good at snowboarding, you had to go be a digger.
And how did you make that happen?
Johnny Brady got a job digging for Corey McDonald at High Cascade and invited me to come dig to ride. I went every day I was off from work and they were in session that summer, and I started to get familiar with the crew. The next spring Johnny, Desiree Melancon, and Parker Duke all put in a good word for me, and I got a last-minute intern spot. Lots of hazing, labor, and good times ensued, and I was fucking hooked.
I dug for C-Mac up at High Cascade for seven summers. The more time I spent there, the more I knew I wanted to be raking as much as I wanted to be snowboarding. Trying to find a balance between the two, where I can snowboard, produce content, and get to travel, all while digging in the winter, presented a serious challenge. This led to trying to find a place where I could be filming and digging.
After a long phone call with Jeffy Gabrick, Trollhaugen seemed like the best option for me to do this part-time boarder, part-time digger thing. So I packed up and sent it to Minnesota. Everyone at Trollhaugen is amazing, I love that place, and I love those people.
My second year working out there, we got to do The Troll Project with Krush, and after that event I got an invite to go up to Banff and help build Holy Bowly. As a boarder, you don't say no to Bowly. As a digger, you definitely don't say no to Holy Bowly. I made up my mind on that trip that I was going to figure out how I could work at all the Snowboy Events. I hit Krush up about a year ago and told him I wanted to be more involved, pitched the idea of apprenticing, and he was down.
Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration?
Corey McDonald and Krush Kulesza are my biggest inspirations. Those dudes have so much passion for boarding and park building. I really aspire to keep the passion going the way they have kept it going. Hopefully, I can learn enough from them to stay in the game as long as they have.
What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?
I think every digger has the same impact. We build a canvas for snowboarders to gather and express themselves on. Now that I'm working with Snowboy, I think the impact is more in making freestyle snowboarding more accessible by focusing the progression on creativity and flow, instead of just building a jump that's slightly bigger than the last, or a rail with one more kink.
What do you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I've always wanted to design a snowboard from the ground up. There are a lot of stars that have to align in order for that to happen, but a guy can dream, right?
Anyone you’d like to thank?
My family for being my rock. Corey McDonald for opening the door for me; I wouldn't be where I am without you. Krush Kulesza for the job and all the knowledge you've shared. Everybody I’ve ever dug with, everyone at Trollhaugen, the Dickfarts, anyone who has ever filmed me or shot photos of me, anyone who has ever shoveled, pulled bungee or ran the winch for me, Sean Genovese and Jeff Keenan, Chris Beresford, Colin Walters, Riley Goodwin, Kevin Porterfield. And last but not least, thank you snowboarding!