Words: Tyler Macleod
September through November can be a frustrating time in the life of a snowboarder. It's a seasonal purgatory when we're excited about the videos and gear starting to surface but know it's a long, dry road until the snow piles up. Instead of staring at a dusty snowboard in the corner, only perpetuating this seasonal depression, find a project to keep busy and get amped. How about building a log feature?
"Summer or fall is the perfect time to get out and do it," said Ted Borland, the elder statesman of Utah's Bone Zone. "If anything, you're out in the mountains escaping the heat. Plus, I like doing it in the fall because it helps get me juiced to go fuckin' snowboarding."
Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
Along with Ted, we picked the brain of another woodworking expert: Carinthia at Mount Snow's log-feature-building connoisseur, Rob Black.
Together, the two provided insight into the way things get chipped away in their respective necks of the woods. But with each residing on different sides of the country, we quickly learned there's more than one way to building a log feature. It all comes down to using your surroundings and utilizing the types of trees your region has to offer.
"Just experiment and don't be afraid to fuck up," urged Rob. "The cool thing about wood is that if you do mess up, you can chop that chunk off and make the feature shorter."
- Tool skills
- Safety awareness
(vary based on method)
- Chainsaw and proper safety gear:
- Hand saw
- Sandpaper (50-grit to 200-grit)
- Palm Sander
- Thompson's Water Seal
- Large hammer/mallet
- Drill with 12-inch bit
- 12-inch nails
- Suitable tree
- Scout location. If you have your own yard, perfect. If not, find a place that's secluded, offers some pitch, and provides access to trees. Be aware of any local restrictions.
- Clear location of any potential hazards. Remember, you'll be itching to ride as soon as those first inches fall, so the last thing you want are any rogue obstacles coming for you.
- Scout for trees. On the East Coast, larger hardwoods make prime candidates. Out West, pines and spruces will be at your disposal. Try to find something with minimal branches or knots and preferably not a healthy tree—look for something dead, but not rotting. Visualize how you'll snowboard on it.
- Chop it down. Remember, safety first, so when using a chainsaw, use protective wear.
- Decide what to do with the bark.
EAST COAST METHOD:
Strip it. Using a draw knife, start stripping from the side you plan on sliding. Think of it as the edge of your snowboard—if the blade is still snagging, then your snowboard probably will too. Sand smooth. This will take time, so get some buddies and tag-team it. Using palm sanders, begin with a lower grit paper (50 is recommended). Once imperfections are sanded off, gradually work up to 200-grit paper. Invest time to achieve a smooth, theoretically catch-free feature. Coat the sliding surface with water sealant. Don't use something that will make things stickier. Thompson's Water Seal is recommended and can be found at local hardware stores.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN METHOD:
Keep it raw.
- Build supports.
EAST COAST METHOD:
This will be dependent on the simplicity of your feature. If it's a large log that you want to lay flat and slide away on, then set her down and call it good. Skip to Step 8.
If you're savvy with woodworking and want to add legs, use traditional male and female joints, aka Mortise and Tenon. For this build style, you'll create male pegs—the legs—that insert into female fittings carved into the bottom of your feature. This will be the most difficult step, so take your time.
Cut legs with rail height in mind. After measuring their diameter, start carving your female fittings into that which they will be inserted. If you're extremely comfortable with a chainsaw, you can use it to bore these out and then clean up with a chisel. Remember, safety first. Otherwise, get a hammer and begin chiseling out your female fittings. Don't take too much out, or else your legs won't insert snugly.
Once female fittings are completely bored out, take your mallet and hammer the legs (male pieces) in. This will take some elbow grease, but if done correctly, you'll have a secure, snug fit without the need of nails. If you prefer a bit more security—or your legs aren't snug—drill a countersink from the top of the feature and into each leg. Once drilled, go ahead and hammer in some 12-inch nails.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN METHOD:
Build support legs using an upside-down "T" design. These will attach perpendicularly to the bottom of your feature creating a stable but mobile rail.
Cut the vertical pieces of your legs with both the height and style of rail in mind.
Using a hand saw, cut a V-shaped wedge at the top of each vertical leg piece—consider the rail's diameter so that it can comfortably rest in these wedges.
Cut the horizontal (bottom) pieces of the legs long enough to support the size of your feature. You don't want it to wobble beneath you.
Attach the horizontal leg pieces beneath the vertical ones by first drilling a countersink hole in each.
Once you have your countersinks drilled, hammer 12-inch nails into them. Now you have functioning legs that should each be in the shape of an upside-down "T."
Attach the upside-down T-shaped legs using a similar countersink and nail process: Set the rail into those V-shaped wedges, drill your countersinks, and then hammer 12-inch nails through the top of your feature and down into the legs.
- Stand and secure.If you went with the East Coast method you may need to dig into the ground to keep the legs supported. If it's mid-winter with plenty of snow available, simply insert and pack until secure.