Words: Adam Broderick
Photos: Seth Beckton
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was blessed with 40 inches of snow in 72 hours last week and conditions were more than ideal for the fourth annual Snowboard PowWow, hosted by shred and stoke master Rob Kingwill. As Kingwill put it during the event's closing ceremony as he crowned Mike Basich as Chief of the Pow Wow and passed the peace pipe into the crowd, "I don't think this mountain gets much better than this. And I live here."
The event began four years ago with 60 riders. This year, 130 riders tested new shapes from 35 brands; pintails, swallowtails, early-rise twins, noboards, you name it. Some were noticeably more dynamic than others, but all brought their own unique flavor. Then the boards were reviewed based on numerous characteristics like flex, shape, playfulness, stability, and of course, float. Was much improvement needed, or should it be rated 'radical'? The results will be used to help brands improve their products' performance in the future.
"If you're willing to take risks with technology and experiences, you can make something that's really unique in your industry."
Those words came from Basich as he stood on stage in a room full of snowboarders in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last Wednesday night. The event was called ShredX, and it featured several speakers – truly genuine characters with incredibly creative and innovative minds – whom have helped progress and maintain snowboarding's status since the 1970s. Riders in attendance were exhausted after the second of three consecutive days of shredding powder both in and out of bounds. Jeff Grell, the inventor of the snowboard highback, spoke about the sport's uprising in the early days. Basich shared slides of self-portraits he's taken since his decision to step out of the competitive scene and chase a photography dream. JG Gerndt, Burton's testing coordinator and developer, as well as Burton archivist Todd Kohlman shared stories of the brand's storied past.
The Jackson Hole Snowboard Pow Wow isn't your average multi-day snowboard demo. It's a snowboard test, but it's not commercialized. There's a gentlemen's agreement that says, "If you break it, you bought it." The parties don't go late every night because riders need all of their energy to shred hard each day. All riders must be invited, which helps keep it more intimate, more genuine, and more core.
On the event's closing night I pulled Kingwill away from a giant bonfire at Mikey Franco's Shape Shack near the resort base for a five-minute interview. 50 minutes later, we still weren't off the topic of shred. His girlfriend was long gone, I needed to eat, and the once ten-foot-tall flames had dimmed to embers.
"I just love sharing Jackson Hole with my friends, and I love snowboarding," he told me as we dodged snowballs hurled by friends across the yard. "I love being able to ride a bunch of different boards and have a celebration. That comes down to the smaller group of people who are accountable, and who love snowboarding."
Snowboarding is contagious, and the Jackson Hole Snowboard PowWow is living proof. Some of the oldest and boldest names in snowboarding come out of the woodwork to ride together, and this year, with waist-deep snow, we shared the ultimate party wave. It was a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do.