Terrain Park Manager, Loon Mountain and Digger, High Cascade Snowboard Camp
Birthdate: July 21, 1990
Park rangers are the all-too-often unsung heroes of the snowboarding community. They work tirelessly to create intricate playgrounds at our local mountains, shouldering rakes before we arrive at the hill to ensure their handiwork is fun to ride and grooming the parks long after the lifts have closed and we've moved on to pints in the lodge. The care and attention to detail, not to mention work ethic, and ability to work relentlessly in bone-numbing temperatures, that is required to excel in this line of work is wholly impressive. All of the aforementioned qualities are present in spades in Loon Mountain Terrain Park Manager, Jay Minassian, a staple on the Loon Park crew for the better part of a decade. The Massachusetts native grew up riding in the White Mountains before his love of snowboarding caused him to migrate north to Plymouth State, a school that was able to provide him both a degree and ample time to lap Flying Fox and Bearclaw with many of the New England's best boarders. Loon has long had a reputation for some of the best parks in all of snowboarding and after taking over the reins as Terrain Park Manager last winter, Jay has maintained and proliferated the heritage of the black and orange park system. As a digger, whether in New Hampshire in the winter or at High Cascade Snowboard Camp in the summer, Jay is methodical and detail-oriented, quick to grab a shovel and pitch in, but also able to test any feature in front of him, possessing a passion for snowboarding that only seems to grow with each passing season, a trait that bleeds over in wanting others to experience the same enjoyment he does via the parks that he and his fellow diggers create. As a venerable member of this 30-Under-30 list, Jay is making an impact within the snowboarding community far deeper than the rake lines he regularly leaves on take offs and he's doing so deliberately from the ground up. But don't take our word for it, just a few laps through the infamous LMP and you can check out Jay's hard work for yourself.
– Mary Walsh
What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.
At home, I am the Terrain Park Manager at Loon. In the fall, we pull rails apart, buff the rust, cut plywood, sandblast, paint, reassemble, fabricate new features, and move stuff around the hill in preparation for the season.
A typical day during the winter starts an hour before the resort opens. I hop on the gondola with the crew and we take an opening lap through all the parks, inspecting features and marking jumps. The rest of the day is filled with projects. When it snows, we get a handful of amazing turns followed by a day full of snow removal, digging out the park. Those few pow runs in the morning keep a smile going all day. On build days, you will find me buzzing around the park on a snowmobile loaded with rakes, shovels, bamboo, measuring tape, drill, and chainsaw. Normally we spend a few days working on a build plan. Once we get out there it’s go time, and we’ll be working from sun up to sun down to get the park built to our liking. Builds are my favorite part of the job, for sure. I’ve started operating snowcats a bit, pushing piles around, but for the most part I set rails and do the finish work for everything by hand. Events are rad, too, and keep us busy. They involve crazy builds, then the morning of the event starts with lots of set up, dialing in the features, some spectating while getting the next thing ready, and ending with the tear down. It’s quite a whirlwind, spending weeks preparing and before you know it, it’s over. Then, there are other days spent in the office sending emails, discussing future builds, handling daily risk management procedures, attending meetings, conference calls, hiring, scheduling, ordering tools, and event planning. At the end of a typical day, you will find me on the hill raking features so they are ready to go for the next day.
In the summer, things are more routine and there is more snowboarding. Before camp starts at HCSC, we hustle to get all the rails ready and in the snow. Then, every session starts with a "dig in" day when we build the park. A typical day starts with breakfast, morning rake, some boarding or dirt naps, followed by noon pipe rakes, and finishes with more boarding. There is also a lot of salt thrown in the mix. Working and riding on a volcano all summer is pretty crazy and I feel very fortunate to get to enjoy it with my close friends.
Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
I grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, a small suburb on the South Shore of Boston Harbor. Growing up we had our small crew of skateboarders and snowboarders, but for the most part we were beach bums. My family still lives there and it’s amazing to visit. There’s skateparks popping up all over the area, it’s pretty rad. Right now, I live in Ashland, New Hampshire. It’s an old mill town on Little Squam Lake about twenty minutes south of the White Mountains and minutes south of Plymouth.
How did you start snowboarding?
For my seventh birthday my grandmother bought me a skateboard. A couple of years later, for Christmas, my dad bought me and my brother, Kevin, snowboards from a toy shop. I remember being so stoked. That morning, I took it to out to the backyard. I just remember trying to emulate skateboarding, with flat ground ollies and 180’s. Then, the local sledding hill, where we built a kicker and did stink bugs for hours.
That same year, our family friends invited us to their condo in Waterville Valley. My sister, Brett, went skiing, while Kevin and I ended up in a group snowboard lesson. We rented a couple of Original Sin boards with step-in bindings. The lesson only covered riding with one foot, so of course we hit the bunny slopes charging with one foot clipped in. It must have been a sight to see, watching us tumble all day long. We continued this annual shred trip every February and before we knew it, we were linking turns.
When I got to middle school, I convinced my dad to buy me a snowboard. It was a Ride Control 146. I signed up for every school “ski” trip and was hooked. Once I got into high school, I was spending every study hall reading and re-reading all the mags cover-to-cover, while day dreaming through all of my other classes. At this point, I had a season pass to Loon, Waterville, and Cranmore. I would make it to the hill at least once a month with my dad or friends driving me up. Once I got my license, it became a weekly trip. Throughout high school, I worked different part time jobs and spent all my earnings on snowboarding. I would save up just enough to go to Whistler for Camp of Champions each summer. I was so lucky to be able to experience that place and hang out with passionate snowboarders like Rob Kingwell, TJ Schneider, and Sean Genovese. It was the first time I had met real snowboarders; it seriously inspired me.
After high school, I enrolled at Plymouth State University. I chose to go there because that town is amazing, Loon is right there, and it has deeply seeded roots in snowboarding. Plymouth is only thirty minutes from the Loon and I took full advantage of that. The school made it super easy to set my schedule around snowboarding. I went snowboarding five days a week; it was so sick. That first year I had over one hundred days on hill and haven’t looked back since.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?
Growing up, I was always into building stuff. It started with Legos, then snow forts, sled jumps, skate ramps, and countless other projects. Every semester of school, from sixth grade onwards, I had the opportunity to take different shop classes. My favorite was with Dr. Pawlowski—it was a construction technology class for three hours a day, off of the school's main campus. That class was such a huge escape from the trap of high school. It helped me focus my energy on learning new skills and gave me the opportunity to make anything I wanted. In that class, I built everything I needed for a backyard park with a drop-in ramp, PVC rail, light stands, and I welded a little pole jam. I also made some pretty epic furniture for my parents' house. Around this same time, I knew I wasn’t cut out for office life. I remember thinking of different job scenarios that would allow me to snowboard as much as possible. Building snowboard parks seemed like the best and only option.
And how did you make that happen?
My freshmen year at Plymouth, I applied to work in the park at Loon and never got a response. I was a little discouraged, but I figured I could go a little longer without a job and focus more time on snowboarding. My junior year, I had a few friends on the crew and convinced them to introduce me to Brian Norton [then Loon Parks Manager, now Loon XX]. I met Norton at Hong Kong Gardens, in Plymouth, after one of the Forum premieres. A few weeks later, I applied for the job, went in for the interview, and got the job. For the remainder of college, I worked two to three days a week with at least two days of boarding with friends. After college, I said I would do one full time winter working in the park and I’ve been at Loon ever since. It was fall of 2011 when I started working in the LMP and now I’m going on seven years of park building. It’s pretty rad. I am still just as excited about work as I was when I started.
Now onto Digging….After my first year at Loon I had my sights set on digging at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. A few of my buddies worked at camp, so a bunch of us flew out and helped dig-to-ride during Session 6. The next summer, Erik Partlow, Loon’s lead park groomer, was working for camp and got me in touch with Corey McDonald, Head Digger at HCSC. I flew out to Mount Hood halfway through the summer. Mike Ravelson and Harry Hagan picked me up at the airport. For the rest of the summer, I lived with those guys and the rest of the AV squad and dug to ride. The next summer C-Mac put me on the crew and it’s been a wild ride ever since. The passion and camaraderie amongst the diggers really is something amazing.
Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration?
From the start, it’s always been the guys at Loon, C-Mac and the rest of the HCSC Dig crew, Noah Wildermann, and Sean Genovese. Outside that it’s guys like Steve Ash, Krush Kulesza with Snowboy Productions, the boys at Boreal, Mammoth, and Arena Snowparks. Snowboarders like Scott Stevens, Chris Roach, Mikey Leblanc, and Scott E. Wittlake. Lastly, Companies like Dinosaurs Will Die, Crab Grab, Salmon Arms, Dang Shades, and everyone else who is out there making it happen.
What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?
The thought that I might be inspiring the younger generations, for sure. Whether it’s the parks at Loon and HCSC, the internet, or through brief interactions, I strongly believe that snowboarding and skateboarding improves lives and any way I can help kids find the passion gets me hyped. To all you kids out there, it is possible to dedicate your life to snowboarding. It’s important to do what makes you the happiest. If you want something in life, it’s up to you to go out and get it. No one is going to make it happen for you. Hard work and attention to detail will get you wherever you want to go. Strive to be the best.
What do you want to accomplish that you haven't yet?
I just want to snowboard and build parks for as long as I can. I’d also like to continue to design and press snowboards, come up with new snowboard events, and be happy.
Anyone you'd like to thank?
My family, my Dad, Leslie, Brett, Kevin, Sean, Brad, and Rita. My girlfriend, Courtney. The dudes I started boarding with: Matt Melia, Zach Westleman, and Kevin Sestito. The whole crew at Loon, especially Jay Scambio, Brian Norton, and Erik Partlow. Kara and the Paul Bunyan Room staff. All the Diggers, shout out to Cmac, Vin, Parker, Oliver, Blake, Castro, Jeffy, Ruhle, Amanda, Adam, Corner, Justus, Boody, Cricket, and Davester for being there year-after-year. The JBeats Crew. Cole Martin, Henry Padden, Jimmi Thomas, Sean Genovese, Jeff Keenan, Eric Kovall, Riley Goodwin, Preston Strout, AK, Nic Heringa, Ryan Bachman, Chris Beresford, Nelson Wormstead, Dan Hartman, Andy Bub, Jared Derosier, Eastern Boarder, The Snowboard Shack, Dinosaurs Will Die Snowboards, Union Bindings, ThirtyTwo, Crab Grab, Salmon Arms, Dang Shades, Oakley New England, Ass Industries.