Mary Rand has always been a force to be reckoned with. From a young age, she was often the lone girl lapping the park amidst a group of guys, easily holding her own while honing her edge control on the hardpacked slopes at Yawgoo Valley, Rhode Island and Loon Mountain, New Hampshire. It was on the East Coast's finest corduroy that Mary developed her love of riding, sharpening her skills with constant park laps and becoming a formidable jibber and jumper before graduating high school. Her passion for standing sideways and penchant for tricks steeped with style led her into the streets of the Northeast and beyond, garnering her acclaim for her succinct rail riding along with a coveted Rookie of the Year award at the TWSnow Riders Poll in 2014 and followed up with the Reader's Choice award in 2015—a feat only one other woman has done, ever. Her momentum has only continued to build from there. In 2016, she headed into the backcountry, tackling the Eastern Sierra on her splitboard and exploring the Cascades around her home base at Stevens Pass. Last season, Mary dropped in on a snowmobile, set up her powder board and spent the winter traversing the off piste. When it comes down to it, no matter the terrain that Mary drops into, her tenacious abilities and infectious spirit are apparent with every turn, slash, and spin. Now, after joining the 686 team a year ago and officially becoming part of the Arbor squad this past month, Mary is poised to drop into her best season yet—something we will likely continue to proclaim for years to come as this native New Englander keeps upping her own personal ante, setting her sights on bigger mountains, steeper lines, and of course, untracked powder. Stay tuned on October 18th, when Mary's season story video drops right here and provides a peek into the peaks she spent her winter riding in 2017. – Mary Walsh
Over the past few seasons, you have been spending more of your season in the backcountry. What sparked your interest in the off piste and what has the process been like getting more adept at riding backcountry zones?
Yes, that is correct! Many things sparked my interest, but moving to Washington State and basing out of Stevens Pass for the last two seasons gave me the powder bug like no other, something I had never experienced on the East Coast. Immediately, I was hooked. Three seasons ago I filmed my Rendered Useless part, two seasons ago I participated in Kimmy [Fasani]'s Amusement MTN, rode a good amount of powder, completed my level 1 AIARE, and only went on one street trip. This past season, I didn't go on any street trips and committed my entire season to the backcountry and rehabbing my knee from a surgery in October.
Every aspect of the backcountry intrigues me, not just glorious powder turns (but damn, are they glorious sometimes). So far, the process has been new and exciting, each day offering something different. Overall it's been extremely fun, challenging, humbling, gratifying, grounding, breathtaking, terrifying, frustrating and tiring. There have been a lot of bails, rolling down the windows, tomahawks, and air chairs. I am infinitely grateful for the amount of selfless mentoring I have been lucky enough to have during this journey.
This past year you dropped in on a sled, right? You went out with fellow WA local and Vans teammate, Hana Beaman. What was your first season sledding like?
It was interesting sight to see, haha. But, I love it! Definitely challenging for me. Hana graciously came out with me on my second practice day, despite a bad cold she had. She also coached me into catching a minimal amount of air on slushy day in Tahoe, haha.
[Throwback to Mary’s Rendered Useless part, her new video drops tomorrow!]
Any good sled learning experience stories?
Loading and unloading it from my truck bed was pretty scary, but entertaining for those around me. Right after purchasing it, I flipped it over onto my gravel driveway in an attempt to unload it. Robin [Van Gyn] took me out in Pemberton on my first-ever solo sled ride. Before I had even bought my own sled, she willingly offered hers up to me as a test run. She used Austen's, and we went out for the day with Ben Girardi. I had absolutely NO idea what to expect. I was pretty much spent by the time we made it to the end of the trailhead and the entrance to the alpine. From there it was a serious struggle; I was pretty much getting stuck every ten feet. Their patience was seriously beyond belief. Robin showed me exactly what it takes to get shit done out there. I will never forget this day or my struggle with this one hill climb in particular. Thank you Robin, I love you!!!!
What are three things you bring with you in your pack when you're going out sledding or splitboarding?
Avy gear (shovel, probe, beacon), water, and food.
You officially joined the 686 team last season, too. How has it been being a member of their squad and working on the GLCR line with them?
Being on the squad is what I've always wished for: a company team that actually gets along, supports and looks out for one another. I learned something in the backcountry from each and every one of them this season. Working on the GLCR line with the designers and engineers is epic, interactive, and function driven. Everyone at 686 fully backs my transition into the backcountry—thanks, guys!!
Have you gotten to spend time in the Washington backcountry with Pat McCarthy?
I spent the majority of my season doing just that. Sarge is absolutely the best. I'm really excited to continue riding with him and working on future endeavors together.
Earlier this month at the Cosa Nostra premiere, Arbor officially announced you as the newest member of their team. Are you excited to be a part of their program?
I am absolutely enthused to be representing Arbor. Since day one (20 years ago), they have been giving back to the environment through their "Returning Roots" initiative, something I feel very strongly about.
Joining Arbor, you're reunited with Marie-France Roy, too, who you were teammates with when you were coming up back East. You guys must be hyped. Are you planning any trips to BC to get into the Whistler backcountry with her?
Of course I am over the moon to be reunited with MFR! We haven't discussed any BC trips, but we did discuss a trifecta Hawaii trip….
What projects did you work on last season?
I had the opportunity to work on 686's short film Rabbit Hole (dropping this fall) and a personal season story edit with a local WA filmer (also dropping this fall on TWS).
You've always been involved in bringing women further into the snowboarding community, as well. You've coached the BTB Droppin' In at Loon many times, crewed up at Kimmy Fasani's Amusement MTN and last year, held a ladies' ride day at Stevens Pass with 686. Why do you feel like it's important to continue to be involved in events and experiences like this every season?
After making it this far I want to spread the joy of being outside on snow to as many people as I can, no matter who they are. I remember each and every last person who shared that experience with me. It feels so good to guide and pass my confidence on to others.
Temps are dropping, snow is starting to fall in the mountains. As the season readies to begin, can you tell us about some of your plans for this winter?
I'm planning to take the level 1 AIARE course in WA, participate in 686's avy course at Baker, film a bit for Vans with Hana and Leanne [Pelosi], participate in the spring portion of Amusement MTN, coach at a BTB event (or two), host another Stevens Pass community ride day, continue discovering the backcountry and both seize/share as many opportunities and experiences I can.
A list of thank you’s to the individuals who went out of their way to help me with my transition into riding back country:
Patrick McCarthy, Matt Wainhouse, Robin Van Gyn, Ben Girardi, Hana Beamon, Brian Schafer, Amanda Hankison, Kimmy Fasani, Ian Post, Brad Andrew, Erik Hoffman, Shark Snowsurf, the entire Stevens Pass crew, each and every 686 rider, Vans, Arbor, and VonZipper. – Mary Rand