By John Graham
As the last of the Nor Cal snowboard reps started arriving at the Red Dog Tavern from their trips to the airport to pick up some in-house support, or from that long road that is northern Cali to pick up that ever so crucial on snow demo tech rep, the first of the credentials were handed out. It was quick and painless due to the fact that Rachel Carpenter was on her game early. She handed out lift tickets, credentials for the reps and their tech reps, demo lot layouts, informed every one about their PASSPORT security system so everyone gets their gear back, and of course to throw back a cold one or two.
The WWSRA also had one more trick up their sleeve, a new location that rocked. It was on top of the new Squaw Valley Parking structure just feet away from the snow, equipped with an airtight security system and a well laid out tent demo/exhibit area. Everyone was stoked on the new location changes and really like the laid-back registration party. Once everyone got the scoop they headed off to tune boards until all hours of the night. For others that planned ahead, it was off to experience the North Lake Tahoe nightlife.
Without a hitch, the demo line-up was in full affect at the proposed 7:00 am start time. Demo vans and trucks unloaded their tents and tuning benches, and some even unloaded a bar and grill. It seemed inevitable that something weird was going to happen during such a smooth set up, and it sure did.
It was reported that “TK” the Squaw Valley ski corp. big wig was on the hunt, the hunt for the Rome Snowboard Design Syndicate. The Rome SDS Demo team was heads-down working to get their Demo tent set up when “TK” arrived and asked, “Who is in charge here?”.
All fingers pointed to the Norcal Rome Rep John Graham. “That’s him,” the crew said. “Come here. I want to show you something,” TK said to Graham, delivering a stern face. Off they went to see what was up. It turns out that some young Rome supporters where up to something—propaganda.
Rome was everywhere with stickers and wheat meal paste posters that read, “Sex Drugs and Snowboarding, Collective Addiction, and Corrosion of the Corporate.” The Rome Am Army had defiantly made its mark and obviously their point.
“You did this and I want this cleaned up or you are out of there— I’m calling the police” shouted TK amongst a group of onlookers.
“I can’t control the youth,” Graham stated.
“Just do it,” TK said standing his ground. While TK marched off to the nearest phone, the word spread fast and to save face for all of the other Norcal reps and Rome, some of the SDS crew ran to the hardware store, came back with cleaning supplies, and fixed the minor opening-day glitch.
The tents were up and the retailers were starting to snoop around to see what board they wanted to try first. As it seems it was a difficult task. For most retailers, the snow conditions were a mystery on top of the mountain. So they turned their trust to the snowboard companies that were going above and beyond for this important event. There was defiantly some home-court advantage for the local Tahoe reps who had checked the snow conditions the day prior and tuned their decks accordingly for the firm Squaw Valley snow. With enthusiasm and no hesitation, the testers hit the slopes.
Just before mid day, the first round of snowboard test subjects came back with smiles. It seemed that the conditions had softened and the sun was out in its typical blue-bird Tahoe fashion. The feedback was great with shop employees and managers giving their frank opinions. For most board companies, it was very positive and they had good reason for having a confident presence at the demo. But for others the tempo wasn’t where they had wanted it to be and the retail response was a bit lack luster.
Nonetheless the day went on. Live DJ music came from the far eastern corner of the show where Burton, Santa Cruz, Lib, and Rome had pulled their straws. The scent of burgers and hhot dogs filled the demo as the Rome-B-Q turned out nitrates and nitrites with JD chasers at the in-booth bar.
Vans served up some steak and Chris from Sessions floated around with the captain, Morgan’s that is. Option newcomers Dave Keagy and Eric Wallace held it down with 32 boots in the M6 booth. And, of course, Big C and Todd Matey were on hand with new Northwave kicks and Drake bindings.
Chris “Nitro” Cowell and Mr. Berger of Ride were there with a phat posse. While the other brands kept turning screws, day one was on fire.
Then day two, a super hyped version of day one: killer snow, a freshly cut pipe and groomed take offs on all the booters. The conditions where perfect for board testing. Not only did the exhibitors know it, so did the testers. While most retailers were getting on 6-8 decks a day, the demo was packed. Everyone was in the mood. Just like Monday, the mid-day grills fired up. Some of the next generation am’s and pros showed up to give support. The alco-squaw-lics, Josh Felisiono, Ricky Gotterdam, and Arron Keene, were spotted at the demo living up to their reputations by drinking their way from booth to booth until finding and drinking a handle of “Jack” somewhere in one of the tents were they finally posted up.
Retailers like Wendy Woodward were quoted, “I road the best board I have ever ridden, today”. Wendy is a permanent fixture in the core snowboard scene and is single-handedly responsible for putting out more snowboard reps than any other shop in Norcal. She was frankly emotional about her experience on her favorite board of the demo.
Eric and Kathy Robie of Out of Bounds board shop in western Nevada were busy preparing for the upcoming Presidential weekend, but sent their right-hand man Cory Coniniec to run the gauntlet. “I love the new technology. There’s just something about these next generation snowboard companies, they know how to do it right.”
Without a doubt it was in your face that making a board isn’t just about neat graphics and an over-the-top team. The pace has been set for manufactures to step up the level of product ride-ability. It was very apparent that with the ever-changing design technology, that experience and dedication from the world’s leading product developers is to push the product-driven design companies over the top. Just the looks on the faces of the shop testers were enough to know that snowboarding is changing forever.
Day two came to a close, as the tents folded down and the reps sipped on their final brew. For most, the night ahead promised to be a fun one with the band Danger Kitty scheduled to play at the Sierra Vista bar and grill.
But for other brands a long drive to Mammoth Mountain was in store, due to a mysterious overlap in demo dates for the Norcal and So Cal events. Most of the larger board companies had to shift their demo fleet to the Mammoth event. So day three was without a doubt slow and from the opinions of most not necessarily that important, obviously so due to the reported spotting of many of the Norcal testers at the So Cal event. It must be a little like the cult “phish” following.
The regional shows are right around the corner and the San Mateo show on Feb 24th thru 26th is the last chance for Norcal retailers to get that ever-important preseason discount. If it at all is influenced by the momentum of the on-snow demo this show promises to go down in the record books as a must-attend event. After all it’s just another way the reps of Norcal continue to show their undying love for the sport of snowboarding. As the story goes, In Vegas you saw it, at Squaw you tried it, and after that perfect on-snow it’s time to buy it.