One of the most dangerous things about being a writer in snowboarding is believing anything anyone tells you. In New York, everyone tells you “no” even when perhaps they mean “yes.” It’s tough, but you always know where you stand. People really don’t care if you’re disappointed, so you never develop false expectations. In snowboarding, it’s all so chummy, sometimes I have no idea what’s going on. It’s all “yes yes yes,” and nine times out of ten no one follows through. Now I’m just venting my frustration here…this has no bearing on the subjects of this column. I often feel suckered, that’s all.
The industry conference was a serious party and I did not step up to the bro-down plate the way I probably should have. I admit, I was scared by all the shiny happy people, and not having a pass to the conference didn’t help my feelings of displacement. One night, while milling around outside dinner, I noticed someone else looking really displaced. I was about to make small talk with him when he turned around and I realized it was him. There was Jake Burton, and I had just tapped him on the shoulder.
I don’t know what I said to him, Jake Burton, but I walked away with an interview the next morning. “I’m on Vermont time so let’s make it 7:00, ” he had suggested. At seven, I was knocking on his door, all dry-eyed and altitudy. He came out of his room with no shoes on, wearing the same thing he was wearing the night before and I was impressed all over again. We went and had breakfast.
I got a great interview for my book. I was thrilled. Jake invited my boyfriend and me to go snowboarding. Was I being shmoozed? Should I say thank you very much but I think I have enough? Bottom line: I couldn’t say no to a day of riding with Jake Burton. He knows Vail like the back of his hand. Not only did he show us all the good tree runs, he actually helped me with my snowboarding. The key to tree riding is a lot of little turns. Jake didn’t vibe me about my level of riding, nor did he patronize me. He put me at ease and I got better. At one point, my boyfriend Mike mentioned that his ankle ached and Jake immediately whipped out his supertool, grabbed Mike’s board, and screwed around with his binding (thank God it was Burton). Mike looked at me quizzically, but when we got to the bottom of the run, he slid up to me and whispered in awe, “It worked. It actually worked!” We returned to the hotel that night giddy with respect and good snowboarding. In the midst of our cooing, I mentioned that I must be a huge sucker. I was a Burton follower and all he had to do was spend one day being nice to me. People had told me about the cult of Burton and here I was, ready to shave my head and had out pamphlets at the airport.
How can you know if someone is genuine? Fuck it, you can’t. I like Mr. Burton. He seemed more genuine than most of the people I’ve met in snowboarding. Why am I so suspicious? Because he’s a very, very successful man, and that alone makes him guilty. It shouldn’t but it does. It’s a tough world out there, and to have that much market share, you can’t be lilllywhilte. Everyone from Ben and Jerry to Bill Gates has gotta have some skeletons in their closet – they’re just too damn huge not to. My thing at this point is that I’m sick of meeting people and having to wonder if they really like me. I’m gonna go totally phoner from now on: just stay in Lake Tahoe and write and interview on the phone.