Riders As Stewards

The Leeward Cinema crew splitboards to the tune of a different drummer.

PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

By Jesse Huffman

Responsibility: this six-syllable bummer is loaded with the shackles of being an adult, of having to do your "job," or whatever other negatives get piled on. But at it's best, "responsibility" describes a positive relationship where one party takes care of what they're accountable for. And what are we as snowboarders most accountable for? You saw that coming: the environment.

It can an awkward place to find yourself in, realizing that because of the places we play in, the way we get there, and the consistently cold weather we need to ride, shredders are arguably more wrapped up in global warming than most. It's a complex challenge, but for many dedicated snowboarders, taking it on comes naturally; our culture has always been defined by a DIY ethos. For this installment of Shred Lightly, we're highlighting the actions and opinions of three riders that have risen up from the ranks to stake their views-- not content to wait for change to happen, they are taking on the responsibility and taking action to push forward their own environmental initiatives. Respected legends, innovators and media-makers, these three define the meaning of Riders As Stewards.

From starting his own outerwear line to his infamous self-portraiture Mike Basich (here) has always cultivated his snowboarding career on his own terms. In 2007 he added a certifiably "recycled" board line to his list of enterprises. "Production is what’s killing our planet," says Basich. "This is the main reason I made my own board."

Headquartered in an off-the-grid 300-square foot stone house (which he also built himself) in Tahoe, Basich's boards feature wood cores milled from a 400-year old 80-foot pine tree that fell on his 40-acre Donner Pass property. Sidewalls made of recycled materials, edges, topsheets and bases were added and pressed by Smokin' Snowboards. Only 18 were made for the 2008 season, but high demand for the enviro-friendly decks has lead Basich to produce a much larger run for 2009, offered to the public through Smokin'-- availability of course limited to the amount of downed wood he can harvest from his property.

"It always starts off with digging deep and seeing what I need in my life," Basich says about his motivations to change his lifestyle in order to minimize environmental impact. It may be personal for Basich, but his actions have inspired the snowboard community as a whole.

Jeremy Jones. PHOTO:Chris Wellhausen

Jeremy Jones also started from a personal connection, having seen firsthand the impact that climate change is having on the mountains-- returning every spring to Alaska (to set the bar for big mountain riding somehow higher than the last time he was there) and finding less snow, more rain, and receding glaciers. In 2007 Jones founded Protect Our Winters (POW), a direct action non-profit campaign to fight global warming.

"There are a lot of things we can do in our everyday life that make a difference," explains Jones, "especially if everyone is doing them. Our approach with Protect Our Winters is to use our media resources to help educate people in these steps, with the belief that together we can protect our winters."

Through the protectourwinters.org (here) outreach programs, Jones and company have put together a legitimate and formidable platform for change within the snow industry. Besides the education, carbon credits and renewable energy projects at POW, Jones is an active design collaborator with Rossignol, where he works to create environmentally friendly products. "The mountains shouldn't be taken for granted," says Jones. "Global warming is a long-term problem that is going to require long-term solutions--we owe it to the future generations to start changing the way we do things."

Jeremy Jones. PHOTO:Chris Wellhausen

Seasoned Tahoe-area snowboard cinematographer Chris Edmands has worked on plenty of films, for Volcom, Standard, Defective and more. But in 2008, he wanted to do things differently-- without (gasp!) a snowmobile.

"From day one, seven years ago, I wanted to sell the thing and finally did last spring," Edmands Says. "I thought I needed it to film snowboarding, but I came to realize that there are options and just stepped away from that style of filmmaking."

Edmands started up Leeward Cinemas (here), and his first film, "My Two Feet" documents a season spent with no lifts, snowmobiles or helicopters. Based out of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, a 400-mile long range that is largely off-limits to motorized vehicles, Edmands and his group of riders (including Tom Burt and Josh Dirksen) pounded out 180 miles, each, riding and camping on slopes that have gone un-documented by snowboarders.

In an era where having a sled is a professional pre-requisite, Edmands is shifting the paradigm, showing kids that getting there on your own power is just as, if not more, fun.

Being involved in taking care of the resources we rely on for our fun can go from simply recycling to changing your lifestyle completely-- Basich, Jones and Edmands have gone to incredible lengths to take on the challenge of stewardship, put their opinions out there and make change happen. Inspiration, passion and innovation are what made snowboarding the sport it is, and these three are tapping that spirit, and sparking a whole new model of thinking. The message they are sending is clear: get stoked, get inspired, be a snowboarder, and do your part.