Snowboarding Deregulated: Love Games 2017

What it takes to do well at Love Games—where literally every feature is sketchy in its own right—is an ability to land on your feet and ride away where others would tomahawk. Jade Phelan possesses this cat-like capacity. | Photo: Chad Otterstrom
There is a correlation between building a feature and ability to ride it which is demonstrated at Love Games. Sean Murphy gets to know a down-flat-down elbow log before the following day's event. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Alex Andrews drove the Bad Astro out from Utah to build and ride at Love Games. But who's the real froth puppy here? | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Women's winner Melissa Riitano readies a feature in the lower zone during Saturday's dig day. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
It's always a challenge to carve a smooth transition into the naturally occurring windlip that serves as the foundation for the quarterpipe at Love Games. But with enough shoveling and raking this crew managed to sculpt something only moderately sketchy. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Straight outta Grand County, Ryan Arrington does one of the things he does best and lays one out. Godspeed on the knee recovery, Ryan. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
The band is back together. In town from Tahoe, Jackson Fowler showed up with the rest of the loonies from Grand County—Ben Lynch, Ryan Arrington, and Ben Berberich.
You could recognize this frontside air from the road. Ben Lynch touchin' sky. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Ben Berberich doing what everyone should've and many didn't. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
2016 Love Games champion Nate Cordero alley-oopin' off the first feature of the day. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
The fastest man in Colorado, Jake Black, fresh off a banked slalom win the previous day. Go figure. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Melissa Riitano with a little morning stretch routine. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Above treeline, dig a hole. Alex Pashley, peeing. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
How much you wanna bet Seth Hill can toss a backside rodeo over them mountains? | Photo: Taylor Boyd
A triumphant Colin Walters. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Alex Andrews pops up and into the tombstone. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
AA upside down above the QP. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Look what we have here. A nice Taipan from the tombstone. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
2015 Love Games winner Sean Murphy firmly planted in a frontside invert. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Third place finisher, Chris Depaula, one hand down and one foot out. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Wildcat to fakie on a sketchy quarterpipe. Pretty gnarly. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Brendan Sullivan squeezin' the nose on an Andrecht. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
As the event migrated down the pass and made its way to the Ironing Board—a right-hand hip built into a long windlip—it became apparent the lip and run-in were going to need some additional work before the session began. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Seth Hill has a proper method—that is to say he starts in a melon and holds on until it looks like this. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
The Frutch, soaring like he does so well. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Satellite co-owner Raul prepping the Ironing Board with a bit of branding before the boarding begins. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
The Ironing Board isn't set up for goofy-footed methods, but sometimes you gotta think outside the box. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Guy in the sky Sean Murphy handplanting a range in the distance. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Aaron Wilson, manager of Satellite Boardshop, reporting carnage in real-time while Eric Frazier and Shawn Gruenhagen look on. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Sean Murphy. The fucked up thing is he landed this. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
The young Justin Phipps was awarded with a size 66 Vans shoe for methods like this one. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Chris Depaula holdin' on and lettin' em know. | Photo: Chad Otterstrom
Rocky Mountain Vans rep Shaun Gruenhagen. The best dude out. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
At one point during the session at the Ironing Board, an unidentified voice called his drop from the behind a stand of trees. It was the voice of this naked man on skis who laid out a backflip—in what may be the most prominent display of male genitalia ever witnessed on Loveland Pass—and rode away only to be seen again shortly with a pair of underwear on. Alex Pashley's theory is that they were in his mouth, but who's to say? Sometimes you have to accept the mystery.
Chase Blackwell grabbin' onto a grasser. | Photo: Chad Otterstrom
Es el año del Negro. Jake Black casually launchin' a frontside air for the crowd. | Photo: Chad Otterstrom
Jade Phelan with ample time to spot his landing. | Photo: Chad Otterstom
Alex Pashley, Jake Black, Seth Bruce, and Chad Otterstrom probably talking shit. Definitely talking shit. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Brendan Sullivan roundin' the bend. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Chris Depaula poppin' over. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Young Dragon aka Austin Gregory in his element. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
It's hard to tell how harsh the angle of this elbow was but making it through was quite a feat. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
There were a couple options on this two-table setup. Jade Phelan opting for the more aggressive route—table-to-table. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Charlie Hochbrunn and Cody Cooper took a sip of the same beer before spraying it in each other's face. True pals. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Jade, laid out. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Nastya sending it over the pit. No one implemented the alligators and spikes concept this year. Maybe next time. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
Tori Velasaquez, Julia Spadaro, Ethan Camps, and Rachel Leadholm just taking it in. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Seth Hill between the trees with bent knees. | Photo: JuanJo Sieiro
The lower zone at Love Games sees constant action when the session gets going. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Satellite co-owner JG with wife, Shannon, and the new addition to the Mazzotta family, Sadie. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Ziggin' and zaggin'. | Photo: Chad Otterstrom
Justin Phipps, post tomahawk. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Unlike the other 200 lazy participants and spectators at Love Games who hitched rides to the top of the pass, Chad O. splitboarded up to take photos. Here, he's seen enjoying a cold one for his efforts. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
The end of the day is dog time. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Matt Lufkin, founder of Lufcorp Worldwide, purveyors of goods from Salomon, Celtek, Airblaster, Stance, Electric, KR3W, Supra and other fine brands. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
This little dude held up this banner during the entire awards ceremony in absence of a more traditional support. If you're an agent of the Department of Labor, the number for Satellite Boarshop is (303) 374-3275. Ask for JG or Raul. | Photo: Taylor Boyd
Visit the site and make a donation to support a fellow snowboarder and one of the most genuine dudes on the planet, Gary Wyman. Seth Bruce representing for his close friend and fellow Colorado legend. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Of its primary water and concrete-based counterparts, snowboarding is the only sideways endeavor that is largely restricted by a fee. There is a distinct cost to snowboarding that ranges from a variable $15 to $180 per day or a fixed $300 to $3000 per winter. Plenty of means exist to slide downhill in the snow without paying for a lift ticket or buying a season pass, but more so than most pastimes, snowboarding is financially gated.

As snowboarding has matured and grown to be widely accepted at resorts and well-manicured terrain parks have become commonplace, the idea of buying a ticket or a pass has become increasingly ubiquitous. But there was a time when it was less common, when many resorts didn't allow snowboarding or restricted it to specific areas. Freestyle snowboarding was much more a do-it-yourself endeavor than it is today. Outside of a naturally-occurring lip, shovels and manual labor were requisites for air time. Riders built what they rode.

As someone who's been snowboarding for little more than two decades, this era was largely before my time. By the time I started, most resorts had some form of terrain park, albeit rudimentary in comparison to today's standards. But many of my best memories on a snowboard—the times when I learned three tricks in a day or rode late into the night—were fueled by shovel power. There is something about building a feature yourself and hiking it that accelerates progression and allows you to better connect with what you’re riding.

Each spring, there is an event that takes place which hearkens back to a simpler time in snowboarding—a time when building what you rode was commonplace, when progression didn't involve corked multiplicities, and when Colorado was the epicenter for freestyle advancement outside of the high profile contest realm.

For the last seven years Satellite Boardshop, with the help of an increasing number of shovelers each iteration, has offered a demonstration of a type of snowboarding that requires only enough money to put gas in your car and make it to the bottom of Loveland Pass. From there, you can hitch a ride to the top, where a quarterpipe is sculpted out of a natural windlip and a step up carved next to a cornice. Lower down, the infamously flat Ironing Board hip sees five hits to one land, and back at the bottom of the pass a jib-focused zone lends ample opportunity for carnage.

Either Aaron Dodds or Seth Bruce accurately described Love Games as a monster truck rally. But in between savage tomahawks, scorpions and faces meeting snow before boards—and without the typically requisite lift tickets, ski patrol, or entry fees—the strongest snowboarders manage ride away from heavy tricks at each zone, and these riders are recognized at the end of the day while hot dogs are grilled and beers are sipped by sunburnt lips.


1st Jade Phelan
2nd Chris DePaula
3rd Seth Hill

The men’s podium: Chris DePaula in 2nd, Jade Phelan in 1st, and Seth Hill in 3rd. Congrats, boys. | Photo: Taylor Boyd


1st Melissa Riitano
2nd Ruby Peyton
3rd Nastya Zhukova

Second and first-place women’s winners Ruby Peyton and Melissa Riitano threw down all day on each feature. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Froth Puppy : Nate Cordero

Defending Love Games champ Nate Cordero walked away with the Froth Puppy Award this time around—an acknowledgement of his efforts both digging and riding. The dude rips and moved a approximately one ton of snow by hand. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Best Method: Justin Phipps

Justin Phipps and a size 66 Vans shoe with art by Jamie Lynn—his prize for grabbing methods well beyond his years. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Highest Air: Hunter Frutchey

Hunter Frutchey’s absurd amplitude was acknowledged with the Highest Air Award. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Legend Award Rob Bak

Longtime Vail local Rob Bak walked away with the Legend Award after hiking and ripping all day long. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Brendan Sullivan didn’t win an official award, but the fact that he back lipped through the down-flat-down elbow log deserved recognition of some sort. | Photo: Taylor Boyd

Visit to help a fellow snowboarder, Gary Wyman.