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Alta Snowboard Team Buffs Now In!

Call it a buff. Call it a neck gaiter.  Either way, we’ve been asked for quite some time and here they are:  AST buffs.  Cut the sand-blasting snow and wind.  Protect your face from the high-altitude U/V light.  Pull it down over your face and dance around, whatever.  Red, white, and blue sitting on black as usual.  They measure 20×50 cm and are super-stretchy.  Here’s Kyla wearing her new buff at the annual Avalanche Dog Search and Rescue clinic held here in Alta.

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AST Represented in Portland Oregon Skateboard Race

Our man on the sidewalk surfer is at it again.  James Cook of Seaside, Oregon to represent Alta Snowboard Team and Seaside Surf Shop at Mt. Tabor park in Portland, Oregon this Saturday, July 26th.  It’s the Mt. Tabor Downhill challenge.  It will be “Old School Style” with limited space between feet making for an interesting stance on the board.  Entry fee is $75 and open to all.  Space is limited and professionals will be in attendance so bring your A-game or just come and watch from the sidelines in beautiful Mt. Tabor park on Portland’s S.E. side..  Full-face helmets and gloves are required to compete.  Shoes and pants?  Who knows?  See you there!

This photo take from 2013 "Switchback Series" held at Mt. Tabor Park. (No full-face helmets required).
This photo take from 2013 “Switchback Series” held at Mt. Tabor Park. (No full-face helmets required).
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AST on the podium

Local shredder and AST rider Shannan Yates takes 1st place at Chamonix with fellow AST riders Laura Dewey and Kaitlin Elliot finishing in 6th and 7th, respectively.  This was the first stop on this year’s Swatch/North Face Freeride World Tour.  All the American female snowboard competitors hail from our own Little Cottonwood Canyon.  That includes Laura Dewey, Shannan Yates, Kaitlin Elliot and Laura Hadar.  The first three of them are reppin’ Alta Snowboard Team and we’re proud to have them.  Shred on ladies!

Yates on the podium
Yates on the podium
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Alta Snowboard Team custom board pt. 2

Erik with board
Erik of RAWR art with his masterpiece.

There’s nothing like flying on a board you designed.  I can’t say enough good things about the builders and everyone who had a part in the construction of this one-off custom snowboard.  After some experimentation and mad-science we have a first-edition, custom Alta Snowboard Team snowboard.  I personally designed this board based on my riding style and preferred dimensions.  Best part about it: it works.  It works great!  I have been wanting to get the Alta Snowboard Team name on a board but have been hesitant to just pay to have a custom top sheet thrown any old no-name piece.  I can tell you this board could be flat black spray-painted and I would ride it every day because it’s my favorite.  Bonus!: it has a sweet, custom graphic on the top sheet as well a die-cut AST logo-adorned base to match!  As I stated in part 1, I measured my own quiver as well as consulted a shop manual for reference to popular board shapes and dimensions.  I decided on a tapered, directional board with stiffness that would make most frightened.  SUCCESS!  305 mm nose, 255 mm waist, 295 mm tail, powder-point nose, blunt swallow-tail because I like the aesthetics.  Here’s something I didn’t even plan on: a non-rounded tail makes for easier standing/leaning of your board.  “Just set it…….and forget it.”  The board performs better than planned.  The powder shape, slight taper, and rear-set stance keep the nose up and out of the pow as well allow the tail to release when needed for a good slash.  When the snow isn’t deep, I’ve set the stance a bit more forward and am having a great time laying into some groomers and carving the heck out of this thing.  The slightly wider nose makes for a very responsive high-speed carver.  Also, the taper seems to work like cruise-control on big, high-speed straight-lines.  The nose floats, the tail sits down in the snow to catch every so slightly to keep the tail behind you.  No more necessary edge riding for fear of catching.  “Just set it………and forget it.”  Utilizing a full sheet of unilateral carbon fiber plus strategically-placed carbon stringers keep that board solid.  I find myself hearing a lot more wind noise without noticing I’m moving faster.  It’s that good.  The pop out of the tail is a bit difficult because of the overbuilt stiffness of it but that’s how we built it.  More freeride than freestyle but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been spun or inverted.  Stay tuned for a production edit and check out some players that helped make this board possible.

www.dirtybirdskis.com

www.facebook.com/dirtybirdboards

http://www.rawrproject.blogspot.com

Thanks for reading,

Mica

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Weekend Warriors Series. WinterPark, CO

 

Thursday, March 21.  Travel Day:

“Never leave good surf,” a wise man once told me.  As Justin and I loaded the 84′ AMC Wagon at 6 AM to leave our beloved Little Cottonwood Canyon, the snow had just started to come down hard.  We hadn’t seen snow fall in a week or more.  Never leave good surf.  We had our plans though.  Arrangements made, expectations and excitement high.  We’re off to Colorado.  Really?!  We’re leaving Alta and the Bird during a storm to go to…..Colorado?  Too late now.  We’ve an eight our drive according to map quest which with stops and the pace at which this Eagle flies will probably turn into eleven.  Better get moving.

A gas top-off, coffee top-off and a Talking Heads album later we’d made it to Daniel’s summit.  We’d been through sunny Heber Valley and were back in snow again.  Over the mountains and through through the hills we go.  A beautiful day for a drive.  Besides snow in the mountain passes, it was smooth sailing and sunshine.  Our only complaints were getting pulled over in Dersham, Utah for 46 in a 40 zone and that there are “no dinosaur fossils” in the dinosaur national monument.  True.  You’re better off cruising the strip in the town of Dinosaur and reading the street signs out loud.  Main street is in fact called Brontosaurus.

Friday, March 22.  Inspection day:

Winter Park, Colorado.  “Mary Jane Chutes.”  Inspection day.  Confusing signs there at WinterPark.  Passed the venue twice with the help of signs and off-handed directions.  Upon arriving, we are greeted with a very steep, spiny, pillowy trail.

Day 1 Venue:  Mary Jane Chutes
Day 1 Venue: Mary Jane Chutes

I love it.  Never been here before.  One chance to gather as much possible information as we can.  Justin goes skiers’ left on a tip from the head judge.  I opted for right and an exposed, visible-to-the-judges, and more fall-line route.  The run is getting pretty skied out even with it being closed to the public.  Temperatures are reaching mid-to-high 30’s and the snow is baking.  We roll the dice with our inspection routes hoping we would find features that fit our liking and would score well.  You hope what you’ve chosen will score well, be fully rideable to your ability, and showcase your particular skill-set.  After making our way down the venue, we congregate in the spectator area to stare as a group up at what we’d just skied.  “Is that the run I want to do?  Are there others more appealing?  Can the judges see me?  Is the snow better somewhere else?  If I grease this line as I plan, will it be enough to get me into day 2/finals?”  These are all questions asked by every competitor as they stare back up at the venue and potential line choice.  No more inspection runs.  Take your pictures, stare, talk amongst yourselves.  That’s all you can do.  Study your pics tonight and try to decide.  Now go explore the mountain and have some fun.

Saturday, March 23rd.  Competition day 1:

Day one of competition.  Calm the nerves.  Get up early because you’re scheduled to be on the chairlift at 8 AM.  Don’t miss it or you’ll miss your one chance this morning to check the conditions and cement your run into your head.  And it’s a good thing we made it.  If steeps are hell to some, then hell has frozen over.  Since Friday’s mid-30’s temps, it has dropped to 15 degrees and an inch or two of snow has fallen. We’re greeted with re-frozen slush.  Some of the worst conditions I’ve ridden.

If I had any choice, I would not be on this steep, exposed face.  That’s what we paid for though.  Justin and I agree on a plan of nothing to lose, except our health.  “Just make it down alive and on your feet, and we’ll head back to Snowbird and powder, ” we told each other.  We did just that and were in the top ten at the end of the day.  Conservative seems to get me through the prelims.  Stay on your feet, ride fast, don’t crash, make it to day 2, repeat.  With the conditions so poor, the riding was lackluster.  No airs, no spins, just making it down the venue.  Nobody feels great after that.  We felt great when we saw the first day results though.  With the exception of our man Tim Ackerman (14th), all AST Team members made it through to day two.  Tim decided to try to cut down a tree with his body and the tree wasn’t having that.  On a side note, (and it is worth noting), Dave “Sudsy” Watson drove out from Snowmass Colorado, didn’t inspect the morning of day one, and shredded his way to a day one first place score.  Way to go Dave.  That is skill and experience at work.

Sunday, March 24th.  Competition day 2:

Excitement and confidence are high.  We’re back early to inspect for day 2/finals.  The organizers decided on “visual inspection” only which means you can look at the venue for as long as you like but to preserve the snow, competitors are not allowed to actually ride the slope before their run.  Given that “better not” chute would be open for us to ride (a permanently closed area), the visual-inspection-only meant that technically everyone was on the same page as far as knowing this run (as no one is every legally allowed on in this area.)

"Better Not" chute.  Part of day 2 venue.  Normally, permanently closed.
“Better Not” chute. Part of day 2 venue. Normally, permanently closed.

We could look from the top, we could look from the bottom, but that was it.  One interesting part of “better not” was that there was a tree-“choke” in the top third of the run (a place where the trees funnel down to a very tight chute.)  From the top one could see down to the choke but nothing further.  From the bottom, one could see the lower two thirds of the run but not the first third.  This truly was a “visual only” inspection.  Standing at the top of a very steep chute with only the tree choke and who-knows-what beyond made me hope my vision and memory were accurate for whatever was on the other side of those trees.  From the bottom I spotted what I thought to be a high scoring line.  I would come through the aforementioned tree choke but where others were coming down skier’s right drainage and getting stuck in a tight, bony chute, I would traverse above and onto a thin, steep spine.  From the bottom it looked steep and exposed, but rideable.  Perfect right?  Find the nastiest line you think you can ride, then go do it.  I talked with friends and couldn’t believe no one spotted the same line.  Was I crazy?  Is that not rideable?  Why doesn’t anyone else see that? Looks perfect to me.  Steep, exposed, gnarly, scary.  This could be a winner.  “Get out on that spine, make turns, ride the pillows down, send an air, call it a day,” went my mantra.  Gathering at the top, I met fellow AST riders Matt Carter and Justin Latimer.  The hype machine was in full-effect and the hoots and hollers were loud.  I almost lost my voice when Justin dropped in.  Matt dropped two places later.  I could hear the crowd cheering as they came into the bottom so knew they both had good runs.  Now it’s my turn: calm the nerves, do what you do, and make the team proud.  Put in some tunes, give a high-five to Morris who drops after me, and SHRED!  A few turns on a central spine separating two chutes leading down to the tree choke and I actually thought, “wish I wasn’t having to rush through this, the snow is awesome.”  Here comes the tree choke: hope it looks the same as I expect it to!  I traversed high and l, as planned, and found a clear route to where I intended to go. (From the bottom I had worried that I would encounter an obstacle such as a rock or tree stump impeding my intended route to the “spine.”)  I’ve made it through the tree choke and the rest of the run opens up below me.

On the spine.
On the spine.

WOW!  It is steep!  And, the spine is thinner than I expected.  Too late now.  There’s certainly no turning back, figuratively nor literally.  “Make turns, keep moving,” I tell myself.  I weaseled out onto the spine and tried to focus on where I needed to go, not where I did not want to go.  If I can make some turns and get off this spine in one piece, the rest of the run will be no problem.  A quick heel-slide, a jump-turn right, and one more left and I’ve made it down to the end of the spine.  I drop left onto a pillow and breathe a quick internal sigh of relief knowing the tough part was behind me.  Now to try to make the rest of this steep run I’ve never ridden before look good.  Pillow, pillow, pillow, quick drop through the trees, and it’s runout time to the bottom.  It happened faster than I expected.  I’M ALIVE!  Now the great relief of coming into the finish gates in one piece, having ridden a solid line, and doing what was intended.  High fives all around and wait for the results.  With the tension and anxiety of competition behind me I can now relax.  I’ve done all I can do, now it is up to the judges.

When it came time, Justin and I were called to the podium as part of the top 5.  Justin 5th, me 4th.winterpark podium

We did well this time.  It was a great trip to WinterPark, Colorado for the Weekend Warriors Series.  We’ll be back next year.  A special thanks to WinterPark Ski Patrol for all their hard work and keeping us safe.  Also, thanks for getting Better Not chute opened for us.  It was worth getting to ride some “forbidden fruit.”

Freeride competing: Round up the gnarliest riders you know (who can get work off and afford to travel), pack into a car and go somewhere you’ve never been or ridden.  Once there ride whatever the steepest, nastiest run they have on hand, in often the worst possible conditions.  Make sure to spend a bunch of money getting there but don’t stop once you arrive.  There’s hotels to pay for, expensive resort food, lift tickets, not to mention the entry fee to potentially ride one run (if you crash on day one, you’re done).  Now repeat.  
It’s a huge gamble.  You’ve got to take off work, spend time, money, and energy to travel and compete.  For what?  Even if you make it onto the podium, you’ll be lucky to make your expenses back.  Sponsors?  Not many.  No money in it.  Not visible enough.  It’s barely worth it when you succeed,  incredibly disappointing when you don’t.  So why do it?  Because it’s fun.  Everyone here is like-minded and knows exactly why you do it and have given up so much.  Trust, respect, camaraderie.  The good outweighs the bad.  Do it again.

 

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Alta Snowboard Team custom board pt. 1

I’ve been working with my friend Jay at Dirty Bird Boards to build my first snowboard.  Jay has been manufacturing custom skis and surfboards for the past couple years and recently made the jump to snowboards.  The shop may be close to home but that doesn’t mean this is backyard low-tech.  Jay works with space-age materials, a CAD-controlled CNC machine, and state-of-the-art press.  This is no joke.

When Jay told me we could order a custom top sheet for said board, I knew just who to turn to.  I’ve known Erik of Rawr! art for a handful of years, mainly through my comings and goings at a local dark, underground speak-easy.  He has has been producing some wild, bright, very original art for as long as I’ve know him  (I’m sure long before).  Here’s his process showing 4 stages of the top sheet art coming to life.ASTWIP copy

I’ve always enjoyed making things and the idea of doing it myself.  In the off-season, I started making surfboards on the Oregon coast.  After learning how to work with fiberglass, why not make a snowboard?  Finally, with the help of Dirty Bird Boards and Jay, that dream is happening.

Jay thinks the shaper/surfer relationship has a place in the mountains too.  Talk to your shaper?  Talk to your ski/snowboard builder.  Before we started, Jay and I sat down in his living room and talked about what I was looking for in this particular board.  Much like a surfboard shaper, the questions included: how I ride, where I plan to ride, and what conditions this board would be used in.  I then took measurements of my entire quiver of snowboards to get an idea of how to quantify the feelings of how each rides.  With the help of a secret manual in Jay’s possession, I also had access to the design process and measurements of a very large and well-established snowboard company.  Between my notebook measurements, my design intentions, and the secret book of specs, I developed my ultimate shredder.  This board will be a day-to-day resort ride for anything from ice to a foot of fresh.  I have some brief racing experience and that comes through in my style of riding.  More freeride than freestyle, this board is meant to go in one direction, fast and furious.  Vertical sidewalls, a 162cm length, a not-too-wide waist width, and double-carbon fiber construction will keep it stable in the hard pack and at high speeds.  A very directional shape, moderate taper, scooped-up nose, and blunt swallow-tail will all help when the snow gets deeper.  I’m excited for the design, the building process, the art and collaboration, and working with my friends.  I’m very excited to ride my own custom board and beyond that to provide feedback as a tester and further the process of design and board building.

Stay tuned for more of the process.  I plan to document as much as I can.

 

 

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Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships

 

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West Basin
Day 1 and Day 2

Taos Ski Valley is a family owned resort nestled deep within the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Northern New Mexico.  The resort boasts steep terrain, wide-open bowls, and uncrowded slopes.  Taos has always been family owned and operated by the Blake family.  They are dedicated to continuing the success and legacy of the ski resort built by Ernie and Rhoda Blake starting in 1954.  Alejandro Blake and his family were key in organizing and hosting  the 2013  Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships.   Also key in making this 4 star world qualifying event  such a success was the amazing staff, the exceptional terrain, and the athletes’ performance.

Camila Brown
Camila Brown

The Taos experience is not to be missed.  The quaint southwestern city is a rich, culturally diverse area with many locals being of  Native American and Spanish decent.  Taos Ski Valley, just outside of town offers terrain for all types of skiers and riders.  One can cruise the nice groomers or hike just a short distance to some extreme and exposed terrain that happens to also make great venues for big-mountain competitions.

West Basin Venue
West Basin Venue

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The Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships started February 28 with both the first and second day of qualifying being in the West Basin venue. The third and final day of competition, March 2nd, was held on Kachina peak.  The three day event featured men and women snowboarders and skiers.  Each athlete earned a cumulative score which determined the winner.  Each day of competition a number of athletes were eliminated.  The field was cut from 24 female snowboarders to 5, 26 female skiers to 13 , 43 male snowboarders to 16, and 57 male skiers to 20 for the finals day on Kachina Peak.

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The West Basin offered several different route options.  The face was the longest route. It was hidden in the shadows most of the day, but offered some great cliff jumps.  Another option used by the skiers but not many of the riders was the heavy timber area.  Lastly, there was a steep set of sunny cliff bands with some nice exit chutes that many snowboarders chose as their competition line.DPP_000103

The climax of the event was a beautiful, sunny, finals day.  Venue inspection began at 8 am as athletes made the 30 minute walk up 12,481 foot Kachina Peak in an effort to scope their line, smooth their runways, and warm up their legs for the one-run final.  Originally, the idea was to leave the venues fresh, allowing only for a visual inspection.  Because of the variable snow conditions and previous wind event, organizers decided an actual on-snow inspection would be the safest idea for athletes.

Kachina Peak
Kachina Peak

Around 10 a.m. with the sun high in the sky the venue gleamed and sparkled as the female snowboarders kicked the competition off.  Five women snowboarders competed on Kachina the final day.  Alta Snowboard Team rider Kaitlin Elliott received the highest score of the ladies riders, 8.17.  She rode consistently well throughout the competition and her cumulative score was the highest which earned her a first place finish.  Kaitlin has several second place finishes, but this is her first win. We are super pumped for Kaitlin.

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Kaitlin’s Winning Run

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Following the female riders were the lady skiers. Those gals really put on a great show rippin’ through the powder.  Two ladies often seen skiing Snowbird made it to the finals.  Hannah Follender and Desiree Touchette. Congrats Desiree on a 5th place finish.

Hanna
Hannah

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Jesse Maddox

AST rider Jesse Maddox probably had one of the craziest runs of the whole competition.  First, he hucked a front-flip off the top cornice of his line into the steep, wooded entry of a “no-fall-zone.”  He then made quick work of some steep terrain above nasty exposure.  After a nasty approach, jumping off one of the biggest cliffs in the venue and nearly taking out a cameraman, he spun a backside rodeo 7 off the Red Bull money booter.  The action was non-stop and the crowd went wild.  Jesse earned his personal best finish of 11th place.  Way to represent.  A 40-photo-secuence of Jesse’s run taken by Dave Watson is viewable on www.snowboardfreeridetour.com.

Another Alta Snowboard Team rider, Matt Carter, scored in with his 13th place final finish.  Matt had the pressure on from the get-go blowing the edge out of his board just minutes before his first qualifying run.  After a quick board change and a race to the starting line he qualified 12th. The second day he qualified 11th and his final run down Kachina Peak earned him the lucky number 13.  Matt managed to stay on his feet throughout the competition and his consistent scores kept him in the top 15.

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Matt Carter  Finals Run
Matt Carter
Finals Run

Local knowledge of the mountain proved to be a true asset this competition.  Local patroller Justin Bobb won the men’s snowboarding division.  Bobb earned it with some pretty sick lines.  Justin is a nice person and an awesome representation of how snowboarders at a resort can be respectable super shredder employees.

Drew Peterson won for the men skiers and as always the skiers hucked it huge.  It was mine blowing watching the skiers go so big.

Skier
Skier

The AST had a whole list of athletes competing at Taos and we had an awesome time hanging out in the warm New Mexico sun.  The AST women snowboarders were Kaitlin Elliott, Camila Brown, and Rose Struble.  The AST men snowboarders were Jesse Maddox, Matt Carter, Mica Brownlie, Zaine Salerno, Jordan Nelson, Wade Williams, and Nick Diachun.  Way to go Team.DPP_00085

The hospitality given to us while we were in the “Land of Enchantment” was unending.  El Pueblo Lodge in Taos is a sister lodge to Alta’s Peruvian Lodge.  We stayed at the El Pueblo after the long days of riding.  The accommodations were lovely.  The lodge staff were amazing hosts and really made us feel welcome.  Check them out at www.elpueblolodge.com.

In conclusion, Taos was spectacular.  You might have missed the 2013 Saloman Extreme Freeride Championship, but it is not too late to ski or ride Taos Ski Valley.  They just received new snow, so it is prime time.        www.skitaos.org                       www.taosskivalley.com

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Ice and Rocks. The 2013 Masters at Alpine.

Dave Zook is a sponsored Alta Snowboard Team Rider.  Dave was kind enough to share his experiences at the first Masters of Snowboarding event held at Alpine Meadows, California on February 14th, 2013.  Dave finished 26th in a field of 54 competitors.

Author:Dave Zook

Photos: Dee

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High Yellow Alpine Venue

To me the Masters is about having fun and pushing my abilities amidst a group of talented riders. I have done a few competitions in years past with limited success, but have an underlying confidence that on the right day I can hang with the big kids. I was hoping Tahoe would be that day.

 

On the first day at Alpine I had my inner amp-up reserves stored up for a 20-foot rock with a firm but acceptably steep landing. The goal was to stay conservative through the top section and cap the run off with a sizeable air, staying fluid throughout.

Top Air
Top Air

I dropped into the upper ice apron and squiggled and squirmed over the wind-scoured month-old snow. I found air 1, a four-foot drop to slick runout.

A four-foot air is admittedly small, but I have no trouble conceding that for me it was difficult to land any air on that steep of a venue and control the speed afterward. The difficulty lay in not simply landing the air but regaining composure without throwing the board on the heel edge and sliding for awhile, as doing so is not smooth, and runs the risk of washing out. Though the announcers kept saying “railing out” when this happened, which channeled my inner eighth-grader and made me giggle.

 

Someone else “Railing out”

 

I dropped the first air and rode out, sliding but a little on my heel. I weaved over to air 2 which was about a foot bigger than air 1st. The same tactic here yielded the same result. While I could feel I wasn’t rocketing through the course like some (Matt Carter!), control was a nice thing to be able to fall back on to justify lack of berserk speed.

 

Zook’s jump 2

But one big rock still lay between myself and a cold beer. The in-run had a smoothed out and perfectly horizontal takeoff zone from everyone scraping it the day before. That’s nice, I thought, as I closed in on the lip. I remember wanting to drift from rider’s left to right in the air, so I could find the optimal transition, and not go too far and land in Nick Perata’s lap in the announcing booth.

Got the Grab

 

The plan almost worked. My speed felt good, I found the grab and looked at the impending landing coming straight to the bottom of my feet. Only a few centimeters of board, a sturdy pair of boots and a pair of thin socks insulated my feet from the ruggedly firm snow. If memory serves me, which it probably doesn’t when trying to recollect thoughts from a free-fall, I was positioned to land on the mental X I had mapped out.

But, I came down with a tad too much weight centered over my front foot and tumbled. I’d anticipated the landing to be proper hardpack, but I think the snow gave way just a touch and tripped me up and over the handlebars. I tweaked my ankle and it hurt. I broke my board and that sucked. I didn’t land and wouldn’t get a great score and that pissed me off.

OUCH Face to ICE

 

But like anything, perspective is key. It was a beautiful day in Cali, my home state and I was outside, and snowboarding. Friends were watching and supporting me, which counts for everything, more than I can express. In no time I was smiling and cheering on the rest of the riders. I had fun.

 

Author and Rider: Dave Zook