Words: Chas Smith / Lodge Grit
Travis Rice saunters toward the Continuum hotel breathing heavily, fully geared, snow dappled. Exhausted. A random European stops his progress, begs for a picture, compliments him for what he had witnessed.
The “great days of snowboard ever.”
Travis, ever gracious, talks story from the hill, leans in and throws his patented devil horns.
He has just come down from that Natural Selection course, working shoulder to shoulder all day with the crew, tearing platforms off the features, breaking down what can be broken down.
Nature hath selected and to nature it shall return, mostly so some random European inspired by the broadcast doesn’t come and try to Austin Sweetin.
There were many inspired random Europeans. Chileans, Australians, Canadians, etc., Americans too. An absolutely shocking amount who tuned into both the first day and the final day, witnessing snowboarding’s re-birth.
That’s what it felt like, what it became, over the week and was spoken about over, over and over again.
Foremothers and fathers lauded, a style of riding they pioneered taken to a next level, love of powder, progression, punk, not caring about anything but going as big as one could, impressing gathered sisters and brothers, impressing the ghosts of snowboarding past.
The week was about snowboarding.
“Thank you, snowboarding” was what Mark McMorris uttered from the balcony at the Natural Selection afterparty award’s show and he meant it. He was happy to be part of a crew of derelicts, of ne’redowells, of stone cold bastards and bastard-ettes.
Mark McMorris is a multi-gelded Olympian yet this was his moment. He had gone to the last iteration of Natural Selection in Bald Face, four-odd years ago, and tomahawked down that bald face like an embarrassment but, there, he realized what and who he wanted to be and became in extraordinary fashion.
Shaun White was here early, also a multi-gelded Olympian though not a part of the crew. Crew-adjacent maybe. A bastard but not stone cold. Shaun rode the Olympic hype, that Flying Tomato, Target, Us Weekly-thing to great success but snowboarding died under his watch. Not the kid dreaming, kid skinning into backcountry, kid jibbing in his derelict town imagination but some greater unifying vision.
He left before Mark McMorris hoisted his moose antler, proclaimed this was the most important thing he’s ever been part of, thanked snowboarding, shined a spotlight on some new greater unifying vision.
It matters because it is absurdly fun, because it is destructively fun. Because it has a history, because it resonates, because it is rotten, because it is… stupidly real.
In this broken era, snowboarding feels like salvation. Pointing down a hill, doing powder turns, doing icy wind-buffed side-slips, poking into trees, remembering what it feels like to sail airborne, remembering what it feels like to fall and fall hard, laughing or crying about it with friends at the 4 pm end to a day is salvation.
An obscenely rose-lensed summation from a damned surf journalist?
Certainly and this surf journalist asked the very same question while backcountry-ing fresh powder at the beginning of the week with the world’s finest snowboard journalists.
“In surfing, new participation is the end, the curse,” I said. “Why do you even put up with my presence?”
“All snowboarding requires is for someone willing to hike to the next peak,” one responded, while beckoning to the surrounding mountain ranges bathed in cold light. “Someone willing to push slightly further.”
All of this feels like the next peak.
A naively positive conclusion from a cursed surf journalist?
Travis Rice pushes into the Continuum hotel and is immediately accosted by media, professional, personal requests.
He smiles and throws his patented devil horns.