Spirit of Snowboarding: Tom Burt

Comments by Nate Deschenes/

We should consider ourselves lucky to be part of such a definitive time in snowboarding. It is young enough that it’s still evolving, yet old enough to have found direction. Each season we come to know it better with riders from around the globe polishing their chosen craft, pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and fueling a creative process that invites each season into the next.

But what is it exactly that keeps us progressing? What is it that keeps us inspired? Is it counting spins, measuring jumps, amassing medals? Is it climbing the highest peak, perfecting the toe-side turn, refining a style? Is it the evolution of the board itself, or is it the Olympics for the world to see? Is it mainly in powder, or is it on rails too?

You can dig an avalanche pit, and you won’t find it. As enlightening as a tallboy on the sundeck is, it’s not there either. It’s not in the parks, it’s not atop a podium, and contrary to popular belief, you won’t find it at a “safety meeting” in the trees. No, with snowboarding there is something uniquely personal that moves it at a far deeper level, some kind of spirit that is in all of us. When this notion is given due attention, only then does evolution occur. With this understanding, true individuals tend to emerge. For these beings, passion overrides logic. They are thoughtful creatures whose idea of success is more in line with an essence than anything you can grab
hold of.

See Also: The Spirit of Snowboarding – Devun Walsh

What follows are a handful of riders who live in this space, who decided to explore their personal vision of snowboarding with nothing less than reckless enthusiasm. Within, there are riders who were born to shred and there are those who had to fight tooth and nail for it. Some of them may have turned the sport upside down with mind-bending heroics, while others have had a subtler impact, pursuing intangibles like style or wisdom. Some have been schooling us for a while now, and some are next in line to carry the torch. As a whole, their passion for snowboarding ignites the intention, thought, and finally, the action that allows for this unending wave of progress on which we thrive. And though they have opened many doors for us, they first had to open a door within themselves… perhaps the best place to look for... THE SPIRIT OF SNOWBOARDING.

Photo: Cole Barash Photo: Cole Barash

As part of the earliest snowboarding endeavors coming out of Lake Tahoe in the early eighties, Tom Burt’s catalogue is deeper than the bottomless pow he still gets after. Somewhere near fifty years young, “TB” could be sitting back, enjoying his legacy as one of our sports most revered pioneers; after all, he was the one who helped open up the backcountry to today’s superstars with some of the first big descents ever to go down in Alaska. However, Burt’s thirst for fresh lines has only intensified with age. Despite all of his travels, legendary accomplishments, and unimaginable missions, all he is really concerned with is his next powder turn. Over the last few years Burt has been judging big mountain and freeride contests and employing the same technique he’s been perfecting for years — a strategy best described in his own words: “I travel a little, work a little but snowboard A LOT!”

“When you put his video parts up against any, you can see just how good he was. Who dares to go where he went?”
– Gigi Rüf

“I like to ride when it’s crappy out simply because it’s still snowboarding. Most of the time I try and find the best snow, but sometimes I play around on the lousy snow. Why? Because you need to know how to ride that stuff! Or, I do at least! It makes you a much better snowboarder, at least in the world that I like to play in. Being able to manage ALL conditions is essential to being a complete snowboarder.”

“The most important thing is just to have a passion to go snowboarding. There is so much talent and ability these days, but it’s the people with passion that generally have the biggest smiles on their face. You don’t have to be killing yourself to really enjoy what’s out there either. Just waking up with the excitement to go snowboarding again and again, that’s huge. I have great days with my kids, and I have as much fun cruising around with my friends as I do hiking a big line.”

– Tom Burt