If there is one thing Airblaster is known for, it’s having fun. But if you think its all about neon colors and wild colored leg bags, its time to update your software. Airblaster is 15 years old, and the dynamic individuals who make up the fabric of the Airblaster cloth are as varied, respected, and diverse as they come. From absolute legends such as Temple Cummins and Travis Parker, to freestyle bad boys like Max Warbington and Erik Leon, to lifestyle gurus Tim and Hannah Eddy, the crew is deep. And as I found out over the month of March, whether the snow is also deep, or it happens to be raining sideways, when you get a fun-timing crew like this one together, anything can happen.
I awoke to the alarming sound of someone’s bag crashing to the ground from the overhead compartment a few rows back. The bag’s owner mumbled a few profanities before tossing the bag back above their head and twisting around in a cramped coach-class seat. The majority of our crew was new to traveling by train and consequently had hardly slept a wink the night before. I reluctantly made peace with the realization that I would likely not get another shot at shuteye until the day’s end, slowly pulled myself up, stretched my legs, and went to find a coffee and bite to eat in the next car over.
We were on a journey to trace Airblaster’s brand roots back to the very beginning, the place where founders Travis Parker and Jesse Grandkoski grew up and discovered snowboarding, the ultimate birthplace of Airblaster; Whitefish, Montana. From the snowy scenes passing by the large panoramic windows of the food cart, I guessed we were close. Finally. The night before had been an exciting mix of card games, defense strategies for dealing with meth-heads aboard the train, beer smuggling, and praying for sleep. We were all ready for the 16-hour journey to end and for the next chapter to begin.
"When you surround yourself with twenty people with good attitudes, you don’t need much to make it a great day" - Taylor Carlton
The next chapter involved spending four weeks in sleepy Whitefish, Montana while Airblaster filmed their fourth, month-long movie project — this one aptly titled, “March.” Jesse and Travis had both moved to Whitefish as kids, and it was in this town of 7,000 that both had first stepped on a snowboard, became close friends, and planted the seeds for what would ultimately become the most fun brand in snowboarding. I had grown up watching Airblaster’s previous films, “April,” “December,” and “August,” and as I sat on the train next to my childhood hero, Travis Parker, it took all of my inner strength to calmly discuss his recent dive into starting his own handyman business outside of Portland, Oregon. As with anything new and exciting, I was full of questions, expectations, and trepidation for the trip. For a sport as uncontrollable and vulnerable to the elements as snowboarding, there is a history of stressing when it comes to expectations.
What I didn’t know at the time was that “March” was to be a lesson in adaptation, flexibility, and optimism. The limited plan in place was pale in comparison to the highly intricate schedules and expectations that are often set in place for the filming of most traditional snowboard projects. We didn’t have a daily set of spot lists, trick goals, or requirements. We didn’t even have a car, let alone a helicopter budget or drone. What we did have was a solid crew, an amazingly underrated resort, and a town that welcomed us with open arms. After all, from the moment we began the short walk from the Amtrak station to the Buffalo Café, we had been greeted with calls of, “Airblaster rules!” from storefronts and homes alike. It was as if the town had been expecting us, and within ten minutes on the ground, it was clear Whitefish would officially be home for the next month — regardless of what the town or Mother Nature threw our way.
"The ethos of Airblaster has always been that snowboarding is this awesome medium to get you outside, outside of your comfort level, and to make the best of your day." - Tim Eddy
The month was split into different “waves” to allow the many Airblaster riders a chance to cycle in and out. The first wave featured Travis Parker, Jesse Grandkoski, Bryden Bowley, Japan’s WOW (Weekly of Weird) crew, including London and Keijiro “Doggy” Kasahara. The second wave was not to be based at Whitefish, but rather at a small cabin in Glacier National Forest, and featured the Tahoe splitboard crew, which included Tucker Andrews, Jackson “Squid Lizard” Fowler, Taylor Carlton, The Eddys, and Temple Cummins. The intended goal for this wave was for the crew to coordinate a series of splitboard missions in and around various never been done locations before returning to Whitefish to finish off the month. Finally, Max Warbington, Erik Leon, Nick Dirks, Yusaku Horii, Madison Blackley, and Alek Oestreng, were scheduled to arrive in the third wave for the highly anticipated “freestyle intensity week.” Airblaster marketing guru, Jack Hewitt, video mastermind, Seamus Foster, WOW photographer, Kazu Kitayama, and Video Mental magician, Max Tokunaga, were all strapped in for the long haul.
The funny thing about these plans and a trip’s expectations though, is that often over the course of an experience they will fall both ways. Particularly when it comes to snowboarding and weather-reliant plans in an increasingly unpredictable climate.
The first full day began like many, with a hearty group breakfast, a round of high-fives shared for the two inches of fresh snow overnight, and a walk to the local bus stop – our main source of transportation for the coming weeks. Upon arrival at the base of Whitefish, we found that the two inches reported online resembled a solid 14 inches anywhere else. Expectations were surpassed. Our high-fives turned into a boisterous celebration and subsequent sprint to the lift. Guided by Travis and Jesse’s memories, we were off charging, riders on a mission to prove that powder days are really meant to be shared with friends.
"That’s the Airblaster vibe; you can still have a really, really good time even if the conditions aren’t the best." - Max Warbington
It was this essence of “fun shared with friends” that soon came to define the Whitefish experience. A largely different reality than the preconceived series of expectations I had initially brought with me from previous film projects. But I soon learned that strict expectations aren’t the way that Airblaster approaches life. Their brains have never operated that way. Not when they were sitting in a basement toying with brand names, and certainly not when founders Jesse Grandkoski and Travis Parker were first learning how to turn high up on the slopes of Whitefish, Montana. Instead they adapt, reconfigure, repurpose, and approach everything with the utmost positivity.
When bottomless powder and untracked lines turned to thick crud and ice from a warm spell ten days into the month, it was this sense of overwhelming positivity that salvaged the experience. Thousands of miles away, the Tahoe splitboard crew was leaving some of the best snow Tahoe had seen in years, and were en route to Glacier National Park for the planned cabin trip. A trip that would ultimately be canceled due to high avalanche danger and poor snow conditions. Among those from Tahoe was Taylor Carlton, who had towed his snowmobile all the way to Montana for the cabin trip, only to ultimately use it solely for pulling riders across the flats of the front yard and into a small hand-built jump and rhythm section. Expectations shifted, but positivity persisted.
"March was badass." - Max Tokunaga
As the month continued a rainy day in town was countered with the confidence that it just might be snowing up top. A rainy day at the top was greeted with full-body ponchos and an overly aggressive top-to-bottom penguin slide — spontaneously creating a much faster mode of sliding on snow than the base of one’s board. Similarly, the potential hostility of a bulletproof resort became an invitation to assault ice-laden areas under bridges, on lakes, and docks throughout town. Expectations shifted, but positivity persisted. Airblaster persisted.
By the time “freestyle intensity week” rolled around, the crew had seen it all: periods of full-on winter and days spent dropping cliffs into waist-deep snow from sun up to last chair; days of turning and burning on fresh corduroy; and days of rain-boarding and ice-sliding — even a day spent running from the woods after stumbling upon the remains of a fresh bear kill. To say that March was the full gambit would be an understatement.
This complete picture, the notion of abundant team positivity, and the overall understanding that every day can be the best day with the right attitude, were the largest takeaways from our month in Montana. The truth is, this experience, the Airblaster experience, is accessible for anyone to accomplish on a limited budget, with nothing but your snowboard and a good friend or two. All it takes is positivity, the feeling that burns at Airblaster’s core and throughout March — the movie, and the experience.