Jackson Hole’s newest ambassador, Ian Walsh, tells us all about being a surfer that loves snowboarding

The drive to continually push oneself is a sign of positive growth and evolution. When you’re at the pinnacle of performance, there’s often a need diversify to recalibrate skills and passion. For Ian Walsh, one of the most notable big wave surfers of our time, his reset button comes from a healthy dose of face shots and deep pow. Walsh, 35, was recently added to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s (JHMR) Ambassador Team, making him the first pro surfer to earn this type of snow sponsorship.

With a few Jackson Hole seasons under his belt, Walsh has been riding with heavyweights such as Travis Rice, Mark Carter and Bryan Iguchi, and JHMR felt adding him to the team was a natural step. “Ian is one of the world’s best surfers, and he has quickly become a savvy, confident and stylish snowboarder,” said Anna Cole of JHMR. “He brings new energy, knowledge and talents to our team, not to mention camaraderie,” she continued.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75898″ img_size=”medium” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In-between chasing maverick-sized waves, Walsh was recently on hold for a last minute trip to Portugal when we had the chance to catch up with him about his frozen water pursuits. We explored everything from his first time, to the inherent similarities between surfing and snowboarding, and how Ian’s connection to Jackson Hole, Wyoming mirrors that of being in his home of Maui, Hawaii.

Walsh was honest and engaging about his love for snowboarding, and endearingly humble about his skill level. Considering his impressive feats in the ocean, his modesty was refreshing, even if it was a bit of farce— he snowboards with more technical prowess than most.

“Ian’s an athlete first and foremost, and it was very apparent that he loves the challenges and progression our mountain offer him,” said Anna of Ian’s skill.

Throughout our chat, we weaved through the snowboard-side of Walsh, exploring what propels his passion for strapping-in and how Jackson Hole continues to lure him back, season after season.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75897″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How did you get into snowboarding? Can you tell us about your first time?
I was entirely consumed by surfing, so snowboarding came by chance. I lived with Andy Irons when I was really young, and he had just won a world title and wanted to get away from Hawaii for a little bit. He threw it out there to have a change of scenery and head into the mountains.

So you crewed up and went to Jackson?
Yeah, a bunch of surfers went and it was my first time in Jackson and my first time snowboarding. We were all really, really novice snowboarders. Full kook with nose guards on our rental boards. This was in 2005 or so, and it was a huge snow year. I remember my first time was super tiring, draining, stressful and exhausting trying to keep up. Jeremy Jones was trying to show us around on the mountain. It was such an experience. Then, it just clicked. I would go back every single year, and it turned into this thing that I was consumed by.

What’s your perfect day riding at Jackson Hole?
My ideal day is trying to be on that first tram or an early-up and hot lap the tram and work my way around the mountain. I find that when I ride with some of the guys that are from there, it helps. They find really good snow all the time, all day. You can ride from bell to bell, and if you’re with Travis [Rice] or [Mark] Carter or Jimmy Chin, you’re going to get the goods.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75900″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Have you hit Corbet’s yet?
I actually went through it for the first time last year with Forrest Shearer, Andrew Miller and Alex Yoder.

How’d that go?
It was scary! I definitely wasn’t doing a backflip or a front flip, or anything crazy into that thing. It was not that steep of a landing and super hard.

It’s pretty burley when it’s bulletproof and low snow in there….
It is. I kind of just sideslipped my way into it. I definitely didn’t send that thing, but it was a cool experience to get in there.

Think you’ll hit it again, now that you’ve got one under your belt?
Ha, it’s all snow-dependent. I’m not going to make any promises, but if the snow is good and I feel good, then yeah. I’m an onsite decision maker.

Do you venture into the side-country and backcountry often?
Yeah, I do a ton of that with Travis and crew. I love the hiking aspect of going to get new snow. I love learning all the nuances of the safety and preparation. It’s really similar to what we do to prepare for big waves. You have to have everything detailed and a full understanding of the conditions and what the dangers are.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_column_text][LongformAd][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75901″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Have you made your own snowboard shapes with Chris?
I haven’t yet. At the very most, I’ll just give him some positive feedback. I’m not at the caliber of a snowboarder where I’m like ‘I think if you change this, you will really notice a difference.’ They could probably put me on a door and send me down the mountain full of pow and I’d still have fun.

It’s refreshing how excited about snowboarding you are, and are very coy about your skill level…
[Laughs] You learn fast. You have to check your ego at the door, especially when you’re going to ride around with Travis and his crew. I have no business doing the stuff that those guys do, but I can ride the lines next them and have a lot of fun.

What are some of your goals for this season?
To spend more time in the mountains. I feel entirely rejuvenated as soon as I get to Jackson Hole. I also just want to keep learning. When I start to learn something, I get really consumed by it. I get really into it and it’s all I want to do. With snowboarding, the process is fun because every time I go out, I’m learning something new. Also the reason why I want to spend more time in the mountains, is because when you ride with people, you get to connect with them the entire day. You’re either hiking somewhere, or riding somewhere, and you can stop in the middle of the run and regroup with your crew. In surfing, it’s so different. Surfings can get really spread out. Some sessions you go out with people and you don’t even see them the entire time. With snowboarding, I enjoy the fact that you can do these runs together, and really experience it with the company you’re with.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75904″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Through riding with Travis, Carter, Jimmy Chin and the guys, have they led you to anything that’s made you pucker?
Fortunately, I’ve been to Jackson so many times, that I can get the feeling if the guys are starting to sniff in places that I don’t belong. I’m pretty game for anything, which has probably been a fault of mine for my entire life. But rather than over think it, I try it, and trust my abilities to get through it. There is a hard line for sure. There’s stuff that those guys ride that I have no business riding, and I won’t.

You know where to draw the line, but you also know where to send it.

That’s an admirable trait.
Thanks. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”75903″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Approximately how many days will you ride in Jackson this year?
It all depends on the swells. If the swells are on and my contests fire off quickly, then I might get more days, but generally I’ll get 5 to 25. My goal would be to have an awesome winter in the water and then be able to check out and spend three or more weeks in Jackson at least.

What does it mean to you to be a JHMR Ambassador?
It means a lot. It’s a place I enjoy going to as much as do going home to Maui. I love everything about the entire town and resort. I’m really stoked to be a part of the team. To able to share some of the days with other athletes, is really special and I’m honored.

Walsh’s connection to Jackson Hole is undeniable, and there partnership is one that will surely flourish. “Ian definitely brings the “aloha” vibe to our mountain town and athlete team, and we need more of that positive energy these days,” said Anna Cole. “Every day on the mountain is a good day for Ian; he isn’t jaded – and we love that about him!”

Most snowboarders envy surfers, and Ian is proves the love goes both ways. Or is it waves?

Stay tuned for more with Ian Walsh and JHMR this season.
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