It’s the end of day one at Waterville Valley. I’m making stupid ghost jokes at Rome Snowboards’ Sidehit Séance. “Ouija believe this weather?!” Silence. It’s been a long but productive day, and the snow raker folks are giving everything a good once-over. Feeling guilty that my hands are empty, I see an abandoned shovel laying on the snow next to a massive hand-shaped snow volcano. The rake has a “MENTAL” sticker on it, in Slayer’s font. I like Slayer. I pick it up and ask the nearest park crew guy, “Where can I start?”
“That’s Krush’s rake,” he says.
“I know! I saw he just started making custom rakes,” I quip back, trying to gain acceptance with some park-centric core intel. “This thing is really nice!” I say, sliding the end of it around on the snow which has already been attended to, contributing basically nothing to the cause.
“No. That’s Krush’s,” he replies again.
I pause for a moment. My cool guy front crumbles as I realize that I’m holding the man’s personal tool. The actual tool of the actual man. I gently set it down and step away, like it’s a lit firework, knowing that my half-assed attempt at looking busy doing a little course maintenance will likely tarnish the implement.
Who is this man, who’s rake of radness I’ve fearfully fouled? It’s Krush Kulesza, who you might know better as the head honcho of Snowboy Productions, who you might know better as the mastermind behind events like Holy Bowly, “It’s Tits!”, The Projects, and Sidehit Séance. For the past 26 years he’s been at the helm of evolving both events and terrain parks.
Krush has an unmatched passion for progression. To watch him at one of his events is fascinating. After his creation is complete, ready for action on day one, he carefully observes how every rider reads his newest opus. He will make minor adjustments after the first day, dialing in what was already a magical snow-asis. The perfectionist in Krush finds ways things can be better, and he is one of those people who thrives on the enjoyment of everyone around him, even if it means another long night, chipping away at a pile of snow.
This ethos extends beyond the build itself, and this is perhaps where Krush gets most fired up—about the opportunities that can be opened up when you provide the setting and invite folks to join in. As Snowboy’s features and events have evolved, Krush has been pushing toward something much bigger that underlines everything that he and he crew do—fostering community, belonging, representation, and involvement through the events, the videos, the off-hill conversations, and the long tail that can be created when dedication, drive, and a big vision are ignited and come together in collaboration with others.
As the Space Creators Tour slowed down last month, we caught up with Krush to get some insight into the behind-the-scenes of Snowboy. – Mike Basher
Krush! Looks like you’ve had an awesome season. How much time do you spend on the road each winter?
Yeah, it was a great year. We’re done with the winter schedule, which was nine events in seven months—November through May. I’m stoked on how everything went and I think it was our most diverse amount of events and locations. I don’t like to make things into a contest obviously, but it exceeded the expectations going into the year and I’m very proud of what we were able to do. I think the momentum that it has created is infectious. So, that’s sweet.
You do a lot of observing at your events, watching the riders read the terrain, and you’re constantly fine-tuning things. It’s obvious you enjoy their creativity in your creations.
I appreciate that. It’s 100% a symbiotic thing, right? I got to the point where I wanted to get all of the bullshit out of events, and so to me, it boiled down to: Build ridiculously creative features and then invite ridiculously creative individuals to interpret it how they see it. I’m just watching all the time and seeing how everything is evolving. All of this stuff has been part of a longer arc as far as terrain design and whatnot, but also on a micro level, for that event or the crew that’s there, people see things and I appreciate that. All of the riders bring a different interpretation of what they want to do on what we’ve created. Sometimes, the build will have a lot of obvious lines through it, and you figure on the first day they’re going to hit this, on the second day they’ll start moving to this other thing, etc. But there are always those riders where like, “Oh shit, I didn’t even think about that,” or maybe one feature starts to get a lot of love that you weren’t expecting. I file all that shit away. The riders definitely, definitely help with that evolution and style.
Let’s take a time machine back to set the stage for Snowboy. How did all of this start?
Right, the seeds. So, I started Snowboy in Spokane, WA doing a couple events and punk rock shows, just figuring out what didn’t work and how to lose money.
Then, I started a decade at the Summit at Snoqualmie doing events and youth marketing. Earlier on it was just a lot of regular contests and stuff like that. But building something truly unique, I want to say the first event we did was this thing called Shut Up and Snowskate. I believe it was 2003 and that’s when Gnu specifically was diving into the double-deck snowskates—the height of the Danny Kass era. That’s also when we started building bowls and features that were a little more outside the box. They were small shapes, but we were getting pre-bent metal copings made, then custom building transitions to match the coping. Every year, we would have these custom builds and it just kept growing. You look back at it now, and it was fucking tiny. But that’s where the seed for Holy Bowly was originally planted. I then spent four years doing events for Mervin and taking the ideas that worked in the NW and showing they could be successful across the globe. And by the time I left Mervin in 2015 that the whole shift toward what I’m doing now with Snowboy had happened, and this 18 year side project became my full focus and have been fully independent since.
Speaking of Holy Bowly, it has definitely inspired a movement of wave-focused, flow-centric building at parks all over. The influence on terrain parks everywhere is undeniable.
Yeah. It’s been amazing to see something as a one off event grow into a sort of movement. The biggest part to me is creating creative but relatable features. What I mean is somebody like Cannon Cummins can blast 22 feet above one of our 30-foot-tall volcanoes, but I can also just make a slash 8-feet up that thing, so there’s a relatability to all of this. Anybody that’s an intermediate rider at any of these events and on any of these builds can cruise through and have a blast. Then the upper echelon riders can do stuff that you never even thought of. But you’re still sharing the same space. So it makes it relatable where, in my opinion, I think that there’s less relatability in the X-Games/Olympic-level of riding because everything has just gotten so big. If you’re going 20 to 25 feet out of a 22-foot halfpipe or something like that, it’s amazing. It’s fucking killer. But when you’ve got 100-foot gaps and pipes that big, most average riders are never going to experience them because those things basically don’t exist. Of course, there’s the whole skill and consequences that come with those types of features, as well. To me, I think those are great features and the content that comes out of them is fucking amazing. It’s just that it’s less relatable to the majority of people that ski or snowboard. So, I think we’ve found the balance where we can have aspirational riding and features, but then also have that relatability.
Your events are true hubs for riders to get together and really celebrate and just shred. I think riders arrive knowing there will be that mentality in each event. How did that come to be?
I’m fucking ridiculously stoked on that. I mean, I started Snowboy in the spring of ‘97. The year before was the first time I went to the Mount Baker Banked Slalom. I think that was the 12th annual. Anyway, I didn’t know anybody when I showed up. I grew up on the other side of the Cascades in Eastern Washington, so you always knew about this legendary mecca of Mount Baker and all of the Northwest riders at the time but it seemed really far away. That was a big deal. I drove my van there and I stayed up in the upper parking lot for a week. I met some amazing people, and the gathering is what I took out of it. Everybody marks this time in their calendar and they’re going to use that as an excuse to get back together and just hang out. Whether you’re taking the Banked Slalom competitively or just freeriding or whatever, the thing that made it special to me was that it was a gathering of all these like-minded people from all over the world.
I’m absolutely humbled by what Snowboy events have grown to. It blows me away when I see who’s all there. I think what I’m proud of is that on the menu of Snowboy events, I think there’s going to be something that tastes good to you no matter where you’re coming from. We built this following with the bigger events like Holy Bowly and “It’s Tits!”, but also, we’ve had eight years of The Projects and events like The Village with SRD up at Sunshine where the build is very jib focused and the riding speaks to somebody who could care less about riding Bowly style features. I’m really stoked on all of the different concepts we have but also how a lot of them have crossovers to our other events.
I enjoy going to Trollhaugen. I love going and teaming up with Rome the last couple of years and making sure we got something up in New England. We’re down at Mountain High. We’re covering a good swath of the country. There are so many rad communities we get to be a small part of. The more people who have a chance to just participate in what we’re doing, regardless of whether you’re an invited rider, a public day rider, if you’ve got budget to attend or if you’re doing that in your own time—that’s what is meaningful. I don’t view snowboarding as a sport. I view it as a community and I view it as expression. So we’re trying to create these things where as many people as possible can participate in them. There are unlimited amounts of ways that you can interpret and ride at these things and we take away as many rules as we can. It starts, it ends, show your wristband when you come through, and no fucking tailblocks. There are like three or four things and then you get do whatever you want and have a blast. And I think that works so more people have an opportunity to enjoy things because there aren’t all these different levels of rules and expectations.
I like that. However, in my, uh, older age here, the tailblock is one of the few tricks I have left.
Oh no, I’m not bagging on the trick. It’s just that it leaves giant divots in what we built, haha.
You’ve been doing Snowboy for 26 years now, right?
Half my life now. Do you remember the time when you were like, “Oh, I’ve been snowboarding half my life.” I didn’t start snowboarding until I was 18, but I remember when I was 36 and that was a big deal, fast forward to now and I’ve spent over half my life doing these events. It’s pretty cool.
Yeah, that’s cool. I think that qualifies you as an expert in what you do when you’ve been doing it for at least half your life. Considering the constant evolution of your events, what does the future hold for Snowboy that you’re aiming for?
One of the things that I’m really proud of…we called it the Space Creators Tour this year. Obviously, anything that we’re building, we’re physically creating space with the features and whatnot. But a lot of this was starting to look inside as well—creating more space for more people. I enjoy the deep cuts. I like those Easter eggs. The back stories. So how can we add to what we’re doing? I like to add layers to things. Just some more aspects that mean even more, in addition to the snowboarding. It’s that evolution we’re chasing.
When did that first start to be part of things?
I think the start of that was back in the mid 00s with an event called the Greenhorn Games. The tagline was “The coolest 13-and-under contest in the world.” I was doing all these events and you would always have to make the little, tiny jump for the younger kids, and it was just kind of an afterthought. I think Jacob Krugmire was like 12 or 13 years old at the time and my idea was, what if he was the rock star at this thing? What if kids were the focus? So for four or five years, we did that through these events where we were catering to an overlooked group. It is later on that you start to see patterns developing—by no means did I at the time, the motivation was just to do something for this subgroup of riders. But that eventually grows into this bigger purpose and a bigger theme. So now, we just finished year five of “It’s Tits!” That idea started with me reaching out to Jess [Kimura] when I left Mervin. At the time, there was no really big, signature gathering for women, so we created “It’s Tits!” to fill that void.
What’s awesome, too, is that these events inspire other offshoots. The Greenhorn Games inspired Lil’ Tweakers at Loon, and “It’s Tits!” helped ignite a spark within the industry and there has been a flood of women’s-specific events since then. “It’s Tits!” definitely showed that there was a need and a value, and things just went from there. So that’s rad.
That’s some real motivation right there.
Yes. Two years ago, I mocked up this sticker that said DUH. in this thick font and put the pride flag inside of it to make a pride/ally sticker. I just made a couple of those for my personal boards. Some of the crew from Pink Dollar Possy that had been in our events for years were like, “Can I get one of those?” So I started making some more and that evolved into making DUH: An Edit with all of the Possy riders at all of our events for the year. Then last year that led to DUH: The Event happening, our collab with Possy at Trollhaugen. All these things are going on over time in response to and in appreciation of people in these communities—just providing places to gather and be stoked. And it’s not just including these communities inside those events, but also making a point that everybody is welcomed and encouraged and invited—and creating a safe space for everybody. So that is where the double meaning of the Space Creators Tour came from.
That’s what I’m really excited about moving forward. We’ve got the receipts to show that we have built really cool, unique features and a lot of people have a lot of fun on them. But it’s also about how can we get more and more communities and riders involved in this and have representation, not just at the rider level, but at the filmer level, at the digger level, everywhere, and just really build out a more vibrant and inclusive event setting that can contribute to the greater whole. So that’s really where I see the future of Snowboy. There are lots of feature, event, and location ideas, but how can we also work to get as many people involved and represented in this as possible? How can you help somebody else to see themselves doing this? How can we make it so everybody can see themselves, if possible? If we can just do that in this tiny little section of snowboarding, I think that’s something fucking cool to push towards.
That’s all thoughtful, powerful stuff. You’re so mindful of all of this and you’re pushing it forward, literally.
Our next gig that we’re doing is an event on July 6-9th at Timberline. It’s called Halo-Halo. Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert that translates to “mix-mix” in Tagalog. It’s a bowl of shaved ice with a variety of colorful and flavorful ingredients added in. You mix it all together and then you eat it. We want to bring together a network of BIPOC industry leaders, builders, filmers, photographers and create a space for everyone to ride, connect, share time, take photos, etc. We’re also tying in two great organizations that we work with, the Service Board, out of Seattle, and SHRED, out of New York. A lot of this is giving opportunities for the kids in those programs to come out for the build in addition to the riding days, almost like a giant job shadow. They can see all of the people in every part of the event and see that if you really love snowboarding, you don’t just have to be this amazing athlete to be able to be involved with it. And that’s where it gets to me personally as when I started Snowboy, I was like, “I’m gonna snowboard the rest of my life.” But I was just a local sponsored rider. I knew that being a professional rider was not in my future, so my thought was “Okay, what can I do that keeps me in this for the rest of my life?” I had no business being in it, but I created a space for myself. If we can show examples of that, just show people what’s possible so they can get involved…There are so many ways to be a part of snowboarding and my hope is, again, if we can offer people an opportunity to be involved in this small part of snowboarding, whether as a rider, a photographer, a builder, etc, that’s really cool and really meaningful. That’s what we’re going for. This is what Snowboy is going to be moving forward with the Space Creators concept and at the heart of it is Halo-Halo.
Anything else you feel like you should add that we didn’t touch on?
No, I think that’s all. I talk enough, ha.