Chris Roach Interview: A legend’s perspective on style in snowboarding

Frontside poke, storm riding with the common man. Timeless – on the ground or off.

Interview: Nate Deschenes
Photos: Jeff Curley | @Curleyphotos

If you are like me and are tired of being peppered with emails titled, “12-year-old lands world’s first 1800”, this interview may intrigue you. If you think style has taken a backseat to skill, read on. If you have an interest in learning about our roots, stick around. If you remember a little movie called, “The Hard, The Hungry and the Homeless”, continue. If none of this makes any sense to you, I beg of you, for the sake of snowboarding, please read on.

Like a true Jedi master, Chris Roach has emerged from obscurity just when we need him most. As mainstream snowboarding has given way to gymnastics, as higher airs and more rotations define the best snowboarders, it is important to note that there was a time when style defined the sport. To me, style is snowboarding and no one personifies this more than Chris Roach. To know his legacy is to know snowboarding. He is one of our godfathers and one of the most respected riders of all time. Roach is legend…

Chris Roach and D-Day Snowboards Chris Roach and D-Day Snowboards.

You were one of snowboarding’s pioneers, straight up – then just as the mid-nineties roll around and snowboarding is about to really take off, you disappear. What’s the story there?
What happened with me or whatever was that my main sponsor, Santa Cruz, got in a weird position and was slowly taking things away from my program. At the time I just wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to go out there and speak about myself and try and get a job with somebody else, so I started something else in life. I was starting a family and I got into another line of work that I became really skillful at and it made me a good living. So once you do that for ten years or whatever your family becomes accustom to a certain way of living. As for snowboarding, I was injured a lot of those years – I couldn’t skate or snowboard… or I could do it, but I couldn’t have a lot of fun because of the pain.

What was hurt?
My knee man. I had no ligaments in there. So I went snowboarding two years ago with my brother and my knee popped out and I was like, “This is it. I’ve had it.” I called my doctor and we got it all fixed. So now having my knee back together it kind of sparked some shit. It’s incredible when you have both of your legs under you!

So what is the new board company all about?
It’s called D-Day Snowboards and we’re partnered with The Levitation Project. They are being made at the Never Summer Factory in Colorado… if that tells you anything about the quality. We have a team together right now with Andrew Burns up in Canada, Deadlung and Laura Hadar in Utah and then Eric Messier in Tahoe. You know, we’re just stoked. We’re not interested in doing what anyone else is doing and trying to do it better – we are just doing this OUR way, whatever way that is!

Snowbird’s natural terrain meets Roach’s natural style. Snowbird’s natural terrain meets Roach’s natural style.

And you’ve been riding a bunch I hear.
So I’ve been out in Snowbird, Utah the past couple weeks and it’s been so killer. You know my main goal, I’m not trying to go claim some first descent or whatever or go beyond my league – I’m not interested in that. My vision for this thing, at least for myself anyway is like, I just want to go ride resorts that are rad and ride the chairs and talk with the people about snowboarding and just rip around.

I think we need that. So much of what we see in the mags and media that perpetuates pro snowboarding is just so unattainable to the people who actually snowboard.
Just the chosen few get to go do all this insane shit that we are stoked to see, but dude, it’s fun to sit on chairlifts and lap out and ride pow too. For us man, we just want to be in touch, ya know?

So what’s the big difference you see these days vs. the glory years of the early nineties?
It’s clear that everyone is just so gnarly. You don’t even have to check the Olympics to see this – just go to the local park and you see kids everywhere trying deadly shit! People are gnarly and whether you agree with it or think it’s fruity, gymnasticy shit… it’s happening. I remember in the Breck ’89 World’s I saw Chris Pappas do a barrel roll and almost puked on my boots thinking, “Holy shit! Where is this going to take us?” So now when I see all the tricks, I’m like “What the fuck?” But it’s rad to have guys like Danny Davis – Switch backside air. Backside 360. That’s it. Maybe we have to go back to go forward, you know what I mean?

Frontside poke, storm riding with the common man. Frontside poke, storm riding with the common man.

There’s just more to it right?
There are just levels of snowboarding right? Riding pow and dropping little cliffs is sweet. You don’t have to go out and kill yourself to have a great time. That’s why snowboarding is rad. Either way, I’m a fan of it all.

It does seem like in your era that style was just as important as the tricks though. What’s your take on that?
Style for me, it meant a lot. I was looking at Shaun Palmer and Terry Kidwell in front of me doing things. Everything was super graceful and rad. It started with skateboarding and watching Chris Miller do a frontside air, so that’s in your head and from those influences you develop your thing. I never really tried to keep going from one thing to the other – I would always work on the style and keep going with a certain trick before moving on to the next. Maybe now we’ve skipped a generation as far as progression goes. When you put foam pits up you’re not learning it the right way, ya know? When you put a catchers mitt down didn’t we just leapfrog a generation and get to a point that we shouldn’t have been at yet? In all that craziness there is no style man. You gotta poke that shit out. But hey, maybe that’s the good thing about style – not everyone can have it.

Keep up with D-Day Snowboards: @Ddaysnowboards


Up Next

October 17, 2017

Airblaster Presents: March – The Experience

If there is one thing Airblaster is known for, it’s having fun. But if you think its all about...
October 13, 2017

Celebrating the Start of the 2017/18 Season at Arapahoe Basin

Arapahoe Basin kicked off the 2017/18 season on Friday, October 13th, 2017 – their third earliest opening of all-time.
October 13, 2017

The Meeting 13: An Interview with Stephen Fox of Drink Water

How Drink Water started as a protest and turned into a company that helps people.
October 12, 2017

Going Down the Rabbit Hole with 686 in Eastern Washington

Discover what it means to get lost in the Rabbit Hole with the 686 Team in Eastern Washington.
October 10, 2017

Made in Montana: Building a Culture, Not Just Splitboard Bindings

Bozeman, Montana based Spark R&D has been a leading player in splitboard binding innovation and design since their inception...