Photos: Taylor Boyd & Kit Hendrickson
It’s midnight, my hands are frozen and I’m trying to attach a tent to the top of my car. I put the wrench in my pocket and pull out my phone. I let Kit know we’re not leaving until noon. Jackson Fowler is going to caravan with us, so I call and tell him the same. A 7 am departure was better in theory than practice.
I head inside and go to sleep. Light peeks in and I divide the contents of my room into a duffel bag and a backpack, heading out the door with my snowboards under one arm. Kit will always be up before me. When I get to his house, he helps me attach a rubber-coated pile of nylon to my car. What I struggled with for an hour in the cold last night takes the two of us about ten minutes in the light. This is what friends are for, and why I’m bringing one on a supposed work trip.
We spread everything we’re taking on the trip out in the parking lot next to Kit’s house, then play the game of Tetris I’ve played so many times — the same one anyone who’s ever moved or gone on a roadtrip has also played. Once the pieces are aligned as well as they’re going to be, I call Jackson, who informs me he’s not coming anymore because he’s broke. I have to get my tires rotated, so I tell him we’ll follow up after that, and the first of a lot of skateboarding that happens on this trip commences down the block from Discount Tire.
The wheels are on different axles than they previously were, and we head to Walmart where we’ve agreed to meet Jackson who has decided to ignore any financial woes and head west with us. Jackson informs us his truck won’t go over 65 miles per hour, and it begins.
We’re headed to Mount Bachelor for the Dirksen Derby. As part of Kit and I’s agreement, he’s going to drive my car so I can work/scroll Instragram/sleep on the drive. I’m out immediately, until we pull into a gas station in Wyoming. Jackson and Kit get their skateboards out and I do the same.
I never drive across state lines without a skateboard, regardless of the season. Every stop on a roadtrip is an opportunity to crack an ollie, which is a more satisfying way of stretching your legs than wandering around the exterior of a gas station.
On downhills, Jackson floors it and passes us. Nearing Salt Lake City, we realize we haven’t told anyone we’re coming, and we’re going to need a place to stay, or at least park outside of. We call Amanda Hankison. She tells us we can crash at her house, where I spend the first night in the back of my car since September. It’s cold. Jackson and Kit sleep inside the house. Turns out, Amanda’s heading to the Derby the next day too. We have breakfast and get on the road.
I never realize I’m in Oregon until I’m reminded by a gas station attendant. By the time we get to Bend, it’s late, and we squeak into Safeway in time to load up on food and beer before heading to the Mount Bachelor parking lot for the weekend. We devour a rotisserie chicken like savages as we navigate the icy road up.
Once at the lot, we’re greeted by Tucker Andrews and Taylor Carlton and slide into a space next to Taylor’s truck. Here, we’ll let ourselves get snowed in for a few days. Kit and I fold out the tent on top of my car where he’ll be sleeping. Jackson hops into the bed of his truck, pushes a pile of snowboards, skateboards, clothes and shovels aside, and his bed is made. I climb into the back of my car.
Next I know, it’s light out and my car is swaying. Kit climbs down from his tent upstairs, opens the door and hands me a cup of coffee. Sizzling comes from Jackson’s tailgate, and breakfast is cooking.
Rumor is registration’s a mess. We head to the lodge to wait. It’s only a rumor and we have our numbers in ten minutes. The Cone is calling, so we make the hike and it’s worth it.
Corey McDonald brought a crew of diggers to build the Derby course. Kit used to work for Corey, so he wastes no time grabbing a shovel once we’re at the course. I do the same and probably end up more in the way than readying the berms for tomorrow.
Jackson has had “the best day ever,” mostly spent talking to a woman eight years his senior in the lodge. He decides to vacate his space in the lot in favor of driving into town to have dinner with her. We head to the bar at the base of the mountain to dry out, and end up shutting the place down. They close at 5 pm.
It’s dark, we’re damp, and we wander into the blizzard outside with a car and a tent for shelter and a whiskey blanket for warmth. Tucker and Taylor are huddled comfortably in their camper watching YouTube videos on an iPad while Kit and I attempt to cook bratwurst on a propane-powered firepit. In normal conditions this would be no problem, but there is as much snow coming out of the sky as is physically possible and doing anything in this weather is five times more difficult.
It feels like 11 by the time we eat our dogs. It’s only 7. We don’t have shit to do aside from huddle around this firepit getting progressively more damp, so we decide to take our boards to the bathroom to wax them. It turns out to be the best decision we could make. This is the first time in my life I’ve truly enjoyed spending time in a public bathroom.
It’s not even warm, but it’s dry and there’s no wind. Two Mount Bachelor employees come in to clean and seem sketched out about the scene they’re presented with. We tell them this is all we’ve got and ask they not take it from us. It works, and the waxing continues. Two hours later, things are looking up. We trek back to the car wearing dry outerwear, a few beers deeper, in a storm that’s calmed a bit, with our boards waxed and scraped.
I decide to hang out in Kit’s rooftop tent. His setup trumps mine downstairs in the back of the car.
If Newton’s laws applied to emotion — not motion — this morning would provide the perfect demonstration of his third. My reaction to this fresh foot is equal and opposite to what I was feeling the night before as I shivered while it fell. We ride deep snow all morning, make it to the course in time to take our qualifying runs, then ride more pow.
We get back to the car, and it’s buried. The forecast is calling for another fourteen inches overnight. Bend is also calling. We answer, and begin shoveling out. Packing the tent up in a storm as it’s getting dark turns out to be as awful as it sounds, but it’s all worth it when we arrive at a condo in town with a fireplace.
This is the second time Amanda Hankison has taken us in on this trip. Scurrying around like the damp rats we are, we begin to distribute our drenched goods on any available surface in the condo. Everyone celebrates as we look over the qualifying results — everyone except me — 3/100 of a second is enough to keep me from racing tomorrow.
We begin craving food not cooked on a camp stove and head to Spork. Snowboarders from out of town are only aware of one restaurant in Bend at a time. For a while it was Parilla. Now it’s Spork. When our food arrives, Spork’s hype is validated. Another crowd of snowboarders shows up, which isn’t surprising because what other restaurant would they go to? They’re here to celebrate Gray Thompson’s birthday.
As the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ commences, Jackson leans over to Gray — who is of course not singing — and asks whose birthday it is. Back at the condo, I fall asleep outside in my car, while Jackson and Kit pass out on some available floor space inside.
Having not qualified, my only real obligation the next day is to show up at the course for a bit and shoot photos. I meet up with Gray and Felix Mobarg; we take a hike into the sidecountry.
Eventually, I find my way to the course in time to get enough shots for a web gallery. After awards, Kit and I hit the road to Boise, and Jackson heads south to Tahoe with Tucker, Taylor, Gray and Felix. Kit and I arrive at Parker Duke and Loren Exon’s house at two in the morning, and assume our positions — me in the back of the car, Kit on a couch, a floor or some other sleepable surface inside. We sleep for a few hours and wake up to the report that nine inches fell at Bogus overnight. Eight fell the day before.
I’ve never been to Bogus. Maybe it’s the name, but I’ve always imagined something much smaller than what I’m presented with. This place is sick, and the fact that it’s a full-blown powder day makes it even better. We link up with the mayor of Bogus, Corey McDonald, and he wastes no time beginning the tour of bush gaps scattered around the mountain’s back side. Still trying to get the lay of the land, I decide to film Corey’s run on my phone instead of following him into the abyss on the first run. Hurrying to catch up after Corey sends the Superman gap, I shove my phone in my pocket.
The next gap is a sizable stepdown over a thicket and into a gulley. We stop above, and Corey instructs me on where to get the shot. In between me and my angle is a small tree that should bend nicely if I can get my nose up over its top. It doesn’t bend, and I tomahawk. I get down to where I’ll shoot Corey from. The pocket I shoved my phone into is unzipped, it’s empty and my heart sinks. On the next lap, we dig through the snow where I flipped, looking for the phone with no success. I feel confident I’m going to get it back when a lifty tells us ski patrol has a metal detector for this very purpose. The patrollers are confused by the metal detector rumor, I accept my phone as gone and we continue snowboarding.
The loss of my phone wouldn’t be a big deal if my ID and credit card weren’t in the phone case, if I had more than $2.72 left on my debit card, if airport security wasn’t going to require identification to get on the flight I’m supposed to catch in two days, if I hadn’t shot a good portion of the photos from the trip thus far on that phone, and if Parker and Loren had WiFi at their house so I could use my laptop. They’re still working on that, so Parker invites us to his parents house to use their internet while he does laundry. Parker’s mom is a saint and makes us dinner while I attempt to get my life in order.
Early the next morning, I crawl out of the foggy cave that is the back of my car, and Kit and I repack to hit the road to Colorado. From there I’ll catch a flight to Jackson, Wyoming, the following morning — supposing I can find the passport I’ve been missing since I moved last — and Kit will resume normal life.
When we get to Evanston, Wyoming, a giant wrench gets rammed into the gears — I-80 is closed to Laramie. Our options are to turn around and take the I-70 route, which means driving through the night, arriving in Denver at 6 am, or staying in Salt Lake for the night. Either way we have to go back through Salt Lake. We get there and eat tacos in a parking lot, weighing our options.
We decide to stay, which means I’m going to miss my flight out of Denver, which means I’m driving to Jackson, which means Kit’s coming with me. He does freelance industrial design, so he doesn’t really need to be back anyway. I call to inform the folks at Jackson that I’ll have a friend staying in my room. They ask if my friend would like a separate bed. I tell them not to worry about it, that one of us will sleep on the floor. Amanda Hankison comes through for the third time on this trip and lets us crash. The next day, I post up at a coffee shop and spend the day on my computer so I still have a job when I get back. Kit heads to Rail Gardens.
When Kit returns to the coffee shop, he tells me my phone is found. I don’t understand. As it turns out, the mountain operations department at Bogus has a metal detector. Corey McDonald and Vinny borrowed it and retrieved my phone, along with my ID and credit card that were in the case. I can hardly believe it at this point, but my phone shows up in the mail a few days later completely functional after spending a couple days under the snow.
If we wanted to beat the storm, we should’ve left for Jackson hours ago. What would be a five hour trip, turns to seven and a half because the majority of our drive is in a whiteout.
We follow the GPS to the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa. The name sounds nice, but when we pull into the carport, it becomes clear what we’re in for.
I’m now on a press trip. The woman at the front desk hands me a six pack as I check in, and there’s a charcuterie tray waiting for us in the refrigerator of our two bedroom suite — looks like neither of us will be sleeping on the floor. We won’t be grilling bratwurst in a blizzard or waxing our boards in a public restroom. After a week of waking up shivering in my car, I’ve forgotten what a bed feels like and vaguely remember what a shower feels like.
Jackson is reporting three inches of new snow in the morning, but either due to wind blowing it around or a snow reporter who can’t read a measuring stick, we’re surprised with four times that at the top of the mountain. Under-promise, over-deliver — thanks, Jackson. Following Bryan Iguchi through knee-deep snow at his home mountain, I can’t help but smile.
That night, we end up at the Stagecoach — a bar at the bottom of Teton Pass in Wilson. I don’t have an ID so I have to sneak in. It’s been over five years since I’ve had to do that, but it’s like riding a bicycle. Last time I was here, the only other people in the place were two drunk, middle-aged racists, and a bartender. The scene is quite different this time around.
In the morning I shake the Stagecoach off with a breakfast burrito and make my way to the new Teton Lift for its grand opening.
Iris Lazz and Alex Yoder know right where to go. I’m sure some who have been hiking this zone for years feel differently, but it’s hard not to be psyched when there’s a sprawling powder field full of features in front of you and you know you’re going to get another lap through in 10 minutes.
When I get back to the base of the lift, I hear a voice I recognize over the crowd. Johnny Lazz is loud as ever and he’s in Jackson Hole! It’s his first day on the mountain, and he is pumped. When we get on the chair, he tells me he moved here.
The Lazzareschis have taken starkly different paths through snowboarding and riding pow with Iris and Johnny together is rad.
Lunch lands us at Teton Thai. Aside from Travis Rice and Mark Carter, a majority of notable riders to call Jackson home in the last decade have worked here. The prices are reasonable, and the food is delicious.
We find ourselves at the Silver Dollar bar that night. Everyone is completely spent — everyone except for Johnny who’s putting back tequila shots like they’re water. We’re out the next morning, and the best roadtrip I’ve been on comes to an end eight hours later.