It was mid-November when I first got wind of The Inside Out Tour through an exceptionally vague, yet equally intriguing email. Jon Stark, the cinematographer mastermind, and brains behind Chicken Meat, Working for The City, and Rendered Useless – just to name a few of his latest projects – was planning a trip to the Netherlands with Cole Navin and Spencer Schubert. With winter knocking on the door across North America the trio was looking to get on snow, but not in your conventional way.
For 10 days they were going to take Holland by storm. With the help of local ripper Kas Lemmens and support from The North Face, the group planned to travel the country and ride in as many indoor domes as they possibly could. The group of urban explorers had little in the way of a plan other than to “use the roof and the walls,” and set off on their trip approaching every turn in the road from a position of spontaneity and with an eagerness for adventure.
It only made sense that I would need to get on a call with the Cole and Spencer upon their return to hear the full story. So here it is, The Inside Out Tour, a snowboard trip like no other, born from the desire to push the boundaries and to start the season on the right foot.
Watch the full video, here.
All photography by Jon Stark
It looks like you guys had a serious hit-and-run trip. Had either of you been to a dome before?
Spencer – I had.
Cole – That was my first time.
When were you in a dome last, Spencer?
S – We did a ThirtyTwo tour, and we went to one in the U.K. Kas [Lemmens] was out there, so when it was over, Kas invited me to his homeland and we went to two more.
Are there any differences between them?
C – I think they are all pretty different, at least terrain park set-up wise. The width of the trails is different, the lighting is different, the temperature and the quality of the snow is different. The differences are nuanced, but it is actually surprising.
Are there things that make one better than another?
S – For sure. But what we liked about one of them wasn’t necessarily what people would look for. I guess that just comes to preference, because Kas’s local dome is the “worst” one we went to, as far as if you were going to go with your family tourist-style. But for us, it was the best because it was the warmest, the best lit because it was the smallest, and the park crew was really cool.
"Something outside of the box, which ironically actually ended up putting us inside the box."
How busy are they?
S – The weekends were definitely crowded, but even the weekdays. Like Monday at the Landgraff, which is the biggest one, was pretty crowded.
You mentioned the temperature, what’s the deal there?
S – The temperature effects the snow pretty substantially. It never actually goes above freezing. But the reason they seem so cold is that there is no sun, and it’s a refrigerator, so it is blowing in cold air constantly. The snow in there is fake too. They have this fluid that runs on the very bottom that is a coolant. So they have this coolant, and then a layer of ice, and then the snow. I was digging and Kas warned me not to dig too deep because if you break through to the fluid, the snow will melt and the whole place will be ruined. The snow is pure sugar, two inches of sugar on ice. So you can’t really manipulate it at all without water. We were getting wheelbarrows at one point and setting up snow. And we would push all of this snow over and then run inside and get water.
So the whole idea of the trip from the briefing Stark gave me was to cause a little trouble in Europe. “Use the roof and use the walls,” he said. What were some of the previous adventures you had been on that led up to this?
C – Most recently was our trip to New Zealand last year. They were both in the same style of using things that maybe aren’t intended to be snowboarded on – that is just what we inevitably tend to do.
S – New Zealand was one of the best trips of my life. We were planning on another for Argentina, and it never snowed, and we couldn’t quite get it together. But we wanted to go to an early season place with snow. We were originally talking about doing Europe, and maybe stopping at a dome in the U.K., and then going to a glacier. But those glaciers, like Saas Fee or Stubai in Austria, you see a lot of content from those, and a lot of kids go there to “train”. And when we were coming up with an idea, it seemed cooler to do something a little different and outside of the box, which ironically actually ended up putting us inside the box.
"We wanted to touch on how odd the concept of snowboarding indoors is."
"When we go on a trip we try and steer away from just your average experience."
Did you go on this trip with any solid expectations?
S – We knew we were going to snowboard, and we wanted to touch on how odd the concept of snowboarding indoors is, and we wanted to travel around to a bunch of different ones in Holland, which is also a really odd snowboard destination. But as far as the things we wanted to do and capture while we were there, we had no idea until we saw it in front of us.
Does any part of the experience stand out in particular as more memorable?
S- I would say Kas.
C – [laughs] Yeah, Kas is really sick. I’d say that Kas made the trip really special because we had the idea of going, but we had a really rough vision of what we wanted to accomplish and where we wanted to go, but he had all of the local knowledge and all of the skills and experience with these places to help facilitate our ideas for us. He grew up riding indoors, that is just where he learned to snowboard and where he practices and rides year-round. If he wants to go on a street trip or to film anything, he needs to travel. It never snows in Holland.
I can’t imagine growing up and just snowboarding inside.
S – He is one of the most talented street snowboarders out there, and he had a blown out knee for the past two years, and that is why we haven’t really seen anything from him.
Stark mentioned that the first place you went gave you the most trouble. What kind of things were you trying, and what kind of trouble did you get in?
S – Well there is only so much you can do, and I think when we go on a trip, we try and steer away from just your average experience.
C – It is really just about taking more of an unconventional approach.
S – We ride in the streets all the time, and we also do other stuff. Blake Paul has been with us and he is a backcountry guy. So it has always been hard for us to limit ourselves to the park. When you go to a mountain, there is snow and there are other features and things to ride on. When you are in a dome, you are restricted to the refrigerator itself.
The funny thing about the dome is that the whole experience is way different. In The States, you wake up early, you travel to the mountain, you wait in lines for the lifts because there is fresh snow. They don’t have that there. These things are open until ten or eleven at night. The most crowded time was always around eight or nine o’clock.
You were in there for a full eight hours a day riding the same lap over and over again? I’d imagine that must have become pretty repetitive.
S – Well the parks are so fun, and there is no daylight, so there is no real concept of time because the conditions and the light stay consistent throughout. There are no variables, you just ride until you can’t anymore.
C – Compared to a mountain, it is a really controlled environment. The repetition is almost one of the greatest qualities. You can ride all day and get super comfortable with what you are doing. It is a really good place to progress.
S – I liked that we almost went to a place where there is an abundance of features and really good parks, and it was way cooler and more rewarding to get a clip in the dome. I only did a frontside 50-50 on that rail, but it was really rewarding because it was inside and it was so different. Even just a frontside 360 on that little jump was really cool, compared to a quad cork on one of those stupid big jumps.
"I always wonder if we pushed the envelope a little further..."
Do you think that anyone there will take after you guys and try something new?
C – I always wonder if we pushed the envelope a little further, maybe those guys would be less hesitant to try something new.
S – As far as moving features around and all – they definitely do that. They will talk to the park crews and set up different features here and there. But we were messing around on the support creepers, and the park staff was telling us that no one had ever done that. The park guy actually ended up jumping on it and then asked for his clip. So yeah, I think we might have opened their eyes.
What was the average skill level there like?
C – All ability levels, but the local kids riding the parks were insanely good.
S – They had tricks we couldn’t do.
Honestly, I didn't think we were going to get away with half of the things we did.
What do you think you will take away from this trip?
C – I would say that the confined space and the stagnant conditions pushed us to be more creative than ever. Maybe more than any trip I have ever been on. But when we were there, filming tricks took a backseat to experiencing the culture and meeting the locals. There is this whole world of snowboarding that happens, and we were introduced to something that was entirely new to us.
S – What was super cool, and what I think is similar to the Midwest, is how accessible it is for people to go. For our sport now, with all of the expenses and barriers to entry, it is hard to get people to go and try snowboarding. And these domes are really affordable. The tickets are all based on the amount of time you are in there, they have snowboards to rent, jackets to rent. The domes are a really awesome way to get people into snowboarding.
It was really cool to see how alive it is and that there are all types of skiing there. We saw this 70-year-old dude on hardboots ripping. We saw your average couple going down the slope. There was this little ripper dude who was getting into it with us and was trying these new tricks. There are these ski racers there too. There is really a bit of everything, and it is a really cool way to get people involved. Then you can go beyond the dome.
Stark mentioned you had a bit of a story with a wooden rail.
S – Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to get away with half of the things we did. But you know, we are pretty used to riding in places that we might not be supposed to. So we try and be quick and not really draw much attention to ourselves. The wood thing was at the largest resort, which played to our advantage because it was in the far corner. And it wasn’t really even a rail, it was more of a barrier to stop people from hitting the magic carpet.
Did you guys ever actually get kicked out or asked to leave?
C – We aren’t malicious or anything, but we were just pushing the barriers as to what is available for us to snowboard on. Sometimes it was more kindly received than others.
Do you think you will take a different mindset into future trips and will experience travel differently as a result of this trip?
C – I think that if there is anything that was lasting from this trip, it is that you don’t need much to film and create with your friends. You should not be uninspired by what you have because you really don’t need much to make something special.