Life is strange. For many of us, snowboarding in our formative years seemed to work largely because of two things: money and family. There is no denying the cost of our lifestyle, and parents certainly played a role in supporting the mission to ride. But Chris Beresford didn’t really have that. For him, real life hit at an age when most kids wield a parental shield from the worries of the world. A “normal” childhood eluded him. But it strengthened his resolve.
Chris has lived a dream that few ever realize: a dream of traveling the world as a professional snowboarder, of building a successful business, of going through life on his terms. You know Beresford from his many years in Think Thank, DANG Shades and High Cascade, but you probably don’t know is that nothing has ever been handed to him. From when he was 13 years old, Chris has earned everything without a complaint, without self-pity. And it’s a story he doesn’t share. But those shit years molded him into one of the most genuine and driven people to ever step onto a snowboard, and the time has arrived to recognize that.
Photos by Tim Zimmerman and Brendon Drury
What I had in mind was telling your story. Growing up, getting introduced to snowboarding, your journey. Whatever you’re comfortable with sharing.
Not a whole lot of people know. It’s not one of those things you necessarily want to tell people because the early days were sad. But I think that’s how I knew I wanted to do something, rather than sit back and use it as an excuse.
So let’s just start with day one. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Southwick, Massachusetts. My dad and mom both had great jobs. When I was a little, before Razor scooters, I was riding the ones with bigger wheels. Then he bought me a bike. Biking was a huge part of my childhood. My mom was diagnosed with leukemia when I was… I think four. Then she passed away when I was five. She actually got me on skis before then, maybe when I was two. My dad didn’t ski or anything, so I think she’s the reason why the whole snow thing started for me. When she passed away my dad didn’t take it very well. She was the love of his life. I didn’t really understand what was happening. After that he quit working. He went in, said, “Screw you guys. I’m starting my own business.” Well, he never did that. He just lived off the insurance money.
From then to age 13, anything I wanted, I had. From bmx bikes to dirt bikes, all that. I didn’t even ask. He would say, “We’re going to the bike shop, I’m getting you a new one.” It seemed normal. I remember the neighbors around me—who I was very lucky to have. They didn’t take me under their wing, but when it was time for dinner they would say, “You are more than welcome.”
He ran out of money when I was 13. He lost the house. That was the “holy shit” realization. He could always afford beer though, that was never an issue. He just went from Budweiser to Busch. I had to get a job, and we moved into the downstairs of this lady’s house. It was a tiny two bedroom; the kitchen was the living room. That’s where I lived through the end of middle school and high school. I almost hid it. My grandma worked at what’s now Macy’s, so I always had nice clothes. I didn’t look like a raggedy kid. But the money was gone. I started working at a doughnut shop in town. That’s when my business sense—with starting DANG and everything—came in and I learned that money doesn’t grow on trees.
When you were 13, when you lost the house, did you know that was going to happen?
Yeah, I just remember thinking the mailbox was always full. He wouldn’t even get the bills. From what I found out later in life, he would hand his check over to my grandma and she would give him an allowance. She handled all the bills, everything. He never grasped real life. To be honest, he still hasn’t. It sucks. I can’t say I lived a crappy childhood, I just woke up a lot earlier than a lot of my friends. From there I worked in the tobacco fields. But at a younger age I was like, “This sucks. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” But I had to do what I had to do at the time. When I turned 16, I got a 1988 Honda Accord with a $1000 loan that my grandma co-signed for me. I was able to pay that off, but that was coolest, shittiest thing to ever happen to me. At the time, I was like, “This is so lame.” Austen Granger had an Audi. I had an ’88 Accord.
But you had a car.
It was a jealousy thing I guess. When I was 18, I started to work at a snowboard shop. I didn’t make much money, but I already knew how to live off almost nothing. We hung out at the shop, watched videos, got to unbox all the gear and put it up on the wall, or on hangers. That was the ignition. I got sponsored by the shop a bit before that. The only thing I wanted was a die-cut sticker.
Throughout high school you were still living with your dad, did people know about what was going on?
My close friends knew, but I wasn’t like most kids in high school. I hid from dating a chick. I just worked.
I can relate with my family history. It’s hard. It’s a burden that you have to carry with you to school.
He didn’t give a shit about school. I wanted to get through it, I didn’t care if I was getting Cs; I wanted to pass. He never looked a report card or anything like that, I just did it.
When was the first time you got on a snowboard?
I was in fifth grade. I rented a Burton Air from the resort I ended up riding at a bunch. Even my dad would bring us up to the hill, which was kind of sketchy, looking back. Here’s a story. It was a place called Ski Sundown, which is in Connecticut, just over the state line. They had night riding, and there was a bar there. Talk about a bad mixture. So me and my buddy Justin, we went riding for probably three hours. He was a couple of years older than me, kind of like my big brother. He knew what was happening more than I did at that age. My dad was so drunk. We were driving back on the winding, crazy roads that are back east and up on two wheels because he was just shitfaced. We ended up getting him to stop. Justin was like 14, and he drove us home. But then my dad ended up getting two DUIs after I got my license… He did that for a long time. I thought it was normal to have your dad drive with a Budweiser between his legs.
Do you still stay in touch?
You know… I saw him a couple years ago, but I haven’t talked to him since. He has a prepaid phone, but he doesn’t answer it. I don’t know if he has minutes. I think he assumes I’m mad at him. But to look back at everything now, there were times where I was like, “Come on, can’t you just do something to help?” He did, but I didn’t know at the time.
When did everything start to fall into place?
It was when I turned 20 or 21. Scott Stevens called the head coach at High Cascade, Dave Reynolds, and said they should hire me. That’s honestly what changed my life, not just for the better, but in every aspect. I did five summers there, back to back. At that time, I thought I would always do that. I think 2007 is when I made some shitty hats and put little DANG die cuts on sunglasses, before the wayfarer style was popular. I saw something, but I had no idea. Kids were hyped. They didn’t see anything because there wasn’t this constant feed, so they would go there and ask, “This is cool?” And that’s how DANG happened.
Do you still get a check from any sponsors?
No, they will help me travel sometimes. But I’m on my own. I’m more of a pro snowboarder now than I ever was, but I don’t get paid by anybody. I actually have a snowmobile and a truck. I made money from when I was 22, to just two years ago. But I never had to take out any money from DANG until two years ago, I always put money right back into it. I created a brand so I could be what I wanted to be when I was getting paid to snowboard, but you can’t afford it off what they pay. I wasn’t Travis Rice. But just being able to say I got to travel the world on someone else’s dime, and pay rent, I can’t complain.
One of my favorite movies is It Ain’t Easy. It just has feeling. I think it captured the attitude of snowboarding so well during the mid-2000s. Everyone was just hyped.
I still have it, it barely plays.
You look at the names: [Chris] Grenier, Scott, Bode [Merrill], Lucas Magoon, [Joe] Sexton, Jonas Michilot, Jake OE, there are so many good dudes in here.
That was the beginning. I think I was on a RIDE board in This Ain’t Easy. Austen Granger was the first one out of all of us to get a travel budget. He rode for Nitro. That’s when we all met Bode, but he had one too. Scott, Grenier, and Granger all went to Mt. Hood the year before that. I was still in Southwick working at the shop and just so freakin’ jealous. I would call Austen almost every day. I did go to community college for business for two years after high school. I was kinda going normal at that point in my life because I didn’t know what to do. When Scott got me the job I was like, “Ok, I’m going to get paid to go snowboarding and coach?”
So you were a coach.
Yeah. It was kinda a no brainer in my life, when I decided that I was going to do this. DANG wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t for Scott. If he didn’t get me that job… I don’t know where the hell I would be in life right now.
Probably back in Massachusetts.
Yeah, probably working construction. I don’t know if I would have finished school, maybe. But I was paying for it out of my own pocket and it wasn’t making sense. But it wasn’t making sense because I wanted to be snowboarding; that’s what my friends were doing.
What was the last part you put out?
Right Turn Left Turn? Yeah, that was it. I had opener in Brain Dead Heart Attack, and that’s when ThirtyTwo dropped me. I was kinda pissed, like isn’t that what you guys want?
Why did they drop you?
Money. They were feeling the industry. They dropped a few of us, kept some of the main guys and some of the younger kids that didn’t cost them much. I’m buddies with those guys and still get gear, but they told me to focus on my business. But I’m a snowboarder! I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t do that.
Was being a pro snowboarder something you wanted?
For sure. I was straight up doing tricks because I thought I could make $500 bucks more a month the next year. I was doing anything because I wanted to make it to that next level. I hurt my knee and it wasn’t too bad, but I had to get surgery. That was the summer when I was like, “Shit, what am I going to do?” I can’t go back to Hood. With DANG, I made like 1000 bucks in one month of online sales. I didn’t think it was possible. That was the moment when I realized it could be something.
Was that when you decided to move on?
It wasn’t necessarily… I enjoy the idea of pro snowboarding. But now everyone is at a level with their career where it’s almost not fun anymore. It’s stressful. They have to get clips. Whereas when we started, it was fun. I did take a year off—it’s funny, because I ended up sponsoring Think Thank—but I could have filmed and done it. It was the winter of 14/15 when I got dropped from ThirtyTwo. Then the past year I got really hyped, but not necessarily hyped on filming a video part. Just hyped on snowboarding.
You would call Travis Rice a super pro, and some of the contest guys, but the pro snowboarder is changing. You are a great example. People know who you are, they know you’re an incredibly talented rider, but you’re among the people doing it because they love snowboarding. For most, the money has dried up.
Exactly. There used to be a pro snowboarder one percent where they could make a living. Now that’s down to maybe a tenth of one percent. Then there was the middle class of snowboarding, where I was, and I would make around 24 grand. Then get a little to travel. Plenty to live, especially if you know how to live off of nothing. You have so much free time as a professional snowboarder, and people don’t take advantage of that.
So can you live comfortably off of DANG right now?
Yeah. I can honestly say that. I take a small salary. I own a home, so I have a mortgage and everything, but I live entirely off of that.
Do you think you’re lucky?
Yeah, for sure. It was a shot in the dark, but I had nothing else. I was winging it, but if it didn’t work I would have figured it out. At the time, I saw a style of sunglasses becoming popular. Now I have five different frames. I didn’t know if DANG was going to get past snowboarding. I saw snowboarders being into it, but the everyday person, that was where the luck came in. From age 20 to 25, I just thought, “What the fuck am I doing?” I remember turning 25. I had the whole program dialed, but there was no future. That’s when everything started to make sense.
That’s a milestone age for people.
I remember stressing, but within six months I realized I could buy a new car. An actual new one, something reliable. I bought a 2012 Subaru Impreza, jumped in that, and drove to Utah. All of my friends had been there for five, six years already, maybe even longer. Granger was there straight out of high school. Once I was able to save enough money and safely move across the country, that’s what I wanted.
Was it liberating for you?
It was everything that I wanted to do. Then I got there and rented for a year and a half. At that point I had a game plan; I was going to buy a house. That was a big step in my life. I broke up with my girlfriend of four years because of that. I was so focused and still had that piece of me that was so cheap. If you look at the way I was brought up, she was on the opposite end of the spectrum. I was just saving, saving, saving, and not bringing her out to dinner.
Yeah, I could see where that would lead to a problem…
She never understood that. I don’t have anyone to go to. If I ran out [of money], I’m out. The only thing I don’t own is my home, but I could go work at Home Depot, get a roommate or two in here, and I could cover my bills. Worst comes to worst, I’m going to be ok.
Did you ever feel sorry for yourself at any point?
It was just mainly in the younger years. When you’re in your teens, you’re basing your life off what your friends are doing too. The manager of the snowboard shop, she was huge. If there was a contest, she would let me take the day off. Same with my grandma, she never second guessed what I was doing. She was the one there for me. Not financially, but she always supported me.
Is there any family that you’re close with, besides your grandma?
After everything happened, my dad went into what we talked about. He was in denial and blamed everybody but himself. He didn’t really let me see them as a kid. But as I got older, I could do what I wanted. He just made it sound like everyone was bad. But really, he was the one not doing it right. I don’t blame people. He is who he is, and that’s ok. In a weird way, everything I’ve watched my dad do through my life, I learned if I do the opposite then everything should be ok. It’s shitty to say, but he taught me by not teaching me.
``Do what you love, but do it for the right reasons and give it 110%.``
What would you say to a kid in a similar situation?
Just try. Do what you love, but do it for the right reasons and give it 110%. I found what I liked. With the business part, it was a lot of luck and putting 110% into it. You can put that into anything, it doesn’t have to be a company. You can’t wait around for everyone else.
Are there any other stories that stand out in your memory?
I was 20, the first summer I went to Hood. My aunt asked me if I wanted to work at where my mom and dad worked. It was an aerospace company out of Windsor Locks, Connecticut. You just don’t say no to this, but I took off and went to Mt. Hood. It wasn’t what I wanted. I saw them; they make money, they aren’t happy. She was so bummed. Almost everyone in the family has worked for them, and some still do.
Were you bummed too?
No, I knew I wanted more. And at that age, I knew I had to make snowboarding work. I said no to what would have been a huge opportunity for other people. At that point, I had no clue if I would make it. Now I’m really freakin’ psyched that I said no to that.
What about any mentors?
My grandma, definitely. Just having the support. She backed me through it all. It’s probably going to suck because my aunt is going to read this. I remember when I first started traveling for K2, they were fully helping me out. She thought my grandma was paying for me. She wasn’t, and my aunt didn’t believe her. There was a big fight. When I bought the Subaru, the house, that was the proof. I was doing it on my own. Nobody in my family followed what I had been doing, they weren’t seeing the DVDs or anything like that. I would show my grandma, but she would have a hard time following what was happening, especially since it was Think Thank.
My dad has only seen me snowboard one time in my life. He went up to a contest at Okemo. I actually won it, a little rail jam. He wouldn’t hang out and watch when I was a kid. My grandma would. When I first started she would bring me up, then just read a book in the lodge.
Do you remember if your dad was proud of you after the contest?
I don’t really remember. I think I won $400 or something, but that was huge at the time. I drove up there and decided I was going to win it. Funny to look back on what I would do for 400 bucks.
That’s a lot of money. $400 when I was a teenager was a lot of money, but to think of you, I’m sure…
Totally, yeah. At that time in my life, that was 10 grand to me. The key to life is appreciating what you’re doing. I wrote this quote down the other day: “It doesn’t matter how much money you make, learn how to live off being happy.” My dad definitely didn’t take that route in life, or my aunt and uncle. They make money and are definitely not happy people. That makes sense right?
That fully makes sense.
I had to fucking figure out my own way. Moving to Utah, I wasn’t willing to come here and fail. The year before I got here I was living on my grandma’s couch. She liked my company. I did that so I could save a little extra and once I got out, I was on my own. I didn’t really have to look back.
You don’t want to go back with your tail between your legs either.
That’s the thing, I’ve never, ever, asked anybody for anything, my entire life. I’ve never really had that option. I’m sure I maybe could have asked, but that’s not the way I was brought up. Maybe it’s a pride thing.
Well then you know that you earned it.
Yeah. I would never put my kid through what I went through, but I would teach them that way.
Do you have a prized possession?
Not necessarily. At age 24, I thought, “How the hell do you own a home?” That made no sense to me. The one thing that makes me happy is if I leave for a week, I come home and think, “I finally have a home.” I didn’t have that for a long time. I was 13 when we had to move out of the house because it was foreclosed. To have that now, and it’s my own, it’s a comforting feeling.
When you bought your house, the last home you had was when you were 13?
Yeah, my grandma’s couch. But that’s it. This is home. I consider my hometown home, but this is the spot. Even when I go back now, I just stay at a friend’s house. There’s no home.
I think it’s a testament to your character and to your drive, that you set yourself up to accomplish that goal. Now you’re doing it and moving on to the next one.
Yeah, I guess I’m at that point. I did what I thought was impossible, now what do I do next? I’m just trying to build the brand, and definitely putting money into the goggle idea. Just to see people with them in the lift line, it’s crazy.
That has to be a pretty amazing feeling.
It’s definitely cool. I’ve sold a few hundred pairs, so I see them around. Especially at Brighton. I have a decent presence there, and Milo carries them. It’s one of the things I never thought was possible, especially after putting the die cuts on. Now we’re years after that. Not that I’ve ever hidden this, but everyone has a story. It’s not the worst story, everything could always be worse. Everyone takes things their own way.
That’s it. People play with the cards that they’re dealt.
Now I could probably step it up and go further, which I want to. But I said that at 25 when I was hustling my ass off. Now, I’m still hustling but I’m enjoying it too. Before I was just hungry, and there was other shit I could have been caring about more, I didn’t even know. That’s how you grow. I wasn’t necessarily taught by family to take care of each other. Like with the girl I split up with, my ex-girlfriend, I learned so much from that. Like, whoa, I fucked up.
That’s life. It’s not perfect.