In snowboarding, as in life, there are many ways to get after it. Whether one’s technique is based on what others think or if the approach comes from a place within is a simple matter of choice. Unarguably, the preferred route of our time is to abide by the preexisting conditions set up by our culture and try one’s best to not deviate further than anything moderately inconvenient. This is the groomer of life — no bumps, set boundaries and a comforting crowd to assure you that you’re not alone. Unsatisfied with this technique, a special few choose to see what lies beyond the safe zone of this tedious existence. This is an individual who abides by intuition; that wholly subjective feeling that whispers suggestions not based on learned behavior, but rather on the unnameable energy within that offers insight into our next move. Here one flows through life with infinitely less effort than grazing on the easy to reach, genetically modified pastures of the cultural norm. This is where life works its magic; where the wellspring of creativity that is the essence of human evolution generates abundance. Believe it or not, this is our natural state. This is where Jake Blauvelt resides, or so I thought before he told me he moved back to Vermont, which actually sort of sounds like the same spot.
All photos taken at Selkirk Tangiers Heli, Revelstoke, British Columbia
Paint a picture of your life now as we heard you recently moved back to Vermont from Washington.
Well, my soon to be wife Kristin and I bought a place in Vermont last year. Our place is like 10 minutes between both our folks’ houses, which is important. Living in Bellingham full-time for the past eight years, sometimes you don’t make it home as often as you like. Time is slipping by so it’s nice to get to see everyone all the time, and that is what is really important to us.
What is daily living all about out there?
You are doing it fully for yourself and all you are maybe trying to do for others is inspire them. You are doing it more as a gift. You are simply showing people how great it can be. When you find yourself on that next level tip, this is what I really think is happening — you are giving.
As soon as I got done riding for the year I stepped into the garden heavy. The previous owners had a greenhouse but they just had two pigs living in it. We completely revived that and built some raised beds in there, and since then we’ve just been pumping out a ton of veggies. We have blueberries and grapes and a small orchard of apple tress. All summer we have been producing all of our own food. All we get at the grocery store is some good local dairy and meat — everything else we grow. It’s been really rewarding.
A good way to save money and eat right I suppose.
For sure. It’s good to know too that even though I would not consider us “preppers” or anything, but if shit did hit the fan with the economy or whatever we could be fairly self-sufficient here. We have a ton of wood to stay warm and of course have the ability to grow our own food in the summer. We are trying to get better at storing the food, which is a kind of tricky thing. But we are slowly learning all the tricks there are to running a homestead. That’s basically been my life this past summer. It’s great because when you are living like this you don’t have time to think about much else, snowboarding included. And honestly that’s what I needed, just a little bit of balance as far as that goes.
That’s incredible. I mean, isn’t it apparent that given the infinite growth model that the world economy is based on it will simply not be able to support itself one day? Whether that is in five years or fifty who knows, but if things cease to change the world as we know it will be a very different place.
It’s insane. If shit hits the fan, and like you said who knows when that will be, but if you aren’t at least trying to put one foot out there and learn some basic skills to live a somewhat self-sustaining life then you could be in real trouble. I mean if something like this does happen, what are people in the cities going to do? They are pretty much 100 percent dependent on the government and electricity and all of these things for basic living requirements. Looking at the state of our country right now I hardly believe we live in a democracy anymore. A big part of it is still these major families running the show with fossil fuels. And the model by which they abide is certainly not sustainable or looking out for anyone’s interests other than theirs, which is sadly based on greed. If you think that the nation has got your back you might want to rethink that one! So I don’t know, not to go off on this but it is reality and we are just doing what we feel is right. Like I said, we’re not prepping by any means, but rather just learning the process more because it feels good than anything else. We go days on end without leaving the compound. Heavy hermit style. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
We can all see the bad things going on out there. However, there is always potential for change and the Rebels can defeat the Empire if we all learn to use The Force don’t you think?
We need a global awakening. I mean people are in debt, hear nothing but lies, eat like crap and therefore they feel shitty. In turn, it’s really hard for them to lift themselves up and even learn about what they can do to live a better life. That’s the first step, just knowing what works, which many people don’t even have a clue about because what they are exposed to is so full of lies and hidden agendas. So when you start fighting for what you believe in things can start to change, but first you need to know what you believe in. Like right now Vermont is on the fringe of passing a bill that will require the labeling of all GMO products in our food. We’re really getting behind that because that is exactly the kind of thing that people have the right to know about — it’s just not right if you don’t. It’s little things like that we need to fight for that in the end will be huge victories. It’s just simple education is all. If people start to question what’s going on, then a much more clear picture emerges rather than just being blind to it all. That’s what we’re feeling out here and we are going to preserve that and just preach good livin’!
Speaking of good livin’, what does that mean to you?
The way I see it, from health comes your ability to experience everything else. I treat myself as an athlete and do the best I can every single day to make sure my body feels good. If I feel like shit then kiss snowboarding goodbye. I look at my role models, guys like Terje, Kelly Slater and Bruce Lee — these are guys who are on to some next level health regiment. I think that eating right and treating you body right with exercise transfers over to your mind. Little things like meditation and yoga and just simple walks can be healthy. All of this allows me to be a professional snowboarder, but even more so it allows me to be happy.
You’re speaking a lot about treating your body right, but isn’t this essentially the first step towards healthy mental hygiene?
If you are lacking mental clarity, man, that's an even greater detriment to what you are trying to accomplish.
Exactly. In Western culture we tend to overlook the mind. I have just started dabbling in meditation but have been practicing yoga for a while now, and I will be the first to admit it is probably very Westernized yoga compared to the great Eastern traditions of it. But the point is that the physical aspect of yoga or asana, which is what most people think of when you say yoga, is basically preparation towards the ability to sit with yourself for a period of time without becoming restless. I’ll do forty-five minutes of asana and as my body starts to loosen up so does my mind. What it does is really set me up for a period of time afterwards where I can sit still and experience a place where my thoughts don’t run wild. Personally, I think the mental aspect is so much bigger than the physical in snowboarding. Yeah you can’t be fat and out of shape and expect to snowboard the way you would like, but if you are lacking mental clarity, man, that’s an even greater detriment to what you are trying to accomplish. Even if a person is at their peak physically, without a certain mental strength they simply don’t have the ability to get on that level. Until you bring your mind into balance you really can’t go any further.
Have you always thought this way?
No way. One of the ways I came to understand this was the learning process of filming Naturally. The first year I was so in my head worrying about stuff and not in the moment. I was thinking about all of the things that could go wrong or the budget instead of just going with the flow, and I ended up getting hurt as a result of that. What followed was a period of time where I was able to really think about my whole approach and thankfully it all fell into place when I returned in a different state of mind. I mean we got 85 percent of the footage the following year.
So what does that kind of mentality bring to snowboarding as opposed to average everyday riding when we’re just messing around?
I think everyone loves snowboarding, whether they realize it or not, because they are in the moment. You are charging down a tree run on a deep powder day and of course you’re not thinking about all the bullshit that happened before or is going to happen after. You are fully immersed in the moment so you don’t hit that tree or get stuck upside down in that tree well. Then for me there is a next level even further, where there is no ego and you’re not trying to do it for anyone else, you are doing it fully for yourself and all you are maybe trying to do for others is inspire them. You are doing it more as a gift. You are simply showing people how great it can be. When you find yourself on that next level tip, this is what I really think is happening — you are giving.
I think that remark is so incredible in that it has been said by every single person who has lived a life of true happiness. The one way to attain lasting personal happiness is by giving all you can to others.
I think that can come across in anything as long as you are doing it for a genuine reason. It could be something as easy as making a quilt! You can add to the world by doing whatever it is you do with the right intention.
You spoke about the process and what you learned from Naturally. What then was your approach to last season?
I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t my greatest year. After two years of filming hard I was a little burnt, so I decided to just take a little step back for a season. That said, instead of trying to lead the charge and tell my sponsors what I wanted to do I thought I’d just enjoy the ride and go on some trips for them, which is like the best job in the world! I didn’t worry about getting too gnarly or hucking too huge, but rather just hitting autopilot and enjoying the ride. I got a lot of really good freeriding days. It was just a winter to get the stoke back and recharge. I took a step back last year to take steps forward in the future.
But I hear that you will have a full part with footage complied from all of your sponsors.
Yeah, the story starts with a question I started to ask myself towards the end of Naturally — what is all of this for? I know it was for the sponsors and myself and hopefully I’m inspiring people to live out their dreams, so in a sense that’s healthy, but I couldn’t really find an answer that truly satisfied me. I just wanted to do something more tangible so Kristin and I started the Mountain Light Project, which is our non-profit organization that provides disadvantaged kids with an opportunity to experience mountain sports like snowboarding — just active stuff to get them off the couch and into the mountains. So going into this winter I lined up a deal with my sponsors, like adidas and the Nomad series, Oakley and the For Me project, and all the RIDE stuff. I lined it up so I could basically repurpose all of the footage and make one video part that will be sold on iTunes with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards the Mountain Light Project. So that felt good to be working for that and hopefully anyone who buys it will feel good that their $2.99 will be doing something positive.
When you stop worrying about the little things and enjoy the ride it all becomes clear.
What is the most challenging thing in snowboarding for you?
For me there is a lot of travel and trying to stay centered when you are chasing snow all over the world can be hard. But no matter what, I always try to remember what a great life this is. I mean you get stressed when you can’t land something or when you miss the snow and you start to get bummed. I just have to step back from time to time and laugh. So it’s the hardest and easiest in a sense because when you stop worrying about the little things and enjoy the ride it all becomes clear. I could say something like it’s hard to land switch in pow, but it’s more about just being in the moment.
Do you enjoy snowboarding more each year?
Yeah, the more appreciative you are the more you enjoy it for sure. When you put it in perspective it’s just very apparent how lucky we really are to get to snowboard on any level.
I suppose then you try to surround yourself with guys who have the same mindset right?
Yeah always. I’m good friends with Shayne Pospisil and he doesn’t stress over the little things at all. We click for that reason. I remember I was with Nicolas Müller last year and we were getting ready to jump in the heli after something like 10 days of waiting. While everyone else is on high alert he just smiles and says, “Can you believe this? We get paid to go out and just have fun all day!” And yeah, he hit it on the head. I think that we all need to make an effort to have fun whatever it is we are doing and that just comes with perspective. Even after my snowboarding career is over I want to find that next passion and pursue it with appreciation. I think a lot of people put fun second to things like work or whatever. You can have fun with everything in life so long as you approach it from the right place.
What’s your take on where snowboarding is with everything that has changed, especially digitally, in recent years. Does it all feel a bit scattered?
Believe in yourself and your goals, have your intentions set and then live it out.
That’s tough to put your finger on because it is all over the place. But I feel that as long as people keep snowboarding for the right reasons it will all be fine. If everyone could give back in a way instead of always trying to conquer and take over that might help. I think we can all switch it up a bit and not be so afraid of losing a sponsor or offending someone or making the wrong move. I mean, if I listened to everyone who told me I was making the wrong move I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at now. I left Forum in their heyday, don’t you think some people disagreed with that!? But I knew I had to change and staying wasn’t going to lead me to a good place.
Where does the confidence come from in taking those type of risks?
You have to find it within yourself first. Believe in yourself and your goals, have your intentions set and then live it out. Don’t look back. Most of the greatest athletes in the world know this, whether it is baseball or soccer or whatever, but for some reason many people are scared to go there and subsequently don’t reach their highest potential. The people it doesn’t work for are those who are lazy.
And what has the end result been in you finding this personal power?
Everything just works out! When I started coming into my own and treating myself with respect and standing by my beliefs, everything changed. On top of that when you believe what you are doing is right and have a good work ethic towards it, good things inevitably happen.
Originally featured in Snowboard Magazine 11.3: The Primitive Issue