Reborn through creativity: An Alex Yoder interview
With his powder-filled part in the Pathology Project, Alex Yoder shows the merit of a great snowboarder is marked as much by spontaneous powder shredding as it is hucking meat off giant kickers. Embracing a subtle style unique to his generation, the young Jackson Hole ripper has a methodical approach to his riding, a refreshing departure from the disposable heroes of late.
Embracing a renewed mission, Yoder is the first North American to be signed by the legendary Japanese snowboard company Gentemstick. “Go ride pow in Japan all winter?” exclaims a bewildered Yoder, “I think so!”
You recently made the move from Jones to Gentemstick. Can you tell us about that a little bit?
Yeah, it was a tough decision at first. Leaving one family for another. Jeremy [Jones] was great to me over the years and being on the Jones team helped me grow a lot, but after a while I started to feel like it wasn’t the perfect place for me. When I met Rip Zinger and he introduced me to Gentem I had already been feeling like a needed a change for some time. Your board sponsor doesn’t dictate the way you snowboard, but there are limitations based on available shapes, budgets, and brand image. I was feeling limited at Jones. I went to Japan to film for Pathology and booked my ticket with an extra week to spend time in Niseko with Taro [Tamai], Rip, and other Gentem riders. I had heard of Taro through Patagonia over the years and I always wanted to meet him. During that week Taro was testing me, without me knowing, asking how the different boards I was trying felt. At the end of the week he asked me if I was interested in joining their family. I was, for sure, and I knew my answer was yes, but I had started the season on Jones and out of respect for them supporting me I told Taro I would have to finish the season and let them know in the spring.
What’s it like riding one of those boards?
The first time I strapped into a Gentem was last year at the Dirksen Derby. It was Rip Zinger’s 142 Phenomena that reminded me more of a skateboard than a snowboard. I must have been staring for a while because he all of a sudden just asked me if I wanted to take it for a lap. I strapped in and the run I had been riding all day turned into a totally different mountain. The way I was interacting with the mountain and the snow was unlike anything I’d ever felt. Everything about it instantly clicked. Later, when I was in Niseko, I rode probably six or seven different shapes and it seems like each has its own mind. You really start to dive into the subtleties of how they ride. It’s a special feeling when every riding nuance feels natural on a board you’ve never ridden before.
I don’t think many people realize just how special these boards are right?
Gentemstick is looking at snowboarding through a whole different lens. Their philosophy is about man’s interaction with the natural environment; the boards are designed to provide the most natural interaction or feeling in a certain kind of terrain or snow condition. Like a bird in flight catches an updraft of wind and uses the elements to its advantage, they design their snowboards to work with snow the same way. It’s an inspiring philosophy that can be applied to the rest of your life. Taro is gifted and talented when it comes to board design; turning on one of his shapes is like no other. I have changed the way I ride based on the boards and the philosophy. The board I rode most last year was the Rocketfish, it’s a 146cm with a 19-inch stance. It’s a hilarious little snowboard and you can just RAIL that thing. Riding these boards can be a life changing experience if you’re open to it.
To me you represent a group of guys forging a new path in the snowboard lifestyle where it’s no longer about getting super gnarly and more about being creative without putting it all on the line.
Yeah, I like to keep it pretty mellow these days. There is so much that I overlooked over the years when I was focused on getting gnarly. The lifestyle of pushing your personal physical limits is like a firework. It’s awesome for a minute but then it explodes and fades out.
Where did you find this perspective?
Well I grew up riding Jackson. You can catch 100 feet of air on any given day, or you can just go ride a sweet gully. That place really breeds creativity. That spontaneous snowboarding that you do when you are not filming is what really fueled my fire. Because when you are filming it’s like, “Ok, check this out. Here’s the jump. I’m hiking up. I’m doing this trick. You should film from this angle.” So you are writing this prescription for what you are going to do instead of just being spontaneous. To me it’s just so much more fulfilling to be reactive and feel what’s under your feet as it comes rather than building a jump and saying, “Yeah this looks good for a frontside spin—dropping.”
So then you looked at other ways to make it in the snowboard world.
It was almost an anti-inspiration when I saw where everything was going, which was where I thought I wanted to go, but then I’d go out there and just get hurt. Hitting big jumps and shit means concussions for me. Going fast into a big jump is one of the most exciting things in snowboarding, I will always love that feeling. But when you blow it and you get a concussion and you can’t snowboard for a long time, it sucks. So then the questions arise. Was that backside seven worth it? Was that four second clip worth this much pain? So that kind of did it for me.
There are all kinds of riding out there and it’s all to be respected. It’s like you can find your way in the snowboard community without lapping the Breck park every day getting every trick in the book nailed down.
Yeah there are so many ways to live the snowboard lifestyle. It’s totally open to interpretation. That’s what’s so amazing about it. If you have the skills and you don’t mind going the starving artist route for a little while until things develop there’s a good chance you can make something out of it.
That’s kind of the process that thins out the real snowboarders from the pack. You kind of have to do that.
It’s definitely possible to find a way. But you can’t go on forever doing that and that’s where you seize those opportunities that inevitably come your way.
What have you learned on the journey thus far?
I’ve learned that it’s important to be ambitious, motivated, ethical, optimistic and grateful as a professional. But it’s most important to throw all of it out of the window as soon as I’m strapped in and just have as much fun as long as I can as a human because it’s not going to last forever.