“While I will always have the utmost respect for the superhuman out-of-bounds freestyle and extreme stunts that seem to continually progress beyond our imaginable limits, my highest appreciation goes out to the simple rider who’s out there just for the experience.” Craig Kelly
It was eight in the morning when we pulled in to the freshly coated upper lot at Alpental. We watched the snow create a cloud of smoke in the rearview and slowly drift away. The sky was grey, fog lingered on the peaks and two feet of freshly fallen snow blanketed the mountain. These are the days that we strive for as snowboarders, knowing that the second we get on that chairlift all our worries and stresses from real life will fade away to the unknown and tranquility will take over.
Sitting on the frost covered double chair next to my longtime friend and fellow Northwest boarder Austin Hironaka, we rose up to the misty peak of Denny Mountain. Hiro sparked a joint as we joked of times past and grinned at what was lying in front of us. Through the smiles and laughter the smoke faded behind us as we rode into the haze and off into the white room. Nash Gate was still closed with no sign of opening due to high avalanche danger, so we cruised into the lower gate throwing clouds of snow into the air from the bottomless turns. After a few laps on our favorite runs, we started showing Helen [Schettini] around and found some fun pat downs and tranny finders to shoot on with Jeff Hawe. Halfway down one of our go-to runs we noticed a side court pillow gap to send it off, and after a little pat down and some run-ins I found myself hauling ass into a jump that had no lack of compression. One of the best things about snowboarding and being in the mountains is that there is always something new to find with the fresh snowfall of each year. Every season the mountains fill in differently and create new terrain for all of us to ride and explore.
After a successful jump session with everybody getting some good hits, we continued to show Helen around our home mountain so she could experience it as we do. With vast terrain surrounding the two lifts that give you access, there were plenty of runs to hike to. But the conditions didn’t allow us to venture into one of my personal favorites, the Holy Lines. We continued the hike and headed to the backside for some creek ollies and open tree runs. Weaving throughout the trees, the hoots and hollers of the others bounced between the forest and created a feeling of a lucid dream that we knew we were sharing with each other. It’s times like these that I find myself in a state where I don’t want to stop riding, and I won’t stop until something makes me. This time it was the freeway. I took the run further right and knowingly passed the turn toward the trail out. I continued my way down the spine-filled run grinning from ear to ear. After exiting the trees a mile or so down from where I needed to be, I endured my hiking mission back through the snow banks and creek crossings. Hawe picked me up — he and the crew had been waiting for me. The stories we shared filled the cab of his truck with laughter of what just happened and how I ended up on the side of Interstate 90.
“All of a sudden you have this feeling of clarity. Backcountry snowboarding has really done a lot to boost that feeling in me,” Craig Kelly once said.
Fifteen or so years ago a younger Sweetin sits and watches as he rides the Central Express to the top of the park. Coming to the top of the park the Berlin Wall draws closer into sight — an infamous natural hip at the top of the run. It was here that I first saw Peter Line send the biggest method I have ever seen on our own backside hit — an image that’s embedded in our park forever.
That feeling of excitement and experiencing new things like when you were a kid should be something that sticks with you through your whole life.
Growing up in Seattle and riding the surrounding mountains of Alpental, Baker and Stevens Pass, I looked up to riders like Peter, Craig and Jamie Lynn. They were all from the Pacific Northwest and they could ride everything well — taking advantage of the terrain that surrounded them. It was this terrain that gave them the gift to become the amazing snowboarders they are. Without knowing it, the mountains can give you an incredible gift, one that allows you to express your vision of snowboarding in your own peculiar way. All of these riders and mountains are what inspire me to ride my snowboard every day I can.
The constant changing of weather patterns and snow conditions allows you to be creative and enjoy all aspects of snowboarding. When it’s snowing or slushy we ride Alpental, if it’s not powder we ride Ski Acres and when it’s just winter we lap the park and hit runs. The past two springs we have been making use of the leftover snow at Hyak (the furthest east part of Snoqualmie) by creating a rhythm section. Hiro and I both wanted to come up with something that we could do every year and share with our fellow boarders. Combining ideas from BMX jumps, surfing and park riding we created our brainchild: Hiro and Ten’s Excellent Rhythm. This year the idea was to spend the week camping up at Hyak and go all in by building the gaps bigger and with multiple takeoffs to allow transfers from side to side. With camp set at the drop-in and tents hidden throughout the trees we rallied. You drop into a wave, throw up some buckets and brace yourself for a wild ride. The jumps got bigger as you made your way down the line with a mixture of rails and taps within. The rhythm ended with a 60-foot gap jump. Each jump was made so when you landed you wouldn’t have to pump or dump speed. It created a feeling of nothingness and allowed your true colors of style to let loose in the rhythm.
We wanted to share our creation with our friends so we invited both locals and friends from afar to come join us. Derrek Lever and Kevin Hanson came up to show off their street style, running the rhythm with tweaks and creations that reminded me of Mark Gonzales. Todd Kirby did one of the craziest handplants I’ve seen, a mixture between a front rodeo and an eggplant. Hironaka ran the rhythm with back seven tail grabs and tuck knees while showing his BMX ancestry and letting his style shine throughout the line.
The highlight of my time at the rhythm was watching DCP ride. With his timeless style he flowed through as if he was ripping a wave. Floating frontside three melons off the toes and throwing out classic methods, it was a real treat for all of us to share it with him. The best part of the rhythm was to see all the excitement and creativity that was coming from everyone and sharing the good times. From the morning QP handplant shenanigans to the late night bonfires and Roman candle fights, our week in the mountains created memories that will last a lifetime.
We snowboard for the love of snowboarding, and it should be shared with others. That feeling of excitement and experiencing new things like when you were a kid should be something that sticks with you through your whole life. That is what keeps us going each season, knowing that there will always be another great thing to do. Whether it’s a powder day at your local mountain, sunny resort days or lapping through the park in the rain, it’s all part of a greater experience that will fulfill you as a person and a snowboarder. Snowboarding is yours, and it is up to you to create your own vision within it.