Tapping the Source: An Interview with Jake Blauvelt

TO MANY, Jake Blauvelt is one of the greatest snowboarders of his generation. To a handful of others, Jake Blauvelt is so much more than that. He’s an adoring husband and a doting father. A son. An uncle to a rising star. But above all, Jake Blauvelt is a kind and amazing human being. As an up-and-comer on Forum, Blauvelt skyrocketed his career with numerous unforgettable video parts and soon after, Jake decided that his approach to snowboarding would be on his own terms. He switched board sponsors, signed with Ride, and took his own path to riding. Now, a veteran in the backcountry snowboarding world, Jake’s got three kids, a beautiful home in Vermont, and a new outlook on what professional snowboarding is to him. I got the chance to catch up with Jake over the summer and we chatted all about what’s new in his arena and what’s to come in the future. – T. Bird

p: Colin Wiseman

It’s as cliché as it gets, but I can’t get enough of it. Describe the typical summer routine of Mr. Jake Blauvelt.
We’re posted up in Vermont for the summer. The last couple summers, it’s just wrangling the kids, trying to make up for a little bit of lost ground from the wintertime grind, have a lot of fun with them and support them anyway I can. And trying to stay in shape, as well. I don’t really do too much gym time in the summer, that’s more for gearing up toward the winter, but just being active, hiking, biking, and lots of time by the pond with the kids. I really just try to just stock up all the family time I can get before winter gets more hectic.

We’re also trying to grow as much food as we can, but lately with the kids, it’s hard to dedicate as much time as we need to grow proper food. We get out the stuff we really need, like lettuce and tomatoes, but we had to pump the brakes on the fun stuff that takes more time with the veggie garden. We’ll get around to it when the kids are a little more self-sufficient, you know how it goes.

p: Mike Basher

How would you describe Vermont in the summertime to someone who’s never been?
It’s beautiful. It’s a jungle out here. Once the leaves pop, and it’s so green and lush. It does get hot and super humid, but overall, it’s a really beautiful time in Vermont. Actually, the county next to us, Lamoille County, is the safest climate county in the nation. So, as far as climate change and all that’s concerned, we are pretty much in the safest spot in the US after they run all their numbers. It’s just beautiful here.

If you could go back in time and give 18-year-old Jake Blauvelt one piece of advice, what would it be?
Let’s see. I’d say, “Man, just make the best of your free time before kids.” And I feel like I did. I mean, time management gets so much better when you do have kids, but I would just tell myself to live it to the fullest, enjoy being free and being able to pack up on a whim and go to Japan or whatever. Just enjoy that because it’s not forever.

I like asking that question, because I read an interview way back in the day with the late great Kobe Bryant and someone asked that question, and he thinks about it for a second and he goes, “I’d tell him to stretch.”
Right. Also, I think I would say, “Definitely work hard, but also don’t think that you’re too young to do anything.” When you’re in your twenties, you think, I’m too young. I’ll do it when I’m a little older. Don’t ever make that your excuse, because before you know it, you’ll be too old. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t ever let your youth be an excuse for not doing it.

p: Colin Wiseman

Looking back on your career and your decision to change your path in snowboarding, are you proud of how all that’s panned out?
I think I am. I’m proud because I still really feel passionate about snowboarding and where I’m at with snowboarding. If I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons, I’d just be burnt out; I wouldn’t have the fire within. I’m glad that I was able to stay true to myself and keep doing what makes me happy. I think it has given me a lot more longevity within my career. I’m happy how it’s panned out so far.

I personally think it’s made your snowboarding speak to more people. That’s my take on it. Not that it didn’t before, but the average person, they don’t look at a backcountry jump shot and think to themselves, Where did that jump come from? They don’t appreciate the effort, a lot of times, that goes into what that takes, but they marvel in the beauty of looking at a line top-to-bottom down a mountain with a little gap coming from where you aired, right?
I agree. It’s a little more relatable. People can almost see themselves doing some of that stuff because oftentimes I’m just turning or cranking a method, and a lot of people can do that. I appreciate that, man. Thank you.

How has having family and children changed your outlook on life and how you view the world?
It’s changed my thought process: Am I doing things for the right reason? It all comes back to being able to support my family and be there for them. Before having a family, I’d snowboard for myself, and I still do, but really, now it’s for them. It’s a means for me to have fun and be passionate, but also to pay my bills. And I have to make sure that I have good plans for when I can’t snowboard—how am I going to be able to support them? I feel more responsible and that has changed my thought process. Everything I do is for my family.

p: Mike Basher

Before children, you’re almost looking through a microscope, like whatever’s on the table is what you’re looking at. After kids, it’s like looking at the world from 30,000 feet out of an airplane window. It pulls you back and makes you realize, Oh my god, I’m not just living in this tiny, insular box. I’m living on a planet that I have to leave to this kid, and I have to leave him some money and a legacy. It becomes a little more stressful at times, but it’s the best thing ever. It’s no longer about you. It’s about us. My wife, Kristin, and I often joke that if you’re hot or itchy or something, you don’t care because all that matters is that the kids are okay.

Totally. You got them shredding yet? Which of the kiddos are making some turns?
Nella and Amelia are the two girls. They’re four and two. Amelia’s going to be three coming up. We’ve got them at the hill and they’re shredding. We bring them up to Bolton. It’s a great family mountain. It’s just as much about the hot chocolate, pizza, and all that up there. They’re stoked. You really have to choose your weather and your day accordingly, though; you don’t want to bring them up when it’s super cold or whatnot. I wish we had more days, but the days we do get are really good. I’m stoked to get Bodie up eventually, but he’s not even a year old yet, so we probably won’t get him up this coming winter, but next winter. We’ll all be shredding as a family in a couple years. I’m stoked.

You guys are going to be like Vermont snowboard royalty by the time those kids are in high school.
We’re going to have our own shred team.

When your kids are older, do you think you are going to show them your video parts or are you just going to let them find them?
It’s funny. We’ve shown them some of my video parts, especially Nella, and she can start to kind of grasp and see like, “Woah, Daddy, you’re good at snowboarding, huh?” But I’ve been scheming to do a project this coming winter. I haven’t done a legit project since pre-pandemic. Ever since the pandemic hit, it was really tough for me to commit to anything because I was scared about getting the family sick and traveling was weird. I don’t even know where the pandemic’s at really, but I do feel like it’s behind us for the most part, so I can feel good about moving forward. This might be one of my last actual projects, so I’m excited to put forth full effort and to try and do a legit project like I haven’t done in years. I want to incorporate a lot of my life as a father and husband. I’m pretty excited. If we can pull it off, I think it’ll be cool to eventually show my kids this. That’s a major goal, to be able to say, “Check it out. This is one of the last projects before I wasn’t able to really do it anymore. I hope you guys like it.” And maybe they’ll still think I’m cool.

That’s some legacy shit.
It’ll be cool. I hope so.

p: Chris Wellhausen

One thing I really admire about riders like yourself, Pat Moore, and others, is that you are coming up with your own events and bringing them to areas that really mean a lot to your career, your heart, and your life. You have done that with Blauvelt’s Banks. What was your motivation and thought process when you brought that to Bolton?
That’s a good question. We’ve had two years now with Blauvelt’s Banks. Our first year was 2020, and then we took a year off for the pandemic and had our second race last year. Going into the first year, my main motivation was that I’ve always had so much fun at any banked slalom I’ve ever been to, but the two in particular that stand out are the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom and the Rat Race with Drink Water up at Hood. Banked slaloms always bring out the best in the shred community because there’s no debate on who won or who lost. It’s not a style thing. It’s just straight time and it brings out that competitive nature within everybody, which is really fun.

Overall, everyone is always so stoked when they’re at these events. I wanted to bring that to my Northern Vermont/East Coast community at a mountain that’s really special to me, Bolton Valley, where I learned how to ride in the after-school program. So it was really just to bring everyone together and have a super good time. Then at the same time, I wanted to raise money for a really legit cause. The first year we donated to Protect Our Winters, and then this past season, and for every winter until we see it through, we’re donating to Waterbury Vermont Skatepark Project. We’re hoping to raise enough money to be able to build a concrete skate park in Waterbury, Vermont. Out West, concrete parks are everywhere, but on the East Coast, especially in Northern Vermont, there are very few of them. Burlington has one, the A Dog Park. I grew up in Waterbury and we never had a skatepark. We got kicked out of everywhere we went. So to be able to bring the community together and raise money for an awesome cause for future generations, it’s a win-win. I just wanted to be able to use my platform and the support from all the brands that I work with to do something better for our community.

Blauvelt’s Banks 2022. p: Peter Cirilli

That’s amazing. Do you compete in the race, too?
I did not the first year and I got a lot of shit for it. I’m kind of damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If I win it, it’s because I’ve obviously had the most course prep and all that. But if I lose, then it’s like, “Well, what the fuck, why didn’t you win? You’re pro and you had all the course inspection and all that.” So anyway, I raced last year. Last year was gnarly. The two weeks leading up to the event and the two weeks after the event were perfect days to have a snowboard race, but the day of the event was the gnarliest blizzard. We only ended up doing one run. We had to cancel the second runs because the wind was lifting all the tents up. The weather made everything more chaotic, but luckily everyone was so supportive. People kept on coming up to me and thanking me for putting on the event, and I was like, “Thank you guys for not complaining that you don’t get a second run.” It was all really good vibes. It was unfortunate with the weather, but that’s how it goes.

That’s incredible.
We also have a snowskate division, which is pretty cool. I’ve never seen a banked slalom event with a snowskate division and it’s cool because Bolton allows them. I was thinking for next year, I might not race in the snowboard division, but I’ll race in the snowskate division.

Because you’re not a professional snowskater?
That will be a little more fair.

p: T. Bird

Tell us about Mason Lemery and your relation to the jumper.
Man, I could go on forever about Mase. I love that kid with all my heart. A lot of people think he’s my cousin, but he’s actually my nephew. I taught him how to snowboard. I’ve got pictures of him on his first chairlift, learning how to ride. I pretty much taught him everything he knew up until he moved out West, as far as snowboarding goes. He’s really impressed me lately. I knew he had it in him, he just had to get in with the right people. I’m so stoked because he’s always been so motivated. He’s always getting after it. I think it’s really started to pay off for him because he’s a powerhouse, really strong and physically fit. He’s got the raw natural talent, but I think overall, it’s his work ethic. He’s very passionate about snowboarding. He’ll get up early and go hike up some of the peaks around Bend without any of his buddies.

Overall, I think it either clicks or it doesn’t, and last winter it clicked for him where he learned how to put the landing gear down and he started stomping things that I’d never seen him stomp, riding out switch and just squaring up bolts on shit because he is so strong. I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg for him. I’m so proud of him because I think that he’s really going to blow people’s minds in the winters ahead.

He’s coming up in such an interesting era. Because for you, it was like, “Okay, I have to do the USASA halfpipe and then slopestyle.” And then you win the US Open. And then you get your chance to film a video part. Whereas he’s coming up through social media, so people are seeing his clips. They’re going viral and they get seen by some other pro snowboarder who’s like, “Oh, this kid’s legit.” So, he’s blowing up on social media. It’s interesting to see the difference in ascension, right?
Exactly. It is a totally different landscape to navigate as an up-and-coming shredder, but he’s doing it really well. He knows what he wants to do. He doesn’t want to compete and I don’t blame him. If you want to compete in slopestyle or halfpipe these days, it’s fucking heavy. You just have to be so, for lack of a better word, one-dimensional because it’s so hard to be well-rounded—be a competitor and a rail rider and a backcountry rider. To see that he wants to just be out in the mountains, riding powder and natural terrain, and building jumps is sick. And just the fact that everybody in the industry knows Mason now is sick.

And everybody loves him.
Everybody loves him because he’s such a good kid. I think that goes a long way. When you’re a prick, eventually the brands or people will figure it out. Mason’s just got all the right things going for him. I think he’s going to do great things.

Do you think he’s going to be part of your upcoming project?
He’s definitely going to be a big part. As of now, the project is pretty much going to be Mason and I, with some cameos from other people that we like riding with. Ride’s already fully backing everything. We want to be able to show some archival footage and photos of us from Vermont—him learning how to ride back here on the East Coast, me teaching him when he was just a little grom. And then throughout the years, how our relationship has grown and where we’re at now, almost the passing of the torch—not that I’m stepping out or anything, but my focus is a little different these days. There are also a couple other things that will be included. I’d like to document my family and where I’m at. With three young kids all four-and-under, it’s so heavy and I want to show the dynamic with family life and living a bi-coastal life as a snowboarder. I want to show how hectic it is and how much work it really is, as all of us parents know, but at the same time, how grateful and fortunate I am to be able to live this life. So, there’s that dynamic. Finally, I also want to show a lot of the board development I work on with Ride, because they have been so supportive with getting my pro model Berzerker out. I feel like it’s finally perfect. You got on that last winter and you loved it, right?

Dude, that’s the only board I’m riding.
It’s a good board and it took a long time and a lot of effort to get to that, so I want to be able to document the support that Ride has given me and show the testing process and everything that goes into it. Then there is also the Peace Seeker that we’re coming out with, which is a little more powder oriented, a little more directional. And finally, also what the future holds. I’m 36 and I always want snowboarding to be a part of my life and my family’s life, but what does that look like? Snowboarding isn’t everything that I am. We’re all so much more than just the things we do and I want to show that as well.

I’m fired up to have a project that I’m actually stoked on. Some years I almost felt like, Okay, what am I going to do this year? I have to do some kind of project. But now I feel like I’ve finally got a really solid goal and direction. Last winter I was able to spend a good chunk of time out at Baker with my family, which I haven’t been able to do since the kids were born. That really got me stoked to incorporate my family into my snowboard life and have everything coexist. It’s exciting.

Comments

Up Next

January 11, 2023

DC vs DC: A Look Back at an Interview with Ken Block in 2005

A look back at 2005, when skateboarding’s own gonzo journalist, Dave Carnie, sat down with Ken Block, the man...

December 30, 2022

“These glimmers of hope are so important, because it just shows that when you do care and when you do get involved, it can make a huge difference.”

Marie-France Roy talks Arbor's Legacy Forest, West Coast Triple Plank, Redd Fish Restoration Society, and more.

December 23, 2022

Built for Battle: The Ivika Jürgenson Interview

OCCUPYING A TINY BLIP IN THE BALTICS OF NORTHEASTERN EUROPE, Estonia isn’t exactly a hotbed for snowboard talent. Despite...

December 19, 2022

Back of House: Harmonee Johnson and Chloe Butel

words: Ally Watsonphotos: Mary T. Walsh The first time I did a park build with another woman was the...

December 16, 2022

From Koas to CORE: Erik Leon and His Core Collaboration with Arbor Snowboards

Last August, I headed to the Big Island of Hawaii with Erik Leon, Marie-France Roy, and a crew from...

December 14, 2022

Seasick – From the Quarterdeck: An Interview with Curtis Ciszek

“EVERY TIME I FISH WITH HIM, I CATCH MAD FISH. BUT ONE TIME I WAS GOING TO JET BOAT...

December 6, 2022

Time on Board: The Red Gerard Interview

"I lost roshambo so I had to hit it first. Terrifying."

November 29, 2022

Walking on Thin Ice: Rafael Pease on the Intersection of Snowboarding, Filmmaking, and Activism

It is with rising tides that conversations surrounding our climate crisis continue to gain popularity. The language of ecological...

November 15, 2022

Foyer Side Chat: Luke Lund and Salomon’s Latest Movie

Calling the youngest of the Foyer crew, Salomon’s Luke Lund, optimistic is an understatement. Come to think of it,...