The lakeside city of Burlington, Vermont holds a grip of legendary spots among its hilly topography, ledges and stairsets that have been featured in so countless movies over the past couple of decades. While the New England city has always been a destination, its the locals who truly know where and how to take full advantage of the area’s lake-effect snow. And if you’re talking Burlington boarders, the conversation starts with Spotheads, a scrappy and stylish crew that has been lighting up the Northeast the past few years, ticking off street spots in New England, Eastern Canada, and beyond for their annual video offerings. At the helm of the crew is Joey Leon. Joey grew up in Connecticut and honed his snowboarding on the trails of Killington, riding with his family–including his sister, Maggie–sharpening his ever-evolving bag of tricks, and becoming a staple in the Darkside community. After high school, he moved to Burlington full-time to attend the University of Vermont, balancing studying with shoveling, and teaching himself how to film and edit on the side. The culmination of his winters lately have been putting in time both in front of and behind the lens–riding with fellow Spotheads Zeb Powell, George McKeever-Parkes, Jake Fournier, Maggie, as well as friends like Max Lyons, Miles Fallon, Sawyer Deen, and more. Joey possesses a unique perspective when it comes to spots, slapping his personal brand of creativity on any metal/cement/wood/etc. that lies in front of him. This spills over into his editing, too, in which his originality and attention to detail is part and parcel of not only each of Spotsheads’ videos, but of the whole mentality of the crew. In addition to being a ripping boarder, Joey has always got a smile on his face and he’s quick to share his excitement with everyone around him. This spring, he graduated from UVM with a bachelor’s in education, meaning that in addition to putting on a clinic whenever he’s in the streets, he’ll be teaching lessons in the classroom, too. Earlier this summer, Joey dropped his raw files from Spotheads 2, so we checked in with the Rome team rider on how his summer went as we get closer to the season. – Mary T. Walsh
How’s your summer been? What have you been doing?
Yooo! My summer has been goin’ super well, thanks for asking! I’ve mostly just been working, skating, and swimming in the Burlington area, and getting in some weekend trips around the East Coast. Feels good to get out of Vermont sometimes and go see some old friends in Connecticut and explore all the other cool things that the East Coast has to offer. We also built a couple quarterpipes and some other stuff at a DIY which has been a super cool experience and I would definitely like to do more of that in the future. I have also just been trying to learn as much about snowboarding through the Bombhole and Air Time podcast which has definitely helped me get through the summer!
You just got in some fridge boarding at Slush’s Game of SNOW, how was that?
The game of SNOW in Jersey was insane! It was definitely one of the highlights of my summer and in my life in general. It’s wild to see all the people I have idolized for so long in person and I was pretty starstruck the whole time and had to bite my tongue to not fan out too hard, haha. Everyone was so nice, though, and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of them and let ’em know how much I appreciate what they have done for snowboarding. Who would have thought I would get to ride the lift with Jeremy Jones in the summer in New Jersey, while simultaneously watching Mike Liddle switch nosepress a down-flat-down. It was so wild. It was also super sick to get to see a bunch of my homies who I hadn’t seen in a while all there and take some laps with them and catch up. It was such a fucking fun weekend.
Had you been to Big SNOW before?
I’ve been to Big SNOW a bunch of times throughout the past couple years and every time we go, it is always so much fun. The scene there is so good, it’s insane. I’ve watched locals who picked up snowboarding only a couple years ago and are now just ripping there every day, doing proper frontboards and always learning new things. Super cool to see that this place has actually sparked a passion in so many different people and the rate they are all progressing at is mindblowing. Riding with people like that is unbeatable because they are so stoked on everything snowboarding has to offer and it always gasses me up when I’m there hiking and riding with them.
Did you eat any pizza while you were in New Jersey, and if so, how was it?
To be completely honest with you, I’m too loyal to White Castle. I’d say we eat almost every meal there when we head to Big SNOW. It’s pretty much only available in New Jersey, so we take advantage of that place when we can. If you got ten dollars, then you’re rich as hell at White Castle.
Go-to pizza spot in Burlington?
I’d say the go-to pizza spot in Burlington would have to be Mr. Mikes. Their pizzas are $3.50 a slice and they’re pretty much the size of your head. It’s tight.
Earlier this summer you dropped your raw clips from Spotheads 2. What was the biggest battle you had at a spot last winter?
This question is actually pretty funny because the biggest battle I’d say I had was that fifty-hop-fifty front three, but it wasn’t really the trick that was messing with me. Earlier that week, we saw that Boston was getting a storm so we were like, “Ah shit, we gotta go.” I had classes on Tuesday and Thursday, so we had to send it down Thursday night and be back Monday night. Before we left though, I knew I had this super weird infection on my thighs that turned out to be scabies, but I didn’t have enough time to go to the walk-in clinic before the trip, so I just sent it down with my legs feeling like they were on fire. We stayed at this hotel that had continental breakfast, but since it was at the peak of COVID, all the food was in a little baggie that they would let you take in the mornings, but all the bags had in them were bagels, cereal, and yogurt. I’m lactose intolerent, but I’m pretty cheap, so I was just like, “Fuck it. I’ll run the cereal, it’ll be fine.” We get to that spot after breakfast and I’m super down to hit it, but my stomach’s feeling like a cinder block from the cereal and my legs are burning so fucking bad I could barely walk. I started trying it, but every time I landed I thought I was gonna puke because my stomach hurt so bad and then walking back up was honestly so much worse because of how horribly itchy and irritated my legs were. I eventually landed it, but it wasn’t really how I wanted it. But, I was just happy to have survived the horrible battle, hahaha. I don’t even think I rode the next couple of days because the scabies just got so much worse that I couldn’t even move from wherever I was filming because of how bad this shit was. After getting back to Burlington, I stopped procrastinating going to the doctor, fixed the scabies, and the rest of the season was so much more enjoyable from there on out.
Best and worst things about filming on the East Coast?
I’d say the best thing about filming on the East Coast, and specifically in Burlington, is that we have so many spots and zones within a three-hour drive of us. If they get snow down south, then we have Massachusetts and Connecticut. Maine is untapped for us, but I know there are a ton of spots up there. New Hampshire and New York are flooded with spots. And then there is also Canada, which is only two hours to a ton of snow and spots. I’d say the only downside to the East Coast is that the snow is not always here, but that’s not a huge deal because you can find it if you look and you can always just pull from snowbanks. Honestly, I can’t think of anything bad about filming on the East Coast.
What’s the first spot you ever hit in Burlington?
I think the first spot I ever hit in Burlington was probably the down-flat-down ledge by the water. It’s pretty famous from back in the day and I think it was first discovered when JP and Jeremy rolled through to Burlington in the late 90s, I believe. I know someone boardslid it back in the day, I wanna say it was Jeremy Jones but it might have been Jeff Anderson. Either way it was super cool first moving to Burlington and seeing these iconic spots. Then we did a bunch of filming over at Burlington High School, which was wild because I remember first rolling up there and being like, “Oh shit, this is that spot!” The first clip that came to mind when we got there was MFR’s ender when she went gap front two, and then I started remembering the clips of LNP on it, too, and JP’s switch back two to the down. Felt like a dream finally seeing that place!
You and Maggie film together and collaborate so well. You’ve been riding together, of course, since you were very young–how is it getting to snowboard and film with your sister as adults?
It is so awesome getting to ride and film with Maggie to this day. We have spent so much time doing it together growing up that it is definitely a blessing being able to live in the same city and hang out on a daily basis. It’s funny to think of the word “adults” because we definitely don’t feel like adults most of the time! I think that the lack of feeling like an adult comes from the friendships that surround us. Maggie and I joined the Killington Mountain School weekend program when we were 11, which is where we met Jake and George, who also live in Burlington, and we all fell in love with filming and snowboarding together. They have all remained my best friends since then, so I don’t think I’ll ever grow up, at least I know we are gonna try not to!
Tell us about balancing riding in and making a movie, editing it, etc. What are both sides of that like for you?
I’m honestly not really sure how I ended up becoming so passionate about filming and editing. I guess it came from being the one to buy the first HVX! I definitely consider myself to be a rider more than a filmer and editor, but in reality, I am just as excited about filming and editing. It’s kind of one of those things that’s hard to put into words because I care so much about how everything looks when I am the one filming, but as far as my shots go, I am just grateful to have my best friends there to film and support me while I ride. My homies are great filmers, too though, so when they say they blew the shot they are usually just being harsh on themselves. Special shout out to IV, who has been filming a ton of our stuff over the past couple years. Whenever he is there I know the shot is always going to be perfect in how we both envision it! When it comes to editing, I just try to have as much fun with it as possible. Although I primarily do most of the editing, I definitely get a ton of songs from IV or anyone else in the crew and then try to edit and get the advice from everyone as the movie is coming together. This is something I have been trying to work on though, leaning on everyone else a bit more to make sure that all the voices have been heard and everyone’s down with what we put out. At the end of the day, we just remember to try not to take it too seriously, because that’s when editing gets frustrating and is less fun, which usually results in content we are less excited about. The feeling of editing something that you are proud of, though, is honestly more rewarding than landing a clip because you know that same feeling will be there the next time you go back and watch it.
What other videos filmers, etc. influence you and the way you go about riding in and making a movie?
I’d say overall the biggest influences on me have been Videograss, Keep the Change, GBP, Dope, Rome movies, and the Forum movies. These are the movies I grew up watching and they have definitely shaped my whole life, but as I get older I have been going back and watching more Mack Dawg and FODT now that I have a new appreciation for them. I love watching snowboarding so much that I want to learn as much as possible and take this knowledge that I’ve learned and try to add special moments into our videos. I’d definitely say, though, from a riding standpoint, the riders who have had the biggest impact on me have been Layne Treeter, Jake OE, Danimals, Tyler Lynch, Lucas Magoon, and Jess Kimura. There are definitely so many more people than that, but those are the ones that first came to mind!
If someone is coming to Burlington for the first time and it’s winter, what are three things they should make sure to do/see while they’re there?
I’d say the first thing you should check out if you just moved to Burlington would be Sugarbush Parks because those dudes kill it so hard and the park is unlike anywhere else. It’s so fucking sick–thank you, guys. The next thing I would say to check out would be all the skateparks nearby. There are so many and they are all so different and weird–each place has its own flavor. The third place I’d say to check out would be Darkside. It’s in Killington, which is an hour-and-a-half from Burlington, but it is well worth the commute. They have so much history within the shop that it’s basically a museum, and you can also go hike the rails outside in Darkpark. Shout out Killington Parks, too, because I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for Rosey and the rest of the crew at Killington.
What is the plan heading into this winter? Will there be a Spotheads 3?
The plan heading into this winter is to basically continue to do the same thing we do every year! Just try to travel and film as much as possible. I think we’ll be hopping in on the Goon Tour, so I am super fucking excited for that. Shout out Goon Gear! I am super hyped because I just graduated from UVM this past year, so it’ll be my first winter truly having a free schedule. We have another movie dropping this fall, but it’s not actually going to be called Spotheads 3. There will definitely be a Spotheads 3, but we want to hold that name until we can get everyone a part who was in the first two, while also having more parts from other people as well!