In November 2005 I left my job at Snowboarder Magazine, hopped a plane in Southern California and landed in Burlington, Vermont where Burton Snowboards presented me with a desk, an insanely talented team of women to manage and my ticket to explore the world. I set off on an "Almost Famous" style journey with the Burton women's snowboard team. It was a tour that lasted almost seven years.
"It's always snowing somewhere," Burton's 2008 movie title declares. And indeed it was. We traveled to Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Finland, France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, Wyoming, and Utah. You name the place -- chances are I stood there in snowboard boots, behind the scenes, with a camera in hand.
I accumulated 500,000 lifetime United miles when all was said and done. Sometimes I flew alone. Other times I flew with members of the global snowboard community. Wherever we showed up we were shown a good time. From bungee jumping and jet boats in New Zealand to getting the inside scoop on snowboard spots and powder pillows in Japan, there was an adventure to be had and a good local meal to be enjoyed.
The Burton women's team is unique. It isn't your typical sports team, but more like a band where each individual brings their own special skillset and flare to the table. It's a fleet of different personalities and nationalities that shares snowboarding as a common thread. Heads turn when this crew shows up at a new place together.
The Transworld Snowboarding Team Shootout in 2009 showcased just this. In a clever deviation from the "each team must have one female rider" clause, Burton sent Natasza Zurek, Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter, Gabi Viteri and Spencer O'Brien. Snowmass created a multi-purpose feature for the night shoot. I handed each rider a bright, solid-colored outfit and encouraged them to keep riding until the crew was satisfied with their shots at 2 a.m.
I'm pretty sure they wanted to kill me a few times that night, but we got through it! In the end, we didn't win, but a compelling feature was created in Transworld Snowboarding Magazine. Kelly and Gabi also secured the cover of Pleasure magazine in Europe with a doubles photo where Kelly aired over Gabi's slash and snow spray.
The majority of snowboard fans don't see the blood, sweat and tears these women put into getting the shot, filming a video part, winning a contest or trying to win a contest. But it's those quiet moments in between that it becomes clear what a true lifestyle job this is.
Riders I grew up admiring became co-workers and friends. It was a family style situation. You become close with people when you're traveling together in the name of snow and are away from family and friends who don't live and breathe snowboarding. You find yourself walking out of a karaoke bar in Tokyo at six in the morning, losing track of time and laughing as the sun rises about how special this life is. At least I did.
Powder trips to Baldface, B.C. and Niseko, Japan were decadent. Riding on the back of a sled the legendary Victoria Jealouse once ripped up a mountain in the backcountry of Termas de Chillan was pretty memorable too. That said, most of my time was spent supporting team riders at global events like X Games, the Olympics, Dew Tour, U.S. Open, Nippon Open, Burton European Open, and Grand Prix events.
I got to see Kelly Clark's 16 contest winning streak and history-making 1080 at X Games first-hand. I had the honor of driving Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter to the X Games superpipe final that night, Hannah in the backseat with her headphones on, Kelly riding shotgun eyeing the pipe and smiling as she said, "I'm into it."
This past X Games I spent 16 hours in my snowboard boots. Women's slopestyle and superpipe were the same day. Enni Rukajarvi took second in slope, Kelly won superpipe while Hannah took third, and by the time the press conference and interviews were over, we only had an hour to head back to the condo to get ready and make it in time to Hannah's 25th birthday party. The next morning we were on a plane to Calgary for another contest.
Waking riders up for early flights and making sure the crew was on time for autograph signings, premieres and parties on multi-city movie tours was part of the job description. But I also had the pleasure of watching Victoria Jealouse and Terje Haakonsen ride the legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom with finesse and ease.
I saw Danny Davis, Kevin Pearce, Jack Mitrani and Mikkel Bang grow from teenagers into men. I felt the pride of a parent must as Elena Hight, Spencer O'Brien and Enni Rukajarvi all took home Rookie of the Year awards. I was inspired by Natasza Zurek filming consistent solid video parts, rounding out an impressive career in the mountains that started with success in halfpipe and slopestyle. I was there to witness Kimmy Fasani's departure and return to Burton, riding with fire, intention and passion. And most impressively, I witnessed Kevin Pearce's amazing comeback to snowboarding.
It was not your typical 8 - 5 job, but one that overlapped into every facet of life. "Have As Much Fun As Possible," was Burton's mantra. That I did, all over the world. Thanks Jake, Donna and all the incredible riders who are now my extended family around the world.