Above photo by Erin Hogue
Professional Snowboarder, Cinematographer, Movie producer, Business Owner, Coach, X Games Gold Winner, countless video parts, pages upon pages of editorial coverage, surfer, skater, bike rider and recently Snowboard guide, Kevin Sansalone has done it all over the space of his 20+ year career and he is still going.
Interviewed by Chad Perrin:
During his many successes I had the distinct pleasure of being right there with Kevin for 9 years of those successes as I was his Team Manager during the Option Snowboards days. To say the least Kevin had a positive impact on me as a person, but not just me, he had and continues to have a positive impact on many people around the world. You will not find a more humble human being than Kevin Sansalone, whom is what I consider one of snowboarding’s best ambassadors. His love for people, drive to continue to progress in his career goals and have as much fun as possible is an inspiration to many. He has one of the best Switch BS 5’s still to this day, Sansalone is not hanging it up anytime soon, he is and will remain a staple in snowboarding’s history.
So Kev, you have been really busy over the past decade, give our readers a little update on what you are doing these days?
I always have my hands in a few pots juggling and crazy busy but it’s all super fun stuff. Our helmet & goggle brand Sandbox is growing really which is awesome. My Whitegold snowboards are in stores for their third season this fall so I’m excited to see those hit the shelves and get onto some people’s feet this winter. However, the most exciting thing for me right now is getting the chance to tail-guide at Baldface Lodge in Nelson BC. I’ve been going there for about 4 years now and then last season the owner Jeff Pensiero invited me to guides training and gave me a chance to work as a tail-guide. I was the rookie gunner last year and still have so much to learn but I think I did okay and I got the call to come back again for this season so I’m very stoked.
A lot of people do not know about your project Whitegold how did WG come into fruition?
I rode for Option Snowboards out of Vancouver BC for about 10 years and we made some amazing boards in our own local factory. I learned a little bit about board design and developed a passion for building boards. So when Option was about to go under I left the sinking ship (god rest her soul) as I didn’t want to go try and find a new sponsor cause I was getting older and wasn’t competing or filming too much so I just wanted to make some good quality, high end boards for myself. I connected with a factory in Austria with a close friend of mine and we made some beautiful boards and I just sold them out of my garage in Whistler. I live in the neighborhood of White Gold so I just decided to call the boards Whitegold. Has a fun connotation to the white gold we all love; snow
You just recently started splitboarding and now you are a guide at Baldface, how has that evolved your love for Splitboarding, and what led you to becoming a guide?
Yeah, I’m definitely a late bloomer with splitboarding. Most of my backcountry experience has been either hiking in the early days up Mount Seymour in North Vancouver or Snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountry. So splitboarding has been a really fun new adventure for me. It so different than sledding and cruising around the boundaries of Whistler/Blackcomb is so easy and you can access so much terrain. Sledding is such a big mission with the trailers and loading the sleds, gas, trail fees etc… its awesome but it’s a big day. Where with the splitboard you can rip a bunch of amazing laps off the resort quite easily. That’s the difference for me anyway and make splitting different and pretty damn fun.
The guiding thing started for me back when Craig Kelly made the switch out of competition and into more backcountry riding and his owning route into guiding. I was a young shredder and was just finishing my early phase of pro snowboarding for Santa Cruz Snowboards. I left those guys because the brand was changing and going super euro and it just wasn’t my thing. So I said forget the pro thing I’m going to guide like Craig. I started getting certified with my Level 1 Ops and Wilderness First-Aid courses and was on my way haha. But weirdly enough one day I was riding Mount Seymour and learned a new trick, Switch Backside Rodeo. And somehow snuck my way into the Westbeach Classic and landed that trick and won. That got me into the X-Games where I did that same trick again and won gold there it was crazy. So pro snowboarding started up again and I put the guiding thing on hold for about 10 years. So then I’m hanging out up at Baldface about twice a year and asked the owner “how can be up here without blowing all my savings?” and he invited me to guides training and I somehow got on the schedule for tail-guiding. So thankful to everyone up there and for the opportunity, it feels like a family up there now.
For guiding, we are mostly riding split boards because if we ever need to go up-slope or cover some serious ground traversing we need to be able to get into tour mode quickly and start moving. It’s so important to have good split gear as a guide because for one you need to be able to switch up quickly and have solid gear when people are relying on you and also because you’re riding in the gear all day long with a huge pack so you want a board and bindings that feel good.
How has splitboarding changed your perspective on snowboarding and the mountains?
It just slows everything down for me compared to sledding. You’re also actually on the snow a lot more so you feel the snow under your feet more and feel it changing and get a better sense of the conditions.
How do you see splitboarding evolve from here? From a guide’s standpoint and a professional rider’s standpoint?
The gear just needs to be bomber and comfortable for guides. Like I said, you can’t have parts breaking on you while you’re out there guiding people. If you get into a scenario and something breaks that’s no good. Comfort and performance are huge, you want to enjoy your time in the mountains and your board and bindings need to feel good and allow you to rip all that good snow… and if conditions suck like it’s icy or cruddy it’s even more critical that your equipment is solid and feels good.
You have had numerous pro models, so you are very familiar with board design. How do you approach board design from a rider’s perspective?
I ride the whole mountain really I still love riding park, rails and of course backcountry freeriding and pow so my boards are All-Mountain Freestyle boards. Some shorter and softer maybe for park or summer camp riding but generally the same style boards for most everything I ride. I enjoy some funky shaped pow boards from time to time it’s fun to go out on really deep days on something funky and see how it rides.
As one of Canada’s most notable professional snowboarders, you must have a few points in your career that your are pretty stoked on, share with us a couple or a few of those moments or stories:
Growing up on Mount Seymour and being a part of those early days of riding and filming for the early videos was a really great time in snowboarding. We had no clue of any financial rewards or Olympic hopes it was really purely for the fun and adventure back then. The X-Games ride was pretty fun with all the competitions and seeing all the guys around the world and hooking up with them at different resorts and all the parties were crazy fun. And now the guiding thing hangin’ out at Baldface that place has some serious history and a super cool vibe.
What is in store for the future ahead with your career?
Well I’d definitely like to keep learning more about guiding and backcountry safety so I’ll keep getting certs and trying to learn more. We’re growing Sandbox right now so that takes a lot of my time and energy but it’s cool to see how it’s evolving as a brand. The boards are my passion project and I want to continue to develop Whitegold but keeping it small and niche has always been the vision with the boards. We’re also spending a lot of time on Vancouver Island in Tofino so learning a lot about surf and the water out here has been fun and a great balance for me between the mountains and the ocean.