Hey Ryan! It’s a huge honor for us to be working with you! How did you get involved with Karakoram?
This is the most insane opportunity so please excuse me while I go cry and jump for joy in the bathroom….
… ok thanks. I was first introduced to the Karakoram bros back at Winter OR in 2012 through Jones Snowboards. We hung out at the booth and just chatted for a while sharing stories and experiences and I guess it all spawned from there.
You were recently on Denali with Jeremy. How did the SL bindings work out for you?
I couldn’t have been better off man. The SL’s were solid. I only had a day or two to really get the mechanics of how they work down and like anyone else, I was nervous going into it with product I hardly worked with before. To my surprise, it was extremely easy to use and the change-over was crazy fast. For the ride down, they handled like my resort binders, but better. It’s insane how far ahead these are to everything else.
In an industry where 98% of all snowboarding products are manufactured overseas (China) by non-shredders, what do you feel is the holistic impact of having a local Washington supply base, and riding bindings that are hand built in the USA by snowboarders with passion?
You just said it man, passion. It’s the difference between moms soul food and fast food. One’s made with the purpose of money, the other comes from love.
We’ve recently prototyped a new splitboard binding that has constant, northerly aligned magnetic particles within the 7075 aluminum matrix. This causes the electrons within snow crystals to react with the binding, thus elevating the board 8 inches off of the snow surface with up to 900 pounds of dynamic loading force. Do you see a market for this product?
…So… I get to do some serious Marty McFly-ing?
Where’s the next big product evolution going to happen? Well, where does it “need” to happen?
Definitely in the boots department. Where will it happen? Probably not in the boot department.
How has splitboarding evolved your snowboarding as a whole?
Splitboarding has given me a way to both explore and evolve as both a human being and a snowboarder. I have surprised myself every time I go out with how much stronger of a rider I become each day. It has given me a way to live an active and healthy life while learning to appreciate and respect my environment by not abusing the power of machinery to get me where I need to go. I just hope it doesn’t become too popular you know.
You came into snowboarding in a very unique way, and seem to have alien-like cliff stomping capabilities (even on hard, iced-out landings!). What for you has been the biggest influence on your riding?
Haha alien-like. Like most people would say, skateboarding was and is my first love. I grew up in neighborhoods where even the Tony Hawk foundation wouldn’t dare to build a skate park. My only option was breaking into schools on weekends and summer break. All I had to skate were stairs and ledges. I guess I could say my love for the concrete jungle transfers over to the natural terrain of big mountain. Dropping stairs is really no different than dropping cliffs.
Where do you see your riding progressing? How can you become stronger?
There is so much I want to accomplish in so little time. I just have to wait and see how things play out for me. I love what I do and it allows me to stay in love with myself, with my trade, and with nature. The only way to be stronger is to continue to exercise that muscle. I feel like I’ve done really well when put in situations I’m not familiar with, I’d like to stop that pattern and educate myself before-hand. The way I see it, the only way I can be stronger now is to become smarter while exposing myself to unknowns.
Speaking of risk management, we recently lost 5 friends in a slide at Loveland Pass, in Colorado. These friends were industry and mountain professionals themselves. What do you think is the most important factor in making sure you come home?
First off it seems every year I lose someone either close or connected to me. I say that with a heavy heart. I won’t go down the list of friends we’ve lost because we all know how long that is. Sometimes there are factors you just cannot control. This is what feared me the most on Denali recently. All it takes is a simple slip, trip, or fumbled clip/unclip. I will simply quote Jeremy in saying “You gotta go with your gut instinct. If even for a millisecond it doesn’t feel right then you pull the plug no matter what.” –or something along those lines. Do the best you can and strive to “live to ride another day”.
Let’s go back to your Denali experience. How did that place impact you?
Whoa. Unreal. I felt like I was the only one feeling the energy resonating from that mountain. The immense power it holds is overwhelming-it’s insane.
Any special thoughts on those huge, bottomless crevasses?
Nearly pooped my pants. On the final day as we skinned across the Kahiltna back to base camp we had to cross nearly 10-15 of them. The first leg of this push some of the splitboarders decided to one-foot cause here we thought it’d be just a skate…N.F.W… We come up on the first couple and one is about 4 ft wide. I couldn’t just step over it like the others and somehow found myself directly over and staring down into this gaping black abyss. One foot was on one side and another foot on the other side with no momentum to clear it. I had to just trust that if I fell in the guys on the rope line would catch and pull me out. Still, with the safety of the rope, I was nearly pooping my pants. Luckily I just took a deep breath and made the hop with my back foot. Simple skate? Psh…
What did it feel like to ride at such a high altitude? Were you struggling, or did your preparation for the trip pay off?
Honestly I felt great. I felt better than I ever thought I would have. It was as much a shock to me as it was to the next person who’d imagine I’d be struggling with no mountaineering experience. The riding was awesome slush and chunder, I rode a line from 17k ft to 14k ft within my first day or so ever being that high and felt no effects of altitude that day nor the entire trip. I was really grateful to have good health and I owe my whole trip to it.
Exploration is an interesting thing. On one hand, we can remain comfortable in our domestic lives, and live with relative confidence that nothing bad is going to happen. On the other hand, we can go and do things like climb huge, remote mountains, and push ourselves to the absolute physical limit, and potentially put ourselves in harm’s way. What does it all mean to you?
I lived in a domestic environment where I feared that every day bad things were about to happen-and it was a very high percentage of coming true. So I feel that I am now on the opposite side of that spectrum. Even though I fear the unknown of the mountains, when I am there, snowboarding, and surrounded in this community, I feel safer than I have in my entire life.
Before you left for Alaska, I had a chance to catch up with your expedition and Jones Snowboards teammate, Ralph Backstrom (he’s so hot right now). Before you guys departed, he mentioned a pre-Winter Olympics celebration. The idea is to use sled dogs and haul a bunch of Olympic Power Lifting equipment into the Olympic Mountains of Washington, and film a documentary. Is this way too over the top? Do you have any interest in power lifting?
Uhh… yes and yes. I would follow Ralph to the ends of the Earth. The guy knows what he’s doing at all times. You can never go wrong with his ideas. He will always have my vote. Plus, have you seen those legs?!
Any adventuristic stuff you want to add?
There was a chant I was repeating to myself while climbing Denali that I have not mentioned to anyone else. Something That just popped into my head, spur of the moment. It went off of a phrase that Conrad had mentioned applying to someone struggling to keep moving, he would say “You’ve got your balls in the mud”. I didn’t want my balls in the mud. Very much so, I found myself chanting under each breath: “There is no mud. There is only Passion. There is only Purpose. There is only Perseverance. There is only Motivation. There is only Determination. There is only Dedication. There is only Drive.” This chant, I now choose to carry over to everyday life. In hopes it can allow me to overcome any trail or tribulation.