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DANNY DAVIS / PIPE DREAMS  0%

Pipe
Dreams

Danny Davis was put on this earth to shred.


Interview by JEANINE PESCE

Produced by BRAD CLARKE & EVAN CARLSON

Photography by ADAM MORAN & BRANDON JOHANNS

“IF YOU WANT TO BE GREAT AT SOMETHING, LOVE IT AND DO IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. DON'T DO IT BECAUSE IT'S COOL, OR BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE YOU COOLER. DO IT BECAUSE YOU TRULY LOVE IT AND BECAUSE IT MAKEs YOU HAPPY AND DO IT A LOT.”


 Danny Davis is back on snow and is focused on being the best snowboarder he can be. He is concentrating on getting back to his center. He is not going to let anyone or anything stop him from fulfilling his destiny because his destiny has already been decided: Danny Davis was put on this earth to shred. He was sent here to write his own song. The next chapter is all about transcendence and self-discovery, it isn’t solely reliant on podiums and medals to secure success. It is about elevating his sport through creativity and building lasting relationships through conceptual collaborations. He is the hero, he is the poet, he is the visionary, he has the gift.

*** *** ***

Danny Davis set out on his journey the first time he ceremoniously strapped on a plastic snowboard from Kmart in the front yard of his childhood home. A hyper competitive kid growing up in the monotonous Detroit suburbs of Highland, Michigan, professional sports were never on his radar. He kept himself entertained, as most kids do, by fishing, playing pond hockey, tossing footballs, and hitting baseballs. When he accepted his call to enter the strange world of snowboarding, he faced many tasks and trials. His family was modest, he wasn’t from a rich mountain clan with a big alpine pedigree. The resort he grew up riding at was just a small mound of earth with 306 feet of vertical drop. He spent hours going up and down, riding switch, riding regular, listening to music, killing time. He was a purist of sorts, oblivious to the scene, unaware of the big brands that were shaping the snowboarding industry—he was just just doing his thing, riding high on raw, natural talent, and thinking about the next run, never dwelling on the last.

Like all heroes’ journeys, eventually a guide emerges. Through a rather strange string of events that involves a wedding and an engineer at General Motors, Danny’s “sponsor me” VHS tape lands in the hands of an influential person at a little Vermont brand called Burton. This chance encounter with a higher being would inadvertently set Danny on a trajectory toward becoming a professional snowboarder. This path would not be easy, but it would be very enlightening and filled with many rewarding opportunities.

Those years, those golden years of Danny’s career, would beat to the rhythm of a beautiful song.

Sponsors. Podiums. Accolades. Rookie of the Year. Travel. Rider of the Year. Frends. First place. Victory.

As the pace picked up, so did the stakes. But then the record scratched.

A fall from grace, an injury that almost ended his career. A reckless act of irresponsibility performed by a daredevil in Danny’s clothing. The hero must survive a severe challenge.

As the reality of the situation settles in, Danny realizes that this next leg of his journey will be the most difficult. He looks to his friends, family, and sponsors for support, and just like always, they are right there to raise him up. Danny’s limits are pushed both mentally and physically, but he takes each day in stride, every moment looking better than the last.

Get stronger, get smarter, be better, forgive yourself—these are his daily mantras. The hero will prevail. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining so bright: “Green is your color, you are spring.”

The lesson that Danny has taught us is that nothing in this life worth fighting for is ever easy. If you have faith in yourself and the will to succeed, you can persevere—no matter how bad the situation. Danny’s carefree spirit and infectious smile will forever serve as a reminder that snowboarding, at its root, is simply about having fun. His passion has inspired an entire generation of snowboarders—both young and old—not only because he is an incredible athlete, but because he is in love with life. Listen to his voice, laugh at his jokes, and absorb as much of it as you can. Danny Davis is a real human being, and he is a real hero.

All is right in the world, Danny Davis is back on snow. Danny Davis is back where he belongs.

Danny Davis Danny Davis wins Danny Davis on the podium Danny Davis at Breckenridge Danny Davis at USASA National Snowboard Championships Danny Davis

Contest Timeline

  • USASA Nationals Win
  • Burton Sponsorship
  • 2006 Double Rookie of the Year
  • 2006 US Open
    Quarterpipe - 1st Place & Best Trick
    Halfpipe - 1st Place & Best Trick
  • 2007 Nippon Open
    Rail Jam & Halfpipe - 1st Place
  • Mountain Dew Sponsorship
  • 2009 Dew Tour Breckenridge
    Halfpipe - 1st Place
  • 2010 Dew Tour Snowbasin
    Halfpipe - 1st Place
  • 2012 Peace Pipe
  • 2013 Peace Park
  • 2014 Sochi Olympics
    Halfpipe Finalist
How did you start snowboarding?

My dad got us into snowboarding when I was about nine. My dad just didn’t want to ski in Michigan because he was from the Bay Area and had done a bunch of skiing in Tahoe, and he was like, “Why the hell would I ski in Michigan?” so he wanted to try snowboarding and that’s how it all started. Still to this day, I have never tried to ski.

Do you have an early childhood memory from snowboarding?

Like I said, my dad got us snowboards when we were around nine, but my brother and I were standing on sleds and experimenting with snow surfing even younger than that. That was just the first time we got real snowboards. We had the best front yard. We had a hill and we would setup a picnic table to drop in off of, so we would drop in and hit a jump onto our hill as the landing, and then we would have another jump at the bottom of the hill. We would make jumps with anything. We would just stand on the sled and bomb it.

What was your first board?

My parents got me a really crappy snowboard from Kmart that basically had no edges. It was just thick plastic, probably like three inches thick, and it had some straps on it for bindings. I remember that board really well. It was a real piece of garbage. It’s not like you could even turn on an edge on it—you would literally just go flat base down the hill—and that was the first real time that I was surfing on the snow. From there, we just did it on everything. We would take the trucks off our skateboard decks and try that in the winter.

Eventually, my dad got us real snowboards for Christmas, and then I was out there all the time. I was just out there competing against myself. I wasn’t necessarily hooked on snowboarding from day one, though. Really, I was just into anything that had to do with sports out of sheer boredom of growing up in Michigan. When it was baseball season, baseball was everything. I would play baseball, go to practice, come home, and then play more baseball in the yard until it was time to go to bed. It was the same with football. When it was football season, I would go to practice, and play two-hand touch football afterwards.

The Midwest, huh? That’s an interesting place for a pro snowboarder to grow up.

I grew up in Michigan, about an hour outside of Detroit. The mountain that I grew up riding was called Alpine Valley. It’s in White Lake Michigan and is 306 feet vertical. I pretty much rode the tow rope all day, everyday, day and night. It was basically a 20-second lap from the top of the mountain to the base.

Most of the riders coming out of the Midwest are really street-centric and you are much more of a park/pipe rider. How did you switch gears?

We had a half-pipe at my home mountain. I mean, I don’t even know if you can call it a half-pipe. It was like this ditch that had hits dug out of it and most of the time they were made by us. They cut it maybe twice a month, so we would just make our own hits and that was really cool at my mountain. If you could lap the tow rope all day and just rip the pipe, you were legit because that is what all the older guys were doing. They had one jump next to the pipe, so I would hit jumps, but they didn’t get rails until I was like 15. I remember when the street stuff started to happen, but I really liked riding the mountain. I liked riding transition. I liked riding jumps. I was really into riding switch, and once I got good, I would just listen to music and do those 20-second laps switch. Take the chairlift, ride all the way down switch, and do it again for hours. A lot of the time it was the same 12 songs because it was on a CD, so I would just listen to the same songs over and over again.

Who was in your crew back then? Who did you shred with?

My buddy Kevin Pearce, who I grew up with as a professional snowboarder, was my best friend and the person I traveled with most because we were both on Burton. He had been on Burton since he was like 10, on Burton Backhill with Shaun [White] since they were really young. There were a lot of families like that. Luke and Jack Mitrani were snowboarding since they were eight. Luke has been snowboarding professionally since he was like 11, so all these kids that I was competing against were just so much better than me, and just way cooler. They all knew each other, and they were very much in the scene. I didn’t know anybody yet, and I was just like a super kook. I wore whack clothes. When I went to Nationals when I was 14 in Sunday River, Maine, I competed against Jack and Kevin in half-pipe, and they just thought I was such a loser because I crocheted these hunter orange earflaps onto my helmet that held my headphones. I thought it was so dope, but apparently it wasn’t. I would always shred with music, whether it was a big Walkman or a MiniDisc, so for me, making those headphone covers was such a big deal, but those guys thought I was such a weirdo.

What was your first official contest like?

I went to Nationals when I was 13, and I won third place overall. That was my first taste of kids who were “cool” in snowboarding, and that was when I started to pay attention to what was going on. Up until that point, it was just me and my friends from Michigan snowboarding, and we were just doing it because we loved it.

Is this when people started to pay attention to you?

That contest got me noticed by some of the coaches and snowboard schools because by that point, snowboarding started to have coaches. This would have been 2004-05, and that is when SMS (Stratton Mountain School) wanted me to come to their school. The Ross Powers Foundation gave me some money towards my tuition. It was just way too expensive for my family. At that point, my public school wouldn’t work with us. They were going to hold me back a grade because I missed too many days, and my mom was like, “We have to find another way. You are a really good snowboarder and you deserve this.” She really wanted me to succeed. So they figured out a way to send me to SMS. I owe everything to my folks. They are the best.

“I WAS INTO SNOWBOARDING, BUT I WASN'T REALLY INTO THE SCENE. I JUST LIKED IT BECAUSE IT WAS SOMETHING TO DO AND IT WAS FUN.”

“IT WAS A CRAZY TRIP. I MET TERJE HAAKONSEN, INGEMAR BACKMAN, AND KEIr DILLON—IT WAS WILD”

When did you feel like, “Okay, this is real”?

The next year, I got second in pipe in the US Open, first at the quarter pipe, and “Best Trick” in the half-pipe, so I won like $30,000 and they gave it to me in cash. I remember that. My folks drove from Michigan to Vermont, and we were just in the car, all of us—my friends and my parents—just holding all this cash. It was crazy. That I remember really well. So it all started to progress really quickly. It was almost like a snowball effect.

With two Rookie of the Year awards in 2006, it must have been surreal for you. Tell us about that.

Actually, that year was nuts for me. An even bigger part of 2006 was that I got on the Analog team and then the UnInc guys wanted me on their team, which was a crew of guys at Burton who were just amazing. When I got on Analog and UnInc, I was just like, “This is crazy.” When you’re a kid—I think I was 17 maybe—you are just all smiles. There is no pressure. Everything was coming so easy, and everyone was so nice to me and so helpful. For some reason they liked me, and I didn’t know why, but I also didn’t worry about it. When I got Rookie of the Year and I won a snowmobile, I was like, “What am I going to do with this thing?” and it sat in Michigan for two years.

That summer, I went to New Zealand and got on my first heli with the UnInc guys, and then I flew to Chile and hung out with Pat Moore. We went on this pow trip in the southern tip of Chile, and it was just incredible. Everything was just happening so fast. I went to Australia with the UnInc guys, and it was a full surf trip and it was so awesome. We had so much fun and I grew up so much. I was introduced to so many things like older women. (laughs) It was really cool. I was supposed to fly back to be at the Transworld Awards to accept my Rookie award, and I missed my flight because we were having too much fun. I called my agent Sue Izzo and she was furious with me. She said she was going to try and get me back, but the airline said there was no way to get me out of there in time. Then Slayer happened to be playing that night in Santiago, and I was feeling really bad about disappointing everyone, but then I was like, “Cool, I guess I am going to see Slayer.” So when we started driving to Slayer, I got a call from Sue, and she was like, “I got you on another flight. Be on it. You will be here like an hour before the awards, but you can do it.” I had to take a cab to the airport, so those guys went to Slayer and I went back to California. I remember they wouldn’t let me into the Transworld Awards because I wasn’t 21 and Driscoll just lost it, so they had to let me in. I accepted my award and that night, my friends picked me up and they were so stoked. We went to a drum circle, and there were these crazy naked people there. It was so bizarre.

Who was your first sponsor?

When I made Nationals, there was this snowboard company in Michigan called Climax. They gave me about three boards and they just fell apart. We were at Nationals and I remember that the boards were de-laminating—it was just a mess. I ended up riding them for a while, but they sucked. Then I made a sponsor-me video and a brother-in-law of one of my dad’s co-workers worked at Burton. He was actually the Vice President of Burton and was a very cool guy. Dave Schmitt was the man. Anyone who ever worked at Burton loved Schmitty. He was the guy that I really owe a lot of my early success to. To this day, I have still only met him once, and it was long after he worked at Burton. Basically, Dave Schmitt got the tape and didn’t even look at it. He called the rep in Michigan and asked if he would hook me up with a pro form. Eventually, I somehow got a free board. I think I was going to compete at the US Open in 2004, and the rep was like, “Here, take a new board.” It was a Code, what Keir Dillon rode, and that was my motivation for getting the board. I didn’t really do that well in the contest, so we left. I didn’t even get to stay for the Misfits concert and I was so bummed because my folks wanted to get on the road back to Michigan from Vermont.

It was a really good experience for me, though. I actually met this guy in the parking lot who would eventually become my team manager at Burton. His name was “Chaka” [Michael Gardzina]. My Burton binding had broken and I needed pieces to fix it. I ran into him and I was like, “Can I get some help?” and he was too nice of a guy to say no. I’m sure he really didn’t want to help us, but he did. He saved me and I was able to ride in the contest that day. So that was the first guy I officially met at Burton. The next year, I started to do more pro contests. I went to a Triple Crown in Breckenridge and I got eighth in Slopestyle. Danny Kass was in the finals and Travis Parker, all these big names that I had been watching in the movies, and I won $800. My mom and I were like, “$800 bucks, sick!” We had been eating peanut butter and jelly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that whole week because lodging was so expensive, so we had a steak dinner that night, which I really remember fondly.

What kind of role did Burton play in the early development of your career?

Going to Stratton Mountain School really helped because it is in Vermont, so they had a close relationship with Burton. Once I was there, it was really easy for me to get product directly from Burton, as opposed to the rep. Dave Driscoll was my first team manager at Burton, and he really believed in me. Before I signed any contracts, Dave was just always supportive and always there for me. I did pretty well at the US Open, and I remember that they presented me with an incentives contract, not for a salary yet, and they sent me to the Arctic Challenge. I didn’t really know anyone, but that was my first time hanging out with Mason Aguirre, who has become a really good friend of mine. He rode for Burton and when I went there, we chilled a lot. It was a crazy trip. I met Terje Haakonsen, Ingemar Backman, and Keir Dillon—it was wild. I got second at the Gravity Games and Rookie of the Year at the US Open, and things just started to happen.

“MY MOM WAS LIKE, "WE HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER WAY. YOU ARE A REALLY GOOD SNOWBOARDER AND YOU DESERVE THIS." SHE REALLY WANTED ME TO SUCCEED.”

“I JUST WANT TO BE GOOD AGAIN. I WANT TO BE COMPETITIVE AGAIN, I WANT TO DO WELL AT CONTESTS, I WANT TO FILM. I WANT TO BE HEALTHY AND BE BACK.”

Tell me about your injury. What really happened?

It is a big part of my life. Kevin had just had his head injury, which was just so terrible, and then I was riding well that year and everything we were doing, we were doing for Kev. I guess we just started having too much fun. One night after I won a contest, we went to celebrate at the DC Mountain Lab. Then I went down to the garage and hopped on a four-wheeler with a friend, which was such a bad idea. I ended up breaking my back, shattering my pelvis, and ultimately hurting my friend that was on the back of the four-wheeler. He broke his femur.

You must have been in a state of shock.

It was really gnarly for a while there. For the first few days, I didn’t really know how he was, and he didn’t know how I was because we were at separate hospitals. Once they found out that I had broken my back, they moved me to a different hospital. It was crazy when we crashed the four-wheeler. I walked and he couldn’t. We could clearly see that he broke his femur. Elliott, the kid that was on the four-wheeler with me, crawled out to the road with his leg ripped open, flagged someone down, and they picked us up. They walked over to me and I was kind of unconscious for a while, and they could hear me groaning and helped me up. With the amount of adrenaline in me, I just got up and walked to the car. These guys ultimately saved our lives. We weren’t in too much pain at first, but then once the adrenaline started to settle down, pain started to take over and we were just losing it.

The doctors didn’t know I broke my back right away. They told Elliott, “Hey, Danny is okay. He is going to be competing next weekend. It’s all good.” He was like, “Thank god,” but then they did more X-rays and that is when they figured it out. They were worried that if I sneezed, I would be paralyzed. I was just so lucky.

Where was your head at that point? Were you even thinking about snowboarding?

When my memory really started to come back, it was when I was in the second hospital. I was lying on the bed, and I thought I was in the same hospital as Kevin because it looked exactly the same. I knew I was in Utah and I knew that he was in Utah, so I was just looking for him. I just wanted to see him and be broken with him, and they were just like, “No, no. Your friend isn’t here.” When the nurse put a catheter in, I remember that vividly. I was just like, “What did I do?” It was really hard to remember exactly what I even did. The first person that I called was Luke Mitrani, and he was like, “Yo dude, what’s up? Your car is still there, man. We are back at the house. The keys are in the ignition.” Then I had to explain what happened, and he just couldn’t believe it. They got in their car and headed to see me. The next call I had to make was to my mother. That was really hard. She was great, like she always is with everything. She just wanted to make sure I was okay, so she flew to Utah right away.

I wasn’t really thinking about snowboarding at all, or even the fact that I was going to miss the Olympics. I was just so mad at myself for doing something so stupid that was so out of my character. The whole snowboarding thing came later. I was just so stressed about what people would think of me.

What did you learn from that experience?

This injury was preparing me for other things in life. What it really taught me was that I was not invincible. It also really taught me how you come back from an injury because a lot of the doctors couldn’t promise me that I would be snowboarding the way that I used to. They told me, “You are going to have a three-level fusion of your vertebrae, and we are going to put your hip back together in pieces. We are going to put a plate in there and put your pelvis back together.” They said, “There are dirt bikers that this happens to. There are plenty of people that will get back to their sport, but we can’t tell you that you will be doing exactly what you were doing, so you are going to have to work very hard and do everything that you can to get back to where you were.”

It must have been really hard to forgive yourself.

The craziest part for me was just wondering what my parents were going to think of me, what my sponsors were going to think of me, what Jake Burton was going to think of me, Mountain Dew, all the people at PepsiCo that supported me, Dragon, Nixon, and all my other sponsors. The amazing part was that every single person was like, “You are an idiot, but just get better. Whatever you need from us to help you get better, you let us know.” Everyone was supportive. No one mentioned anything about contracts. People just wanted me to get well. They knew I was just a kid who made a terrible mistake. I am human as well, and people can be forgiven.

Kevin almost died snowboarding shortly before, and that was a really hard part for me. I hurt myself being an idiot and my best friend, who never will snowboard the way he used to again, hurt himself snowboarding, trying to push his sport and push his limits. I was just pushing my stupidity. That was a really hard pill to swallow. I just felt like I really disappointed Kev and his family. Feeling normal again after that really weighed on me.

So what did you do?

I turned all my focus on rehabilitation. I asked all the teams and all the doctors, “What do I have to do to get better?” Luckily, I met the right people, and they got me motivated. I did yoga, I swam, I did pilates, stretched every day, and did my exercises. I just stuck to that. I moved to Utah for a few months and all I did was physical therapy.

Everyone wants to compare you to Shaun White since you were supposed to beat him in 2010. How does that make you feel?

Shaun is the best. He is the one to beat. When you are the best, everyone hates you and wants you to fail. Everyone wants me to win because I am not the best. I am sure there are other reasons too, but that is the main draw. Whether I am beating Shaun or I am beating my best buddy Scotty Lago, I would just be stoked to win, to be good again. Winning in general is awesome. Landing runs, especially the runs that you set out to lay down in a very clutch situation, is just a really good feeling. It’s got nothing to do with beating Shaun White. I have done that and it was great. I didn’t walk away from it and say like, “Yeah! I just beat Shaun White.” It was more like, “Yeah! I just landed a run that I have never landed, and I landed it when it mattered most.” That was the best feeling ever. I really pulled through. I did what I set out to do, and that was the feeling that I had. I was so proud of myself because I landed it when it mattered most.

“You Gotta Take the “I” Out, Because There is No “I” in Friends”


Tell us about Frends?

Frends started when I got on Burton. I started riding with Luke, Jack, Kevin, Mason, and Keir. At the time we were all riding together a lot. We were traveling together, and going to all the same contests. We were super good friends with Scotty Lago, who wasn’t on Burton, and we kind of just wanted something of our own because we would always get split up since Scotty rode for Flow. We weren’t even sure what we wanted to start, if it was a company or just a crew, so we decided on the name Frends. Dave Driscoll, who was our team manager at the time, was like, “Oh man, you gotta take the “i” out because there is no “i” in friends.” We just started writing it on everything, and we started coming out with these edits of our trips and these random skits. Ultimately, we were just this giant group of friends that had the top of the half-pipe and the slopestyle course as our playground. We were just supporting each other in this sport that was so competitive and very much an individual sport. If I fell at the contest, there were six other dudes that I would be so excited for if they landed. You always had a reason to celebrate. If it wasn’t Kevin on the podium, it was Mason. If it wasn’t Mason, it was Scotty. And if it wasn’t Scotty, it was Luke. It was the only way. It was the best thing ever. Obviously, it is a little different now. Things have happened, but that was where Frends started. You were more excited for your friend than for yourself.

When did Frends become a company?

Keir always wanted to start a company. I remember when we came up with the name Frends, Keir and I didn’t make X Games finals, and instead of going up and watching, we were like a bunch of little brats and stayed in our hotel room and watched it on TV because we were mad and we didn’t want to be a part of it. We were going through names, and we just wanted something that was ours. Kids wanted stickers and shirts, but we didn’t even have them, so we wrote everything by hand on our boards. All these kids would write into FrendsVision and ask where they could get a Frends shirt or a Frends hat. We realized that we couldn’t make a streetwear company because we all had clothing sponsors, and we couldn’t make an outerwear company because we all had outerwear sponsors, so we couldn’t really do anything. As time went on, it kind of clicked since we all listen to music everyday and we travel all the time. We listen to music when we snowboard, we listen to music on planes, and we listen to music on buses. Music has been a huge part of our whole lives, so we were like, “Let’s just make headphones.” That was probably one of the bigger lessons I have learned in my life. Not only starting a company, but starting a company with friends.

Whose idea was it to start the Frendly Gathering festival?

We always were entrepreneurs at heart, so after the last Olympics in 2010, Kevin was hurt, I was hurt, and everyone was doing their own thing, so we decided that we needed to do something where everyone got back together. We wanted to do a massive camping party to get all of our friends together, not even just the crew, but like everybody we knew—all of our friends from all over. We just wanted everyone to come camp with us. We brought a PA system, drum set, and amps, and we just camped for three days. That was kind of the first Frendly Gathering. We didn’t have any sponsors. It was just a full-on camping party mission. That was the beginning. It was just me, Jack, and Scotty, and we just wanted to listen to music and camp for a few days.

The next year, we did a snowboard contest at Mammoth, and we rented a stage and had this band called Led Zepplica come, which was a Led Zeppelin cover band. We got some sponsors like Nixon and Dragon. That was our first real attempt. This was all really Jack who set this up. At the time, he really wanted to try and do a music festival because we went to this music festival in Oregon, and Jack’s cousin played at it and she got us tickets to go to it. Originally we were just going to see her play, and we got there and we thought it was rad. We went and got a tent, and ended up spending two days at the festival and just had a riot. That was really where the motivation to do a music festival came from.

After the first one, we all put in some money. We ran into a friend of ours and he was like, “You should do it at my dad’s property in Vermont,” and we were like, “Sick!” Chris and his dad owned this old ski resort in Vermont and it has to be over 100 acres of land. We booked 12 bands and they were cover bands mostly. Then we had Twiddle, which was an up-and-coming Vermont band, and they became our go-to festival band. We sold tickets for like $45, had a few hundred people come, and just barely broke even. The next year, we went for like 35 bands, we had yoga, we had skateboarding, and we had a mechanical bull. We had a giant teepee, and that was one of our stages. They had a pond on the property, but it was super gross, so we dug the whole thing out, cleaned it, and filled it back up with water. We also built a new mini ramp. It is all about eating healthy and being healthy, and there is definitely a holistic undertone. This year, we had 30 bands and about 3,000 people. Burton has been a big part of it, AMP Energy has always been a big part of it, and the people at PepsiCo have always given us support and made it possible for us to do it. All our friends and all our sponsors really help to make it happen.

Tell me a little about your relationship with Mountain Dew?

I have been a part of Mountain Dew for a long time now, maybe since I was 19 or 20, and it has been a really cool company to have support me over the years. A lot of the drink companies started approaching snowboarders about five or six years ago, and everyone started getting drink sponsors. But what I really liked about Mountain Dew is that they have always been in the snowboarding scene, supporting snowboarding events. Actually, in the foreground of the famous photo of Jeff Brushie doing a method at the 1992 Mountain OP Pro Contest, there is a slalom gate branded with a Mountain Dew logo. They weren’t following the crowd when all these other drink companies were coming into the game. They had been a part of action sports for a long time. When the opportunity presented itself for me to ride with Mountain Dew, they told me that I would be the only male snowboarder on their team, and now I am their only snowboard athlete. It is really cool that they have all that faith in me, and not just postering everybody’s boards with Dew logos. It makes me feel really special.

Have you always had a healthy, holistic relationship with Mountain Dew?

Yes, from day one. As soon as I got onto Mountain Dew, they told me that they wanted to do a limited edition bottle release, and they asked me which artist I wanted to work with. I was just a kid, and I hadn’t really found any artists that I was super influenced by at that time, so my agent suggested Scott Lenhardt’s work. He used to do some graphics for Burton and she thought I would like his art, so we did this really cool bottle. I went to New York, met with Scott, hung out in his loft in Brooklyn and talked for hours. He had this Whole Earth Catalog from the ’70s that basically had anything that you needed to live off the grid like yurts, saws, mills, and furnaces—whatever you would need to live out in the woods on your own. He thought I had this hippie vibe and he ended up drawing—right there on the spot—this graphic of a bus in these trees, and there were a bunch of people hanging out of it, playing music, and basically living out in the woods. They let us have complete creative control of it. That was really the first project that Mountain Dew and I collaborated on, and it went really well. I thought it was really sick because they were into music and let me put my twist on their advertising.

The living “Portraits” that they just did was a commercial series we shot in North Carolina, and they basically had the guys call me and ask me what I was into. I told them, “I like hanging out with my friends, going camping, being out in the woods, playing music, fishing, and I like to snowboard obviously,” and they basically built this whole set inspired by that.

What about the launch of Green Mountain Process? What does that initiative mean to you?

I think like any snowboarder or any person that loves the outdoors I am concerned about the longevity of our planet. I just joined POW (Protect Our Winters) and that is a very cool foundation going on in our sport right now. The mission is to unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change. Kev and I started getting really into recycling. We are hippies I suppose. We put on music festivals and we learn a lot about local farming. It just makes sense. It is about supporting these initiatives.

What is really cool about the Green Mountain Process line is that you can make fabric out of out 50 percent recycled plastic bottles and 50 percent fabric—that is amazing. Why aren’t we doing that with more things? I am sure that this is just the beginning. I don’t see why we can’t make the leather that we use for binding straps or for boots out of old tires. Burton and Mountain Dew have a huge sense of social responsibility, and it certainly wasn’t my idea, but as soon as they asked me to be a part of it, I was down. The material is waterproof, and they can do all kinds of colors. There are definitely drawbacks to what they can produce, but Burton is willing to take a stance on it. You certainly wouldn’t know looking at it that it is recycled. Some of the fabrics that they make I actually think are cooler. They have this waxy surface to some of them, and because there is plastic in the fabric, it has its own waterproofing properties. They can do backpacks, t-shirts, jackets, really anything. It just makes sense, so why not? If you can reuse, do it. If you can buy local and support your community, why not?

You also collaborated with Mountain Dew on Peace Pipe. How did that come about?

There are a lot of young, cool people working at Mountain Dew. They understand skateboarding and they understand snowboarding. We wanted to build this crazy half-pipe with a different transition. Every half-pipe is the same—22 feet (or back in the day they were 18 feet) and 500 feet long. You go from mountain to mountain and they all try to have the perfect “same” half-pipe, and it gets so boring. I would go to these contests and photo shoots, and I would know exactly what tricks everyone was going to do and exactly what tricks I was going to do. It just was getting stale to me, so that is when Bryan Knox, my team manager at Burton, and I wanted to build this different transition model. It isn’t a half-pipe. It is just different. Mountain Dew came on board and just wanted to help us make it happen, so we bought some Cat time at a mountain, we pushed a ton of snow, and it started to come together. Burton and Mountain Dew created Peace Pipe, which was our first attempt at making a different kind of transition. It was almost like a skatepark in the snow. Terje, Mikkel Bang, Mark McMorris, Jack Mitrani, and Kevin Pearce came to hang and it was just the perfect ride.

Then they wanted to do it again, so we started designing the Peace Park. This time I really wanted to change it, so I said, “Let’s not make it straight the whole way down. Let’s put some jumps in there.” It was the ultimate playground. Anything I could imagine, they helped me create. It has become an annual thing, and I think this year we are going to try and do it a little bigger, invite more people, and make it more of an event. I really hope we can eventually make it into a tour. I would love to have two here in the U.S., maybe one with Terje at the Arctic Challenge, and one in Japan. I just want to end the boringness of snowboarding.

So what is your ultimate goal for the Peace Park?

If we were to turn these Peace Parks into contests, it would make it so slopstyle riders, half-pipe riders, and free riders can all go to the same place, have a good time, and be competitive. The best part is that you wouldn’t know who was going to win. If you go to a slopestyle contest, you kind of know who is going to win and what tricks they are going to do. I am about to go to Mammoth and it is the fourth half-pipe contest in a row that I am doing, and I will probably end up doing a very similar run. It just gets stale. When you show up to these “transition contests” that we have been building, you have no idea who is going to do well and where. You can’t train in these parks because they are new each time, so there is an element of surprise.

What does snowboarding feel like to you?

Snowboarding is fun. Snowboarding is doing exactly what you want to do, and making it look cool. It is just pure fun in its most simple form. The emotion and energy you can put into tricks is so powerful. For me, competing is having that euphoric feeling that you get when just overcome a challenge. You were clutch in a tough situation. That is what keeps me coming back to contests—when you do land a good run—and for me, a lot of the time it is runs that I have never done before. It’s just that feeling you get afterwards—you are floating. You have this ridiculous sense of self. You are proud. It isn’t about being cocky and throwing your hands in the air and being a jerk at the bottom of the half-pipe or the slopestyle course, but it is that feeling inside. The breath that you take after is just the best breath you have ever taken.

What does the future of snowboarding look like to you?

For me, a huge part of the future of competitive snowboarding would be to create this new contest series, just these giant skateparks made out of snow that are fun to ride. It brings back the love of snowboarding and healthy competition. They are hard to ride and they are challenging. To find the right line, you have to be a really good snowboarder. You can’t just be some kid that rides halfpipe and shows up at these things and kills it. You have to be good at jumps, and you have to be good at rails. I think the future of snowboarding, for me personally, also includes having a full video part that I filmed all season for. So that is something that I am also really looking forward to doing one of these years, and something that I worked hard for all year.