Off The Hill: Memories of summer snowboarding past | SummitDaily.com

Off The Hill: Memories of summer snowboarding past

Z Griff
Special to the Daily
Air over the staircase. Woodward summer park at Copper, Colorado.
Chip Proulx / Special to the Daily |

The Woodward at Copper public park held its last Saturday session Sept. 19, almost three weeks ago. It was only a few days before snow guns went into place and mere weeks before potential openings in Summit.

Snowboarding in the summer used to mean hiking way up into the alpine or maybe you were cool enough to go to New Zealand or Oz or other parts of the southern hemisphere, like Chile or Argentina. If you were in North America, it meant private camps like High Cascade Snowboard Camp at Mt. Hood or Camp of Champs at Whistler.

Summer snowboarding is an anomaly, and it used to mean high entrance fees. Thanks to Woodward at Copper, you no longer need a travel budget to get on the snow in the summertime, and the public park is the place to be to get your fix.

Riding the remnants

The park was built on snow pushed together from the remnants of the superpipe, which stayed in great condition all summer. Thanks to the creativity and hard work of the Woodward employees, the features were well-built and changed every weekend. Saturdays saw a new playground for locals and visitors to dismantle and destroy.

The level of riding this summer was crazy. It was a feeling that was part recess, part feeding frenzy. Some very hard tricks and unique considerations of every new park setup were testaments to just how good and incredibly adaptable the local riders are.

12 months of riding

I had the chance to go snowboarding every month of this year, and it got me thinking about my first experiences with summer riding. The first time that I went snowboarding in the summertime was at Tuckerman’s Ravine in New Hampshire, a three-hour hike to the snowpack at the famous Lunch Rocks, then another 45 minutes to an hour spent climbing on a pitch as steep as the Lake Chutes, all for a 30-second run, followed by another three-hour hike out.

Later on, when I was 20, I went to Mammoth, California after the NH season with my brother, Mac, to continue riding. We arrived on April 1. I was a Sharpshooter (the on-hill camera guys), and my brother worked in the lodge.

After the closing at Mammoth, we drove to Whistler for a few runs on the glacier. We met some locals at the Whistler skatepark who worked for the mountain, and they invited us to stay in the employee housing building, the Overlord. To get to the glacier was a series of two lifts, a bus and another lift. I believe it was almost $70, and you could not go into the camps.

I remember being on top of the public halfpipe and hearing no less than four languages being spoken. Riders from multiple continents had flocked to Whistler, simply because there existed a patch of that white stuff and shredding was happening. It snowed a foot on our last day, and it was the latest I’d ever ridden: the 16th of June, 2004.

NH to the Moon

The ‘89 Jetta we were driving made it back over the Canadian border but not all the way home. It had been having consistently worse issues. We were in constant fear of overheating and entirely without a first or fifth gear.

With no tortoise and no hare, we were going to see how far we could drive it East. We eventually lost fourth gear and gave in at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho — NH to the Moon that summer. AAA towed us to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where we spent the night in the car in a humongous junkyard.

The following morning, we sold the car (a whopping $20), loaded all our stuff on our backs and started walking to the post office, where we would send off our ride gear. We traveled a good distance walking beside train tracks and, eventually, after about 40 minutes of slogging, hit the town.

At this time of year, we probably looked quite the sight: my brother with skis and boots slung over his shoulders, me with my board and huge pack, both of us with skateboards. I also had the better part of a five-pound bag of charcoal. Generally, tourists in Idaho Falls are hunters, fishermen or climbers or they’re families geared up to go to the western entrance of Yellowstone National Park about an hour and a half up the road. We looked like aliens with goggle tans.

I entered the P.O., put down the charcoal and explained our need to send off the equipment. The postal worker behind the counter was intrigued that we had ski gear with us in July. He informed me that we needed to mummify my snowboard bag in postal tape, so the flimsy zippers wouldn’t bust. It was a unique project, something he was excited to help with.

As we were doing this, a line was forming with a few very kindly folk who were quite interested in the “skiboards” and our summer snow exploits. My brother was fielding questions about where, when and how anyone could be skiing. Is no one more concerned with “why”?

I finished the wrap job and thanked the gentlemen and patient patrons. A woman turned to ask just how many days we’ve been at it.

“Oh, nearly 150,” I replied, trying nonchalantly to convey our levels of pure drive and intense dedication.

“You must really like it,” she said. I relished in it.

“Yes, ma’am.”

As far as my brother and I (and about a dozen or so people in the Idaho Falls P.O that day) were concerned, we were now elite members of our respective sports, in obvious possession of a vast knowledge of mountains across the world.

We hitchhiked to and through Yellowstone and, a week later, arrived in the town of Cody, Wyoming, where we caught the Greyhound back to NH. That bus took a very long, crazy and indirect three-day route.

Along that route, the Greyhound brought me for my first time to Colorado. At this point, I had no plans of moving to Summit the next fall. We went to Boulder first. From what little I knew about it (that Shane McConkey went to CU Boulder for a time), I had mistakenly assumed that Boulder was as close to the mountains as Frisco. I even remember looking for ski lifts on the Flatirons from the bus window.


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