Retrofitted: Ryan Hyland’s stolen ‘92 Sims Shaun Palmer snowboard |

Retrofitted: Ryan Hyland’s stolen ‘92 Sims Shaun Palmer snowboard

The squeak gave it away.

About 24 years ago, Silverthorne town manager Ryan Hyland was a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder. He was a big-time snowboarder, the sort who braved four-hour-plus crowds on Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 36 almost every weekend to go riding at Winter Park or its neighbor, Mary Jane. It was a trek he and his buddies made “religiously,” the 43-year-old says, back when season passes were right around $150 at Winter Park, Vail, Keystone, Breck — just about everywhere.

It was also the first season Hyland had a legitimate snowboard: The Sims Shaun Palmer pro model, named for the now 47-year-old legend who came before the other Shaun everyone knows these days. Palmer was punk to the core — he still is, racing in pro moto and mountain bike competitions on occasion — and his pro model was made by one of the original snowboard brands. Back then it was the big three: Sims, Burton and Lamar, with maybe a long-forgotten niche brand like Jeenyus in the mix.

“I had finally saved up enough funds to buy a new snowboard, which I definitely needed,” says Hyland, who’s been living and working in Summit County for about a decade now. “The other boards I had before this were junk. This was one of the first boards made with modern ski technology and it still feels good. I Just wanted that Sims Shaun Palmer with the crazy clown on it.”

Like so many boards and skis and clothing and whatever, the look was the real selling point. Sure, it featured then-modern technology — Hyland admits the camber and sidecut are more than retro by now — but Palmer was all about attitude. The clown on the topsheet even had bright-red Shaun Palmer hair.

But buying a new board didn’t make the rest of Hyland’s ’92 kit any newer. Take his bindings: They had small and flimsy baseplates (the platforms you stand on), and so he replaced and lengthened them by cutting through a sheet of Plexiglas. Where’d he get that? From a clear carpet protector, like the kind people put under office chairs.

The new baseplates squealed and whined on the slopes, but Hyland didn’t mind. He was riding the Shaun Palmer with the crazy clown on it.

Until that one day. On a typical trip to Mary Jane, Hyland and his friends headed to the lodge for lunch. He left his board outside, just like he always did. They were only gone a short while, just like they always were.

But when he returned the board was nowhere to be found.

“You spend a lot of time looking through every one of the racks before you accept it,” Hyland says. “I just couldn’t afford to replace it so I moped around campus for about a week, just bummed out.”

So much for the sexy new Sims. (It reminds me of a tip from a vintage issue of Transworld Snowboarding: Paint the top of your expensive new board or skis brown. It’ll perform just the same and guaranteed no one tries to steal it.) Hyland didn’t really feel like riding one of his beat-up older decks — and that’s what good friends are for. Ben Brown, a classmate who also lives in the county these days, lent Hyland a board the next weekend and they headed back to Mary Jane.

From there, well, it gets too bizarre. In Hyland’s words:

“We take a run and are about three-quarters of the way down when I see someone on a snowboard,” Hyland remembers. “I heard this familiar squeaking noise, get closer to look and see this kid on a Sims Shaun Palmer. I knew it was mine. I just knew it was those one-of-a-kind bindings.”

And it was.

“At the time I was maybe 20 and this kid was even younger, maybe 15,” Hyland continues. “I think that he was a little freaked out that I approached him. Who knows if it’s true, but he said he had bought it out of a car trunk in Denver earlier that week. I told him, ‘That’s fine, you’re not going home with it.’”

Hyland got his board back almost exactly a week later on exactly the same mountain. Wins like that don’t come around often, which could explain why the Sims Shaun Palmer is still his go-to board, DIY bindings and all.

“Most of my gear is from that era so I get a lot of grief for it, but it just works,” Hyland says. “I think the stance is a good foot narrower than anything else out there today, but it just feels right.”

By now it’s seen at least several hundred days of riding, including a seven-year hiatus when Hyland lived in San Diego and it never left a humid beachside attic. When he returned to Colorado the edges were rusted, but nothing a little steel wool couldn’t fix. He estimates the thing has about 18 seasons on it this year — and counting.

“I love that board,” he says. “It doesn’t seem that old to me.”

Squeaky bindings and all.

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