Take 5: An interview with first chair legend Nate Dogggg
On The Hill correspondent
Loveland Ski Area opening day
What: The official kick-off to the 2015-16 ski season in Colorado
When: Thursday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Loveland Ski Area
Cost: Single-day ticket $53 adults, $25 children (ages 6-14)
Loveland will open Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run trails. For coverage of opening day, including video and photos, see the live homepage feed at dev.summitdaily.com on beginning at 6 a.m. on Oct. 29.
SUMMIT COUNTY — I love snowboarding because of the stories, the people and the places, the characters and personalities and incredible feats that are all part of the tapestry.
Snowboarding is different from major sports in that records are not a dime a dozen: Terje Haakonsen’s 32-foot, skyscraping back 3 at the Arctic Challenge or Mads Jonsson’s 187-foot front 3 or Marco Siffredi’s Mount Everest run are a few that come to mind.
Endurance records, like the one belonging to Summit County’s own Nate Dogggg, are even rarer. For 20 years, Nate Dogggg has strapped in to catch the true first chair of every Colorado ski season. But he’s been committed to the sport since long before he set his sites on first chair. A shred celeb, he’s been in the vids, in the mags, on broadcast news and in the papers. His pro model for Solid was a shout to one of the all-time graphics/stylemasters, Tarquin Robbins, and Robbins personally signed off on it. He is a repository of shred knowledge/history, and his antique board collection is one of the best. In my opinion, the Dogggg is shred royalty — a one-namer.
Unlike major sports, nobody is given millions to show up each season for snowboarding. This is a testament to the special nature of snowboarding and how much it means to people. It’s a testament to Nate as a person and to his love for boarding. I learned from Nate that before him, a gentleman at Loveland consecutively held first chair for 27 years before passing on the practice to Dogggg and friends.
Amazing to consider that two people have held the honor for nearly 50 years. It is a tradition, a statement about something we all love and are dedicated to in our own way. 4Gs (as Dogggg is known) dropped a bomb on me when he told me that after this year, his 20th consecutive season, he may ease up his grip on first-chair ownership. If — I repeat, if — the Dogggg decides to pack it up, and if — I repeat, if — another person takes up the honor, there will forever be only one — I repeat, one — Nate Dogggg.
My favorite rider of all time (and one who knows snowboarding like the back of the hands on the Noah Brandon pro model) is local ruler Chad Otterstrom. A longtime friend of Dogggg’s and a member of the 4G network (the inner circle of friends that share first-chair honors), Otterstrom had this to say about the Dogggg and his first-chair record:
“Being able to be a part of the 4G network has changed my life in ways I can’t describe. Dealing with the fame of getting first chair with Nate Dogggg has been rough, but the rewards and benefits that come with that sort of fame make it all worth it.”
In time for his 20th anniversary, I caught up with Nate Dogggg to get his thoughts on the record and everything he loves about the Summit scene.
ZG: Nate, you have some big news in that this, your 20th consecutive year on first chair, may be your last year. You told me that you still want it, but you may be ready to loosen your well-earned grip on the title in the years to come.
ND: This year will be my last year trying for first chair. That being said, I still want it. But I also want a home and Nate puppies. So, time willing, I’ll continue to rep first chair. I have a great amount of friends that assist in me getting first: Trailer Tom, Chad Otterstrom, Jeff Meyer, the countless people that have joined us in the past, and the sponsors over time that stoke us out with the best product and smiles in the industry.
ZG: It’s an incredible commitment, and 20 years is quite a feat. Tell us when, how and why you moved to Summit.
ND: The reason I moved here is because the parents decided to start charging rent. And, there was a great crew of kids moving to Breck and I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon: Matt Peterson, Jeff Meyer, Ryan Knapton and Jason Landry, all great, accomplished snowboarders from Minnesota moving to the Great West. So, Breck was our location, and have been repping it hard ever since. Out here, we meet a legend in his own right, Mr. Trailer Tom. He had been getting first chair for a long time at Keystone, and they’d win the race by turning on the lights and opening same day as A-Bay or Loveland. Our first years were a party — bonfires and beer in the parking lot a week before opening. But times have changed. People aren’t a fan of parking lot parties anymore.
ZG: Tell us about the guy from Loveland who held the record before you?
ND: The guy who held the record before us was a man named Elmer Mulkins, but he passed the torch to us and we’ve carried it ever since. Now, by definition, we have had first chair in North America for 19 years. That includes traveling to places like Wolf Creek. First chair is an amazing claim. We were first to start out the ski/snowboard season in at least Colorado, and every year I put in at least a million vertical and over 100 days on hill.
ZG: So you were there at Wolf Creek the year it opened on the 8th of October?
ND: We did get first chair there (by arriving to the lot at 4 p.m. the day of Oct. 7), but they closed after that weekend, so it wasn’t the official season opener. We had to do first chair at the Basin that year as well.
ZG: In my opinion, you have a famous McTwist. Who are some of your favorites?
ND: As far as McTwists are concerned, a few peoples stick out: Terje, Ross Powers, Todd Richards and, of course, my favorite, Chad Otterstrom. His are timeless and smooth.
ZG: What is one trick you can’t do but wish you could?
ND: I love the shred, and with all sports age can hurt. I don’t bounce like I used to, and, in all honesty, leave the tricks for the young kids. I just love the snow — the spraying and slashing, the carving and smooth air. The sport has turned into a lot of ballerinas, double-triple cork flipper. But style has been lost. When I was growing up, I looked up to style kings like Nate Cole, Tarquin Robbins, Stevie Alters, Jamie Lynn, Devun Walsh. The art form has been lost a bit. But, Chad has always been on top.
ZG: Aside from first chair, you regularly stack up vertical feet all winter, hence the #morevertthannatedogggg hash tag. Will you still?
ND: As far as clocking vert, I love it — headphones in, getting Epic Mix stats up. It’s my gym. Not that I’m in shape, but I’m not on a couch playing video games. Fun side note: I’m in a video game. It’s a great feeling to sit on top of the world looking at the run beneath you, whether it be by yourself or with others. It’s my Zen. Deep breath and party.
ZG: Tell us some about your board collection.
ND: I do collect vintage snowboards as a hobby. I have about 80 boards and they are all valuable to me and the industry. You need to know the past to be viable towards the future and to respect your past and industry’s past, to know how the future should be represented.
ZG: My intro to Summit shredders was Trailer Tom’s “Pin Pin” videos. Do you have a favorite part or memory from those?
ND: That’s what “Pin Pin” did. We had fun and wanted to let people know that even though snowboarding is a sport, you have to have fun and be goofy. That’s why we were snowboarders to start. Why do it if you can’t have fun? Yes, being über-pro would be awesome, but having fun with friends can be just as awesome. So, that being said, every “Pin Pin” was awesome.
ZG: Who are your five favorite SumCo shreds?
ND: My favorite shredders in Summit County are:
1. Chad Otterpop. The love of the shred is strong with this one. He also is the most talented overall, and the longevity of his talent far surpasses anything or anyone around.
2. Ryan Knapton. Prolly the best flatland carver and trickster in the world. It would be hard to find anyone who could match his knowledge and skill.
3. Is a tie between Austin J-K and Z Griff. Both have the energy of a 14-year-old, high power and skilled. Can see any obstacle and slay it, and slay it in a way you have never thought about. Always a smile on their faces and a giggle out the door.
And last, my number five favorite is every other Joe Schmo. In numbers, we have power. We are the reason Breck is one of the best destination spots in the world. We have the big events because of the love. If a local has an issue, the community comes together to help that family member. Breck is my family. If you show the love and respect, our family will care for you forever.
That being said, I love my family. I hope you all have an amazing season and shred hard. PS: First day, slow day. I hate seeing injuries.
ZG: Thanks, Nate. When the lifts start spinning and they say go in a few days, I guess we’ll know where to find you. Congrats on 20.
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