Death of the Off-Season pt. 2 – Snowboarding's Secret Summer Stash
Fish sleeping, the Shroud of Turin, Sailing Stones — amongst the great mysteries on the minds of the MINI Space Team these days is the question of what happens once the world's weather turns itself upside down every year and winter's slopes go green, awash with Summer's rays and pastoral scenes of goats grazing on grass. All the time we spent on the slopes last season on tour with MINI for the BGOS got us to thinking (while sipping on lemonade poolside in the sunshine of course) about what goes down after the snow has melted. What about the yetis? Do they ship down to the Southern Hemi, to Chile and New Zealand, or do they hide out in shady hovels on their home mountains, feasting on the bevy of livestock growing fat off summer's land?
We consulted the experts. Turns out the crew of Burton Snowboards knows exactly what's happening on the summer slopes. Members of their team, along with the crews of the snowparks they're working with, sport t-shirts and take to the mountain with chainsaws, tractors and pro riders in tow to visualize and build some of the winter's most exciting and challenging terrain. Their mission is to bring a sustainable, green approach to big mountain freestyle. They call it The Stash.
The Stash lets nature run the course. The core tenet of Burton's vision for the project is that today's freestyle was born in the woods, and that "its purest form of progression remains there." The idea is to deconstruct the snowboard park - its rails, hips, kickers and iconic halfpipes - and reintroduce it to the wild, much like you would a turtle who grew up in a suburban backyard or a boa constrictor to the Amazonian jungle who's only known life in a Baltimore tattoo parlor.
Jake Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards and the sport's preeminent pioneer detailed the concept: "I've always been inspired by riders like Craig Kelly and Johan Olofsson who are so fluid and creative with big mountain runs, throwing in freestyle moves and hitting different natural features on the way down. That's what The Stash is all about. Going top-to-bottom with your friends, connecting hits and getting creative on organic features like trees, stumps, gaps and banks."
The Stash park at Wyoming's Jackson Hole called upon legendary chain-saw artist Bob King who carved 20 unique wooden sculptures to serve both as terrain features and year-round guardians of the mountain's notoriously challenging terrain. After a layoff at Boeing more than ten years ago, King took to carving full-time and hasn't looked back. His work consistently takes blue ribbons and podium spots at competitions worldwide.
Developed with the future of the mountain environment in mind, The Stash re-uses local tress (downed by storms or other natural causes) and found objects to limit environmental impact. All the creative elements the mountain have to offer — natural terrain, local wood products and hometown heroes who wield the know-how necessary to build such progressive wintersport territory — run at full-tilt here. Once you add the riders come winter? The results represent an amazing evolution of the sport — a return to roots that's informed by all the creative innovation that's taken place since legends like Kelly and Jake first brought the sport to the world's attention. The freestyle you see on these runs come winter isn't 1080 rodeo flips and double corks, it's more like big, beautifully mellow backside 180s, fastplants or fully boned-out, massive methods.
While most the world savors the sweet taste of summer off-mountain, trading snowboard boots for beaches, a dedicated crew of pros tirelessly take mental dry runs through high alpine terrain, then switch gears to don trucker hats and carpenters' pencils behind their ears on a quest for the endless winter. Construction can be some seriously tough work - all just another example of how these humble hardcores know no off-season.
In Killington VT - the home mountain of Burton Snowboards' headquarters - The Stash run is a full half-mile long, showcasing wooded glades, log jibs, banked ramps and pillow lines. It also incorporates urban freestyle elements like a stairset (wooden of course) and a jibbable fence.
The jewel in this crown is a classic Vermonter sugar shack, ready to be jibbed and jumped. Inside is a miniature museum, complete with a timeline of snowboarding history in Vermont along with vintage snowboard gear and photos.
What all this amounts to is an awesome way to keep it all real, in touch with the originators and those that brought snowboarding to such well-earned recognition as an expressive, artistic contribution to sport. There was a time, not too long ago, when guys used to saw their boards in half, only to bolt them back together at the top of the hill in order to ride places like New Mexico's infamous Taos, which only two years ago opened its doors to snowboarding. MINI Space salutes those who work their asses off in the off season to make the world a better place to shred.
The Stash can be found at Killington Vermont, Jackson Hole Wyoming, Northstar-at-Tahoe in California; Avoriaz, France; The Remarkables, New Zealand and Flachauwinkl Resort, Austria. For more information, visit www.thestash.com.
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