R.I.P. #TWSNOW

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Nothing lasts forever. R.I.P. TWSNOW. It was the world’s largest snowboard magazine. It was my first job out of college. It’s where I learned about snowboarders like me all over the world. It’s where I learned to write about what I loved.

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Transworld Snowboarding was bought by American Media—the company who owns the National Enquirer—who suddenly shut the mag down. There were so many rad tributes on all the feeds, a great outpouring of stories and memories and love. It’s very bittersweet because because because …

Because it wasn’t on our terms, but rather those of a mega-corp.

Because snowboarding is business to them, but it’s a sacred rite, culture and lifestyle to us.

Because print doesn’t make money anymore.

Because even though we were sad to see it go, none of us actually had a subscription to Transworld anymore.

Because we expect our media and inspiration and expression to be free.

Because it’s all there on the internet.

A conundrum. But the world is ever-changing. What’s the new model? What’s next? What kind of rad, unexpected grass-roots creativity will spring forth in the vacuum of TWSNOW? I can’t wait to see.

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I was at Transworld for a decade. The longer I was there, the less I cared about the competitive aspect of snowboarding, and the more I cared about its power to connect you to cultures all over the world. I traveled, and wrote about it. India, Russia, Japan, Canada, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, Europe. I went, met the people, rode the powder. Shred tourism was and is my thing.

So, here’s a story I wrote about Mt. Baker—before I ever even lived in the Northwest. This piece was written before Instagram. I haven’t been to Baker in many years. Maybe it’s different now? But I like to think it’ll always kinda be this way …

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WINTER PASSING

Three weeks of seasonal dumpage at Washington’s most legendary resort—Mt. Baker.

It’s fast approaching 10:00 p.m. on the streets (or rather street) of Glacier, the tiny town at the base of Mt. Baker, deep in the Northern Washington woods. Two tire marks make black stripes in a few inches of fresh snow accumulated on the road since the plow last came through, and the sky is the kind of dark that only exists in the middle of nowhere. Your cell phone has no service. You’d like to meet up with some familiar faces, and so you venture to Graham’s, one of two buildings with the lights still on. As you push through the door, the smoke from the fireplace stings your eyes, and some flannel-wearing locals playing pool look you up and down. One of them may or may not be Mike Ranquet. The bar tender comes over and asks you, “Wuht’ll eht be?” The beer tastes good. Everything has a real solidness to it and seems nourishing somehow. It’s the raw, pure living of the mountains. You have entered the world of Mt. Baker.

As a resort, Mt. Baker is defined as much by what it isn’t as what it is. As the closest Washington resort to the Canadian border, with the nearest “city” being the college town of Bellingham over an hour away, Baker is a little too remote to attract a giant clogging mess of tourists. The absence of any slopeside hotels or other traditional “resort amenities” probably helps this cause. And as far as snowboarding goes, the mountain has fostered more of a tight-knit family than an overblown scene. “There’s a sense of community but no real scene,” says longtime local Pat McCarthy. “Everyone knows everyone, and it feels like a big family. You’ll hit a cliff under the lift and hear the hoots but not have time to stop and see who it is.”

The warm family vibe is accented to by a rough, aggressive edge, though. The challenging nature of the terrain and the rugged flavor of remote mountain living requires a dedication to the institution of snow and a real hunger to ride things fast, big, and dangerous. They didn’t call ’em the Mt. Baker Hard Cores for nothing, you know. Like McCarthy says, “When there’s eighteen inches of new, you better be out the door by 6:00 a.m. if your planning on getting yours.”

And the “getting” of what’s “yours” at Mt. Baker is truly the stuff of legend—feeling the earth fall away from you bombing the treeless curve of Hemispheres; hiking the Shuksan Arm for a multi-faceted run of backcountry perfection that includes steeps, trees, and pillows; getting cliffed-out in bounds on your very first run of the morning and having to man up and just drop that son of a bitch; and the snow, the snow, the snow. Riding through a real Mt. Baker blizzard is a thing all its own. “When you’re up there and it’s snowing that hard you feel like your in a different world,” says Baker warrior Mark Landvik. “You can hardly see what’s ahead of you unless it’s a tree, the wind is going off, everyone is hiding underneath their layers trying to stay warm …”

There’s not much more to say about the experience of riding this place beyond this: “Snowboarding all day by yourself in the powder. Randomly bumping into friends and sharing the day’s experiences. Riding every run you’ve been dying to hit up all season until your back leg feels so dead that all you can do is head for the lodge and some salmon bread bowls … it feels good just saying it,” sighs McCarthy. It feels good hearing it, too. Really, if you’ve tapped into the essence of Mt. Baker at least once in your life, then, my friends, you have lived.

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