Even the blind get a headache from the multi-pronged assault on aesthetics.

Real life: Bad Fashion Made Me Quit Riding!

The Seattle look, the quasi-punk ethos, the skate-lite vibe… 

Fifteen years ago I could’ve thrown in surf and lived on a mountain. A lifetime of clawing for waves, the repetition of manoeuvres never made, and never would, had killed the love that had driven a little boy to obsession.

I discovered snow late, as you do when you live on the beach in Australia, and even later when you’re in the tropical north. It came when I was working at a surfing magazine that also published, cynically, for this was when rivers of advertising gold flowed into print, a snowboarding magazine. The nearest mountain was a thousand miles away. The last time the temperature hit freezing was never.

If I’m going to be honest, I never really thrilled to the arrival of winter, even in the most sublime of climates. Wetsuits. Numb. Winds that persisted onshore. Yeah, it’s the time for hard-core surfers, all that shit. I didn’t buy it.

I liked that you didn’t have to fight for a ride. You could even ride, side by side, with a pal. Chair lifts were for conversation and, occasionally, a little non-medicinal weed. Beginners weren’t ridiculed. The learning curve, at least the part where you get to competency, was fast, painless.

The idea of a new sport, an easy-to-learn replication of surf, while wrapped in wool and nylons, with mechanical chairs and T-bars to take you to your next ride, held a big appeal.

I started riding. Leveraged magazine contacts for a Terje board and Burton gear.

I’d fly a thousand clicks and drive eight hours on a bus for one day on a mountain. First lifts to last. Ice, slush, pow, and every variable in between. What I thought’d be a little side to the main game of surf, suddenly started to override.

I liked that you didn’t have to fight for a ride. You could even ride, side by side, with a pal. Chair lifts were for conversation and, occasionally, a little non-medicinal weed. Beginners weren’t ridiculed. The learning curve, at least the part where you get to competency, was fast, painless.

Five years I rode every window I could got. I even moved to Sydney to remove the plane ride out of the equation.

I rode in Austria and France with the Onboard crew (who’d give me a job launching their European surf mag), to the US with old pals who’d been talking up snow for years, to New Zealand to write a how-to-snowboard book and to cover the Heli-Challenge.

I loved it. Loved it.  

One day, on a gondola in Europe over some chasm, two eastern Europeans, dreadlocks, massive jackets, pants that flared more than was necessary to cover the unwieldy boots started punk-talking.

“We are the cunts. Oh ja, we are the cunts of snowboarding,” they said. “Snowboarding puts us on the edge of life. We are the cunts of the snow.”

I looked around. All of us. Extra-extra-extra-large jackets. Mitts. Soft boots ’cause park was everything. Listening to the worst of Seattle. All affecting a skate-lite image while paying a hundred a day in lifts and everything else.

Reminded me of the whole bodyboarding thing in surfing. A fun thing to do on the odd occasion,  nothing else, certainly not something you’d give your life to. I mean, we’re…strapped in.

Bodyboarding. Wake. Snowboard.

To treat is as anything more was just a little…off. 

Surf was calling me back.

I threw everything I had, including a Rippey 54, a Terje 56, boots, bags, jackets, goggles, gloves onto the nature strip outside my house. Within minutes it was gone. I’d neglected surfing, had developed a weird-ass front-foot style ’cause of all my riding, and I wanted to go home.

Home to the beach. Home to the water. Just, home.

Postscript: The surfboard shaper Matt Biolos got me back into the snow game last season after a dozen-year hiatus. Matt’s snowboarded as long as he’s surfed, even makes boards for LibTechowns a house in Mammoth. Loves to ride. Showed me it didn’t matter how bad the fashion was, how dumb a lot of the periphery was. Didn’t I want to go fast? Didn’t I want to stand on a ridge, strap-in and…go? 

Travis Rice (right) is very fabulous but look at that other Russian!

Meet: World’s most fab snowboarder!

Can you guess who it is? Wrong!

When you think of the most fabulously interesting snowboarders who flits across your mind? Is it Travis Rice? Jeremy Jones? Maybe, if red is your kink, even Shaun White? What about Vladimir M. Fomenko?

“Who?” You ask. “Did you mean Iouri Podladtchikov?”

“No!” I respond, visibly annoyed. “Vladimir M. Fomenko.”

Should we learn about him through the pages of the New York Times? Well of course we should!

Over the summer, a long slog of digital sleuthing into the cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and others improbably led to this isolated spot. In mid-September, I followed the trail here to meet Vladimir M. Fomenko, a 26-year-old snowboarder who is the only individual so far identified in the online intrusions, which cybersecurity experts have attributed to the Russian state security agencies.

One security company had, on Sept. 2, identified what it called an “infrastructure nexus” linked to two intrusions on state election board computers in Illinois and Arizona. Mr. Fomenko managed that “nexus,” as the owner of a server company.

But the revelation didn’t draw much attention, and Mr. Fomenko said nothing for two weeks.

Padding about my apartment in Moscow one morning with a cup of coffee, I got a phone call. An acquaintance in the computer business had a tip: Mr. Fomenko had been looking for a publicity agent, as he was planning to issue a statement later in the day. He wanted to talk.

It seemed an important development in the story of the hacks on the national committee and other election targets in the United States, a tale until then characterized by digital forensics but no people.

Mr. Fomenko and I talked on the phone. He denied any knowledge of the hacks as they were happening but conceded these intrusions could have been staged from his server computers. He operates his business from a rented apartment and spends his free time snowboarding in the Altai Mountains. He was open to a visit.

Soon enough, I was on an Aeroflot red-eye heading east. In the internet age, it turns out, you can live near Mongolia and still be at the center of the highest-profile computer-hacking story in America in years.

The unlikely remoteness of his residence seemed relevant, given the high-profile nature of the hacks in the United States — a sort of illustration of the dark side of globalization.

The city is a two-hour drive from the nearest commercial airport. To be fair, a good number of outdoors lovers and other tourists pass through on their way to the Altai Mountains, a picturesque highland in the south of Siberia also known for good skiing. From time to time, Harley Davidsons rumble through town, as bikers from Europe and elsewhere have taken a shine to the ride to Mongolia. Still, it felt far removed.

Mr. Fomenko and I met in a rooftop bar called Rocks in the late afternoon and watched the sun set over the southern Siberian steppe.

His denials were vague, and the interview illustrated the equivocation and ambiguity in both official and unofficial Russian responses to the allegations that the security services are hacking America’s election computers.

For the night, I booked a room at Art-Eco hotel, a Siberian-themed establishment constructed entirely of logs that gave off such a piney smell that the sensation was of sleeping inside a lumber mill.

With the bread-and-butter of the story in my notebook, the next day I looked around the city for some ancillary material to further illustrate the remoteness of this place and the improbability of a resident here playing any role in an American presidential election. The location deep in Siberia was also relevant for highlighting his inaccessibility to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the electoral hacks as possibly an effort to undermine Americans’ faith in our election process. Why was this mysterious computer expert living out here? I spoke to locals, including the curator of the city history museum, a warm and knowledgeable man named Dmitry V. Yeroshkin.

The city’s slogan is “Gateway to the Chuysky Highway.” Biysk had been a border fort along the Tsarist Empire’s frontier with China. The nature all around is lovely. Why wouldn’t somebody want to live here?

“Yes, we are in the middle of nowhere, “ Mr. Yeroshkin said. “But we have two museums and a drama theater.”

Siberian-themed art-eco resorts? High-level hacks of foreign governments? Neck tattoos and smokey blue eyes?

Eat your heart out Travis Rice!