Flashback: Sochi is heaven on earth!

Let's meander down memory lane. All the way to Sochi!

Do you remember two years back when the world’s finest snow athletes traveled all the way to Sochi, Russia? I did because I was there, covering the Games for Esquire. Let’s re-live!

SOCHI, Russia — I checked into my dacha late last night. It hugs the Caucasus Mountains a mere five kilometers from Polyana Krasnaya or “The Mountain Cluster” of these Olympic Games. And I realized, as I set my suitcase on its marble floor, that any journalist complaints about Sochi must be coming from the unimaginative or those who married poorly.

My dacha has a baby grand piano. It has a swimming pool heated to a perfect 80 degrees. It has a Russian masseuse, who gives a “Russian Strength Massage,” on call 24 hours a day, and it has a refrigerator stocked with ice-cold beer. The reason it is so well-appointed is because the hotel grounds, upon which it sits, are owned by Gazprom, one of the world’s largest companies.

Gazprom is based in Moscow and accounts for 17% of all natural gas production. They pumped 32 million tons of crude oil last year. They own airlines, media, banks, the Pik Hotel and my dacha. Its valuation hovers around $100 billion and its taste in design is luxurious. My dacha’s whirlpool bathtub has gold fixtures set against forest green tile.

Yet I would not be here had I not married my important and successful sports agent wife. She has an eye for talent and signed Russian-born snowboarder, and potential gold medalist, Iouri Podlatchikov. Even though he rides for the Swiss team, he is a Russian darling. He is the reason I am mixing a perfect Stolichnaya martini on a mahogany bar.

And even though Gazprom is one of the world’s largest companies, it is in a bit of hot water due to corruption. The Moscow Times recently reported that, “In their private reports, investment bankers write cautiously that they consider 70 percent of Gazprom’s capital investment ‘value destruction,’ which is their euphemism for corruption and waste.” The Economist reported last March that, “(Gazprom’s) costs are startlingly high. It treats its executives generously: a 2008 tender, for example, included a solarium and a special bath for horses. It buys supplies in an idiosyncratic fashion, too.” Independent think tanks and evaluators consider that Gazprom loses some 50 billion dollars a year to corruption and waste.

Corruption is bad, I know, I know, and waste is a shame, I know, I know. The journalists love to crow about the $50 billion spent on these Games and the yellow water in their sinks and the unfinished floors in their rooms. But I drove on that $7 billion road late night and it was as smooth as butter. So smooth, in fact, that my jet lagged one-year old daughter slept like a sweet angel. I saw the mountain town, built just three years ago, and the snowboard course and the ski jumping venue today and it all looks like a futuristic alpine dream. I watched Torah Bright (one of my wife’s other clients and the most beautiful competitor) in women’s slope style while sitting in the most comfortable outdoor arena, listening to a bagpipe band play AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, and felt happy.

At the end of the day, who is to say what is waste and what is necessary? The United States government spent $400,000 last year studying duck penises and has over $17 trillion in debt. And I just bought a pair of Balmain jeans. Right now I am getting ready to chase my Stolichnaya martini with a chilled bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne that has been chilling in a sterling silver bucket all afternoon. It will be delicious.

Help: A Make-A-Wish kid thrashed me!

But maybe I made his dreams come completely true!

Do you remember the first time powder… soft, dry, untracked, endless powder touched your board? Oh it is most certainly addicting. Were you addicted? Did you feel that all other pursuits up to that moment were but silly contrivances? But wastes of your time?

Oh the thrill!

Except would you like to hear about the first time that soft, dry, untracked endless powder touched my board? Let’s rewind five years.

I had just married snowboard legend Circe Wallace. We were in Jackson, Wyoming to see her wonderful client Travis Rice. Now, being married to a snowboard legend already presents a constellation of problems. LodgeGrit principal Willie McMillon summed it up thusly. “Yeah. You snowboard. You’re not a snowboarder.’

And he is exactly right. Trying to follow Circe down the hill in those early years was an exercise in humility. I could snowboard, yes, but I was not a snowboarder and the subtleties of difference here are vast.

In any case, I had also never ridden powder. Ever.

And back to Jackson. Travis, though, was going to makes dreams come true for a Make-A-Wish foundation younger man who wanted to, above all, snowboard in the presence of greatness.

Make-A-Wish, for those who don’t know, is a fantastic non-profit involved in allowing kids with life threatening illnesses to experience the thrill of a lifetime. Race car driving with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Watching a Laker game from the bench with LeBron James. Snowboarding with Travis Rice.

I think that it was only expected that Travis would take the kid on a couple groomers at the resort. Travis being Travis he booked a heli to take the kid into the back-country. For some reason I went along.

Having never ridden powder. Ever.

As we soared over the beauty I was quite impressed and the kid was over the very moon. Here he was riding in a helicopter with Travis Rice getting ready to bomb hills straight outta Art of Flight. The dream!

We landed somewhere and piled out. Travis was a vision to watch. He is a big man yet floats like a butterfly. The kid was super impressive, laying turns in the deep. Circe was Circe. A ballerina. And then it was my turn.

I shifted forward, kept my weight on my front foot for stability and… rolled. Head over heals down the entire hill.

I did this time and time and time again while everyone watched me from the bottom. We would hop the helicopter back up and I would repeat.

Shame burned in all of my sinews.

But at least I felt like I made-a-wish too. The kid looked like a pro next to me and the smile shown brightly on his face.

McMillon: “Here’s a neat fuckin’ story!”

Do you want to be rich and well-liked? Start a snowboard biz! (Part 1 of 3)

This tall tale begins in a big F350 pick up truck driving from Wyoming to Las Vegas. I’m with my business partner/mentor/homey. His name is Ray Domecq. He used to be a minor league pitcher for the Philly’s. But at this time, owned a western brand called Cowboy Up. Maybe around a 5 million dollar company at the time.

It’s fucked how we met. My buddy Nate used to screen print t-shirts for Ray. Every year I’d take in a bunch of blank shirts and a case of beer over to their warehouse and we would boot leg all the Bluebird tees for the winter.

One day Ray calls Nate into his office and holds up one of our Bluebird screens and asks, “what the fuck is this? “ Nate comes clean and tells him what we were up to. Ray responds by asking if Nate can set up a meeting with me. I go in to meet Ray one day, thinking he’s gonna press charges or make me pay him for the printing or something. Dude ends up asking me if I want an investor for Bluebird.

Anyway fast forward a year. We are on our way to our first SIA tradeshow together. Ray taught me everything I know about business and the first thing he taught me, was you can’t be good at business if you aren’t good at gambling.

Ray is a bad ass business man and a bad ass gambler. The entire ride down to Vegas, he is schooling me on black jack. Teaching me everything about it. He’s made some serious money playing and I’m getting fucking excited to get down there and test his philosophies on the art of cards.

After 12 hours in the car listening to Ray go off, we arrive in the city of shattered dreams. I get my shred crew to come meet us at New York New York. We roll into the high stakes room looking like a bunch of homeless assholes. Ray and I sit down at a table while my skid friends enjoy the free drinks and watch us put $300 each on the table.

Ray couldn’t win a hand to save his life. I on the other hand, had a major stroke of beginners luck. If my dog shit memory serves me correctly, we cashed out around $12,000 in about 30 minutes. I was fucking hooked. Word spread through out the trade show that week while Ray and I went on a massive hot streak every night, winning and winning and winning. We funded our entire first trade show strictly on Blackjack. And I still had a massive stack of cash.

What happens next? Does our hero spend his cash/time wisely? Does he make intelligent choices? Come back in three days for the next chapter!

Just in: Lindsey Vonn hates you!

The world's most famous skier wishes you were dead (metaphorically)!

World Champion ski racer and ex-recipient of Tiger’s Wood Lindsey Vonn went into the man-cave on Dan Patrick’s sports radio show last week to plugg her new fitness book Strong Is The New Beautiful. But instead of dropping into a nude tuck as she did for the book’s promo photos, she shared a regressive fantasy about skier-snowboarder segregation that drew many a social media activist out of the woodwork in defense of their beloved ’boarding.

“Should skiers & snowboarders have different mountains?” the guy asks. And big Lindsey serves up pure troll gold, “Uh, maybe … snowboarders are difficult because you guys camp out and you like, adjust your bindings and you’re in the middle of the trail and … I’m trying to be politically correct here—I do like snowboarders, but it’d be super-great if we could just have a little separation.”

Oh, yes she did. Trigger statement. Culture shaming … And faster than the downhill course at Cortina, touchscreens & keyboards were aflame with indignation.


Whatever “skier-snowboarder relations” means, we agree. Extras points for the fearless sponsor shaming.

And don’t think snowboarding’s leading ladies would let Vonn’s outmoded intolerance slide …


Zap! And right down the hall from Accounts Payable!

And after checking with advertisers to gauge the appropriate response, even the snowlerbladers at The Inertia [Mountain] pasted up the Vonn viral.


We’re still waiting for the semi-sincere apology tweet, selfie with token snowboard friend, or official press release that will make this pain go away. Stay tuned.

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?