Stoked to be posting Part II of the feature with Jesse Loomis of PowderJet Snowboards. Really enjoyed doing this piece and I hope you all enjoy it just as much! Read Part I here.
Q. What are some of the highlights of Powderjet so far, for you and the brand?
A. Being out here in the sticks, it’s tough for me to gauge what’s going on within the snowboard world. So the most gratifying thing about the whole experience is when serious riders at big mountains see or ride the boards and are completely into it. We’ve been lucky enough to have some serious world-class riders getting out on a PowderJet and tearing around and giving me tons of positive feedback. When I see video of Laura Hadar shredding Stevens Pass out in Washington, or Jesse and Lukas Huffman in Hokkaido, Japan, riding terrain I’ve always dreamed about riding, it’s nice to realize that I’m not just making throwback designs. It’s seeing those hyper talented riders finding new was to ride a mountain, driven to a large degree by this weird design that really works well.
I love making the simplest possible board, grabbing ahold of a part of the sport that appreciates simplicity. I love showing that snowboards don’t need to be these mass produced, plastic sandwiches. I love the idea of influencing the big snowboard manufacturers by making a relatively clean, basic, wooden snowboard that outperforms a lot of their highly engineered powder boards.
So a lot of the highlights basically come from receiving recognition from the professional snowboard community, both with athletes and media. But more importantly, a lot of real riders, people who have real jobs outside of snowboarding, have found their way to us, and really connect with the pure powder board idea. It makes sense to a lot of people, even though it’s a little bit perverse. I guess it’s kind of punk in a way, moving away from gimmicky tech advancements and focussing on function. So I guess what I’m saying is that every time someone tells me that they like the boards for any reason, that’s a brand new career highlight. Also, speaking in front of a class of Dartmouth engineering students about PowderJet was a nice feather in the cap. They were much smarter than me …
Q. The Burton US Open now calls Vail home. As a snowboarder, and Vermonter, what are your thoughts on this? And what are your thoughts about the new VT Open festival that was hosted at Stratton in lieu of the championships?
A. The US Open was a very Vermont affair for the first fifteen or twenty years of its run. If you were an avid snowboarder, there was a decent chance that someone you knew, someone more talented than you, could make the cut and be competing. Being a fifteen year old nerd from Rupert, and getting to see Craig Kelly and Shaun Palmer and especially Jeff Brushie, those were the raddest, baddest dudes on the planet to us. There were so many people lining the lip of the pipes that you had to stake a spot and claim it during qualifiers, or you’d have no chance of seeing anything at all, unless you stood in the crowd at the bottom. The bottom was cool for watching a rider’s whole run, but you didn’t get the thrill of Terje Haakon-flipping over your head, or being below Brushie’s backside crail. It was amazing to have the craziest, just genius snowboarders coming from all over the world to lowly southern VT.
Then there were just insane parties. When you walked down the hall of that hotel at the base of Stratton, it was total chaos. Music blasting from every room, weed smoke throughout all the hallways, underage drinking, the occasional patrolling Winhall police force sighting, which just made it all more fun. I witnessed so many cases of vandalism and just random petty savagery … holes punched in walls, tagging, snowball fights with strangers, real fights with strangers, Terje dropping his snowboard out of the 4th floor hotel window, instigating a near riot after the halfpipe competition. This must have been the early days of Red Bull in the US, and we hadn’t figured out the dosage, because we were all so fired up and over the top amped!
But … maybe it was when it became a televised event that the pace slowed down, and riders started doing new tricks that wouldn’t be possible if hung over. Stratton moved the pipe competition to the other side of the mountain, away from the Gen Pop, which calmed things down a lot. The whole thing became more serious, competition-wise, and experience-wise. The Open grew up a little, and the spectators became more interested in the incredible riding going on than on partying. The rising has always been on the highest level, but the chaotic atmosphere was effectively curtailed.
The VT Open was super fun, super homey and low key. It was a friendly competition, and it was largely Vermont locals and pros. The coolest event, in my opinion, was the Snurfer Challenge. It was basically a head to head straight shot, survival style, where you had to throw yourself to the ground immediately after the the finish line to stop, if by chance you made it the full 50 yards. Amazing to see the original iteration of the sport in the context of what was otherwise a pretty progressive riding atmosphere. You really got a sense of the depth of snowboarding’s roots.
It was a great family event … I hope they remember to invite PowderJet to sponsor it next year!
Q. You’re originally from Rupert, and now you’re raising your own family there. Do you think it’s important that the younger generation stay in the great green state? And in what ways do you think that would enrich the state and its communities?
A. Vermont is a unique and beautiful place, and I’m really happy that we chose to raise our family here. Something about the landscape is very inviting. It might be the way the hills and mountains are shaped, they’re not formidable but welcoming. And for the most part, the people here are the same. There doesn’t seem to be the same political polarization among our residents that you see in a lot of places. Yankee gentility still matters. Also, there’s a nice perspective when you live someplace where the weather seems to be trying to kill you on a regular basis, either freezing or flooding or scorching with drought. Vermont is still hardscrabble in many ways, despite our soft hippy image.
It would be nice to see more young people staying in Vermont, but it’s tough to find work as a professional unless you’re in Burlington. I’m not a sustainable economics planner, but it does seem like we could use some investment in job creation, especially down here in Southern VT. There are young college educated people around, but we need to have jobs for them that aren’t just one form or another of taking care of the tourists and second home owners, mowing lawns and painting houses and shit. I’ll encourage my kids to live and work in Vermont, because it’s still an amazing place to raise kids, and to be a kid. They might just have to create their own careers, like I’m trying to do with PowderJet.