Blake Paul: Jackson Hole’s Backcountry Prince

According to Aaron Robinson, Blake Paul is, “the next Travis Rice; he’s The Backcountry Prince—he is the elite force behind Jackson Hole’s youth.” High praise from one of the freeride world’s most accomplished young riders for the 18-year-old Paul, who is relatively unknown outside of his home base of Jackson—for now.

First getting on-board in his birthplace of Vermont, Paul’s family moved to Jackson when he was seven. Spending nearly every winter day since exploring the ins and outs of Jackson Hole alongside a few early season trips to Utah, Paul has fine-tuned an all-mountain and thoroughly Jackson-esque “powder-jibber” style that has helped him stand out in a sport where young riders are increasingly funneling into a particular niche. With a bit of everything in his skill set, Paul credits his home mountain with fostering his versatility.

“Jackson molds you into a different type of rider,” Paul says. “People from Jackson, who grew up riding here, they almost have an advantage because they’re just riding gnarlier stuff all the time.”

It was his proficiency with Jackson pow that made Robinson take notice of Paul last January. Robinson says he didn’t think much when Alex Yoder, another Jackson native, introduced him to the then-17-year-old Paul, “But then we go and shred some pow and he just throws it down,” Robinson remembers. “We go to a kicker cliff and he lands like four sick tricks. We were just having a blast.”

Blake Paul cruising Jackson Hole from FunBlock Films on Vimeo.

With snowboarding as stratified as ever, Paul cites his Jackson-bred ability to ride it all as an advantage over other up-and-coming riders. “I think every kid coming up should ride everything,” Paul says, adding that he also knows it’s important to stand out. “That’s what will help you grow, if you create a style and image for yourself, and people recognize your style of riding.”

Paul says the Jackson parks haven’t always been up to par with other mountains, but that forces riders to explore the terrain more and develop tricks on natural features, something that resonated with Robinson.

“I followed him around Jackson and he knows all these cool little side-hits,” Robinson says. “I would just snowboard around behind him and get super psyched.” Listing Jed Anderson, Danny Davis and Nicolas Müller as major influences on his style, Paul says he wants “to bring a jibber style to the backcountry.”

Since the initial meeting, Robinson’s respect for Paul grew to the point where he extended and invitation to collaborate on a video with filmer and editor Sam Tuor. Working on the yet-untitled Tuor release this winter was Paul’s most serious video-based endeavor to date, but he’s no stranger to moviemaking. One full-length (last year’s Any Ideas?) and a handful of comedy-driven web edits from FunBlock Films–the DIY movie crew started by Paul and his J-Hole friends Cam Fitzpatrick, Dan Rodonsky and Cam Walters–have amassed thousands of views.

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Though the FunBlock movies are peppered with comedy skits, Paul says the prior experience of shooting and editing his own segments has helped him while working with Tuor.

“When you’re out shooting, after you’ve edited some stuff and figured out what looks cool, you can definitely picture how you would edit some of the shots,” Paul says. “It definitely helps to have some editing experience and to know what you like when you’re watching a video.”

This summer Paul will be joining Robinson and crew in Chile to finish up shooting for the project, which will be out this October. Fresh off high school graduation, Paul says he’s chosen full-time dedication to snowboarding over college, and in addition to looking forward to more filming opportunities in the coming season, he says his main goal is elevating his riding.

“I want to take all the tricks that I have and just do them on bigger stuff,” Paul says. “Of course I want to try new tricks, but I just want to move on to more man-sized features.”

Though his primary focus right now is filming, Paul says he plans on competing in The North Face Masters events next season, and that competing elsewhere isn’t outside the realm of possibility. “Being from Jackson, I’m just going to follow that type of riding, but if I get a chance to do a slope contest, it’d be cool to try and see where I end up,” Paul says. “I’m not trying to do X Games right now, that’s not on my agenda, but who knows.”

Paul says he’s hopeful that his video part this fall will be somewhat of a coming out party to the industry, and his collaborators agree.“He’s at the point where he’s about to bust into a really amazing career in snowboarding if he wants to,” Robinson says. “He’s better than most, all, the kids his age. I guess that’s relative, better is a relative term. [Snowboarding is] an art. He’s not doing triple-corks, but he’s really, really good.”

Aside from standing out in the crowd, Paul says another benefit of riding something different everyday is avoiding that dreaded trap of getting burnt out on snowboarding, which Paul says he’s been cautioned about by his older mentors.

“I ride pretty much every day no matter what and always have fun, so I can’t imagine ever getting burnt out on it, but you’ve got to make sure you keep things fresh,” Paul says. “I can’t really envision doing anything else.”


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