It’s early March 2017, high noon and busy in the Summit House atop Whitefish Mountain Resort. There are groms in need of hand warmers, their parents maybe in need of a drink, but no one’s short on powder turns. Amidst the lively lunch crowd, Travis Parker takes a break from his burrito and says, “One of the interesting thing about snowboarding is that during Earth’s 365 days a year, there’s always a place to ride. No matter the month, we can always find snow somewhere. And we’ll have fun with it, even if there’s only a patch.”
Luckily for Travis, Jesse Grandkoski and the crew of Airblaster riders they’re leading around Whitefish Mountain Resort, there’s no lack of snow. Over five feet of fresh have fallen in the past six days, and it just keeps on coming.
Travis and Jesse both hail from Whitefish Mountain Resort. The two met here when they were both 13-years-old and had just began boarding. “We learned a lot riding together at Big Mountain,” Jesse says. “The conditions here are unique. It can get foggy as heck and at times you’re living in a cloud, but the snow is usually great.”
He describes Whitefish as a good place for learning to hit cliffs, slash powder and progress quickly as a well-rounded snowboarder. Each winter Whitefish Mountain Resort receives an average of 300 inches of snow (that total was surpassed this year by March 1) and the inbounds area is full of diverse terrain, from rocky couloirs to narrow tree lines to terrain parks, fast groomers and pillows galore.
From Whitefish Jesse went on to college in Colorado, where Travis crashed in his dorm room for a few months. The two bounced from mountain town to mountain town, separated at times but never losing contact. By the dawn of the early 2000s they (along with their friend Paul Miller) launched Airblaster with a focus on fun. Jesse points out that Airblaster is generally known as a Portland, OR based company, but its earliest roots grew among the snow-ghosted thickets of Whitefish back in the early ‘90s. “And now we’re back, jeez, like 27 years later,” Jesse says. “It feels kind of like a flashback—a homecoming of sorts.”
Their homecoming couldn’t have had better timing. Locals are claiming the best conditions they’ve seen in five, six, seven years, depending on how long they’ve lived in the area. “The highest number I’ve heard is eleven,” another out-of-towner told me this morning. And in regards to finding deep stashes (and pushing right through them) the widely spoken words of the week are: “You don’t even have to try.” Fresh lines abound, ripe and ready for the taking.
Airblaster is here filming for their newest video, “March,” a month-long movie project taking place entirely in Northwest Montana. They’ve assembled a crew including a crew including Max Tokunga, Jack Hewitt and Bryden Bowley, along with some of their friends from Japan, the WOW (Weekly of Weird) crew. Later this month they’ll be joined by Max Warbington, Erik Leon, Alek Oestreng and a few possible others.
Accessibility is a theme that plays well at Whitefish. They’ll roll up on a zone and if someone’s feeling it, the cameramen scramble to get their gear out and film on the fly. No shot takes more than a few minutes. There are no two-way radios, nor fits of pressure and frustration. There’s only snowboarding, lighthearted and laughable, as it often should be.
“We think it’s important to highlight this side of things, the everyday-rider experience,” Jesse says. “We took the train out here from Portland for less than $200 per person roundtrip, and now we’re mostly just ripping around the resort. Our hope is that by getting the right group of young guys together we’ll create something that can be inspirational, yet accessible.”
Travis looks back down at his plate, then up again. “You could take all that time at home to prep and cook a big meal, and sure, there’s a time and place for that,” he says. “Or you could just grab a burrito, get outside and go. You know?”
We clear the table and trudge through the storm outside to find our boards.
Thanks to Brian Schott & Explore Whitefish,Christina “Riley” Polumbus & Whitefish Mountain Resort for helping facilitate the trip, and to the Pine Lodge & Morning Eagle at Whitefish Mountain Resort for downtown and slopeside accommodation, respectively.