Freeride Program - June Newsletter

I grew up in a place where it was pretty standard to have the whole mountain to yourself with your buddies.  No lift lines (one double, one triple chair, and one rope tow).  This was in Wyoming, but not the Wyoming most people in Jackson have heard about or spent time exploring.  My buddies and I were all alone because the hill was small, it wasn’t a destination resort, the moguls were shaped by hay barrels, and there were no production companies or professional athletes to speak of.  Occasionally when riding our little and perfect mountain, I’d look over while waiting my turn to jib our little tree branch and see a mysterious rider absolutely executing the most skate-like backside 180s, then taking a huge fakie turn that trenched the boilerplate snow, sending a spray upward that blinded the view of anyone lucky enough to witness what had just happened. Just as quick as he came into the picture, he was gone, vanished into the woods before his spray had time to settle. There weren’t any professional snowboarders in our region of Wyoming, so every time I caught a glimpse of a snowboarder spinning with style or witnessing a rider grabbing technical, I would think it was the same mysto shredder.  That guy had my attention, so much so that whenever I was at our little hill, my buddies and myself would always be on the lookout for him.  He was our window into true snowboard culture, our motivation, our local hero.  

Fast forward in time, I finally make the move to Jackson to live out my childhood dreams.  I have no friends and I’m snowboarding solo every day.  I stood by a snow fence watching the Natural Selection my first winter in Jackson.  As fun and absolutely amazing as it was to watch Travis tear the bag out of the place, I just couldn’t picture myself riding like him.  What he does, and what I attempt to do on snow could not be more different. Riding up the Casper chair lift later that day, I started to think about the mysto rider from my little mountain, his riding wasn’t what I’d just witnessed by any means, but I could at least dream to ride like him.  In that moment of thought, I witnessed some high school aged riders launching through the trees, spinning with style, landing, and quickly vanishing just like my local hero.  I was intrigued.  I knew I wasn’t getting an invite to the Natural Selection anytime soon, but maybe I could ride with those kids.  Now bear with me here while I connect my childhood story to who this newsletter is actually about.  

The very next season, I was lucky enough to be hired to coach for the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club’s Freeride Program (Snowboard Team). During my 8-year coaching tenure, I can name a handful of riders from our team that sure as heck would make my list of favorite snowboarders. Two of which are graduating seniors this year - Jake Johnson and Neo Emery.  I’ve had the pleasure to coach Jake and Neo since they were groms, and I was honored to coach them again in their final year of our program.  Neo is a silent assassin, a man of few words, and as a little kid would cleave an innocent pillow line in half with a man-turn that would make most Jackson bros feel incompetent (he also won the Junior Freeride World Championship this year).  Jake on the other hand, one to speak his mind, has always evoked his skate style (really good style too) into his riding. After spending time in Jackson, it was inspiring to see Jake break the status-quo of “big mountain riding” and turn Jackson into his personal skate park (Jake is currently working on a snowboard video project).

Now, as much as I’d like to think I’ve played a pivotal role in their progression as athletes, I know it was their friendship, and each other’s riding that was the catalyst for how good they’ve become and how awesome these two individuals are.  I know these guys both have professional athletes they look up, but I also know they both prefer their best friends riding over the latest snowboard pro. 

Hey boys - Thank you both for always being each other’s biggest advocate and motivator.  It’s been an honor to witness your progression and friendship grow into something beyond spectacular.  It was an honor to work with, and learn from both of you.  Your contribution to the JHSC and Freeride Program has made our community of athletes, our coaches, and our community better. 

Wishing you both the very best with your future endeavors.

Your old coach,

Andy Lex