As a world-renowned pro at the forefront of backcountry progression, Jake is known for his fluid blend of soulful freeriding and innate technical trickery. In his quest for pure, all-mountain expression, the Vermont native turned Washington local has pursued a singular and relevant path in snowboarding. Jake’s formative years were spent on the east coast competing in icy halfpipes and rock hard slopestyle courses, until he turned pro after winning some of the biggest events in the world, including the U.S. Open. After establishing himself as a top competitor in both venues, Jake set his sights on the backcountry, where a string of progressive video parts followed suit and positioned him as one of snowboarding’s best all-terrain talents. Then, at the top of his game, Jake shifted from the jump-based freestyle standard to a more natural, freeride-focused approach. It was a shift that set Jake apart and signaled his ongoing evolution as one of the few riders truly flying snowboarding’s flag and leading the push off-piste. He’s currently based in Bellingham, Washington, close to both Mt. Baker and the British Columbia backcountry where he spent the last two years filming for his two-year film project, Naturally.
What were you working on this winter? Where’d you go?
We started off in Japan in January. We went to Hokkaido and then from there I went to BC, where I rode at Monashee, catboarding for a bit. I was there with Shayne Pospisil, Pizzle, good shit. Then from there we went to tradeshows, end of January, got both SIA and ISPO, and then right after ISPO it dumped a shitload of snow so we went to France. We got sick powder there, I was with E-Jack and then from there I went to Ultra Natural, then to Revelstoke, then to Pemberton, then up to Last Frontier Heli. After that we went to Saas Fee, Switzerland, hung out with Freddie Kalbermatten but it got really warm, so then we booked it, pulled the plug on Saas Fee and booked it up to Riksgransen and ended the season there.
That’s a heavy travel schedule. Are you pretty comfortable with how the movie is going to come out?
Yeah, for sure. Stoked. The first year was kind of a bit of a struggle. I hurt my shoulder in February and then again in March, so after that I had to get surgery on it. It kept popping out on me, so we turned the one-year project into a two-year project and we filmed most of the video the second year. I’d say eighty to eighty-five percent of the shots will be from the second year. This last winter went really quick, I stayed healthy, we hit the snow good at every location, and yeah, it was a blast all winter long. Stacked some good footy. Everyone feels really good on making the video.
Talk a little bit about your choice to divert your career path a few years back and making a cognitive decision to stray from the contest scene and step into the backcountry. Did you see that as a risk at all?
I guess my interest in snowboarding just kind of changed. I wasn’t having as much fun doing the contest circuit and I wanted to try something different, and it was a little bit of a risk I guess, but I kind of looked at it like there was no other way. I had to do it. I couldn’t just stay competing if I wasn’t having fun, because if I did that, it just wouldn’t have worked out. I knew that I had to go and ride powder because that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what was going to keep me happy, so I kind of just looked at it like that. You gotta do what you wanna do. You can’t just get too comfortable, especially if you’re not having fun because if you’re not having fun in the contest circuit, and you’re just getting through it, what’s the point? You gotta be winning, and there’s no longevity in that, you know? Anyway, I wanted to just stay happy and ride powder, so there was no other way.
What do you think growing up on the east coast and riding hardpack snow taught you, or added to your snowboarding skillset?
It kind of seems like kids on the east coast are a little hungrier, maybe because it’s so fickle back there with weather, and lots of ice and whatnot. It’s just not as easy and then when you move to the west coast everything seems a little bit easier. Growing up in Vermont, especially under the watchful eye of Bud Keene and Jenner Richard, you learn how to turn your snowboard. You really get the fundamentals dialed, like perfecting the turn before learning every which way to spin and how to do 720s and whatnot. It gives you a good foundation growing up on the east coast. I can remember when I was sixteen I moved out west and I didn’t even know how to spin cab, but I knew how to turn well. Good fundamentals. That’s how the east coast helped me.
Where do you see your riding going in the next five to ten years?
I’d like to get back up to Alaska and ride bigger lines. There’s always that obvious next step to freestyle snowboarding but I think with riding natural terrain and whatnot it’s kind of endless. It doesn’t really seem like I’m going to get too bored because every year I ride new terrain. I try not to hit the same stuff at the same spots. Every year we ride new terrain that stokes me out, so that’s what keeps it fresh. I think I’ll just try to keep progressing, trying to do harder tricks on harder terrain, but basically just keep it freestyle in a natural snowboard environment.
You’re no stranger to having your name associated with product and having pro model gear, but I have to ask, how sick is it to see your name on a boot? It’s gotta be so insane.
It’s so sick! Right next to the three stripes, it’s unbelievable. It’s such an honor to be with that company, and just all the innovation they have to choose from, all the technology. It’s crazy what is at your fingertips with adidas.
What do you look for in a boot, and what will your adidas pro model offer?
I like a supportive, responsive boot. Lightweight, too. That’s what we were going for, and we streamlined it as well. I’ve kind of taken a lot of inspiration from soccer boots, but there’s only so much you can do to make a snowboard boot look like a soccer boot, but yeah, that’s kind of where the inspiration came from.
I know soccer is a pretty big part of your life, isn’t it?
Yeah, for sure. I love playing soccer and I try to bring a soccer ball with me everywhere I go throughout the world. I just deflate it, tuck it in the snowboard bag, and bring a pump and pump it back up when we get there. It’s good for keeping your sanity on down days. I can remember we brought it to Last Frontier Heli and there were so many down days up there, but we were playing so much M.U.F.F*. You know M.U.F.F…
Oh yeah, I’ve been up against the wall many a time against Louif [-Felix Paradis].
Hahaha! Yeah, Louif! He’s a shark for sure. It’s just a good way to get loose and warm up, especially before you hop in a heli. It kind of helps keep your head cool and whatnot. Mainly, it’s to keep your sanity and have fun with everyone. Everyone just starts cracking up whenever you pull that ball out. It’s pretty funny.
Who is the biggest threat you have faced playing M.U.F.F.? I imagine Nicolas [Müller] is pretty good.
Yeah, Nicolas is really good, I haven’t played much M.U.F.F. with Nicolas, but he’s definitely good. Terje [Haakonsen] is really good, no doubt about that. Let’s see, Shayne Pospisil is actually getting really good. He’s super good at trick shooting. We were putting the ball up in these really weird spots, like we had an old shopping cart and we were trying to kick the ball in there, like, “Okay, two bounces and then into the shopping cart,” and Pospisil was killing it.
Have you met Lionel Messi?
No, I wish. I got some boots signed by him and that was unreal. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him someday. That’s definitely on the bucket list. That would be insane.
Lastly, where can kids see the movie and when’s it coming out?
September 17th, is going to be the date of the world premiere at the Oakley headquarters, and then we start a three week to month-long tour. About two weeks in North America and roughly two weeks in Europe, we got something like, I think, maybe twenty stops throughout and then there will be a free online release on twsnow.com on October 14th.
You’re gonna rack up those frequent flyer miles on that tour.
Dude, I know. It should be no problem getting 1K this year. That’ll be nice to have that!
*M.U.F.F.: A group soccer juggling game where the last person to touch it before it hits the ground is assigned a letter. Once a participant is assigned all four letters, or M-U-F-F, they must stand against a wall while the other players kick the soccer ball at them.