by Justin Phipps
Avran is one of those guys that I see up at Breck a lot during the season. He’s the mind behind angrySnowboarder.com and does a lot of internet shred stuff, he even films me sometimes too. I thought he’d make a good interview because he has a lot to say and I figured he wouldn’t hold back on anything I asked. He really gave some of the best answers and I laughed pretty hard a few times too. It was a pretty awesome visit and you guys will get a kick out of it.
JP: Let’s get right to it cause I know you were kinda preparing for me to ask, but what do you feel is the worst part about the internet as it relates to snowboarding?
AL: Besides the anonymity of people that hate?? Or the people that try to anonymously hate when they work for a company?? I think that right now the biggest issue or the biggest thing I hate, there’s too much mediocre content that’s being put out. So you’ll see similar articles or the exact same article if you look at someone like Factory Media, which owns OnBoard and Whitelines. They produce this content and then they give to all the snow entities they represent. You’ll see a list and it’s on like five to ten different websites. Or you’ll see one mediocre edit and suddenly it’ll be on YoBeat, Snowboarder, Snowboard Mag, TransWorld, OnBoard, Method Mag, Whitelines, and on and on and you’re starting to see more content where they’re just regurgitating it.. and it’s there, but like there’s a lack of people making original content.
Another thing is nobody is building a legacy around content. By that I mean if you go and you talk to someone that’s my age or older that grew up with the idea that rider’s filmed all year and they dropped the video in the fall and you watched that video the whole year until the next one. And you’d have this year by year legacy with all the classics. You’d go back and pop in Stand and Deliver, original Videograss, Forum or Against ‘Em, True Life, movies like that. I’ll still pop ‘em in because they’re timeless and there’s a legacy to ‘em. With internet content what’s going on is it might be there for that date, or that week, but then the next week its gone and no one remembers it and you’re not seeing a legacy being built around that content whether it’s a free online movie or a web edit.
JP: Okay..that makes sense. So Colorado is really taking some from time to time, particularly from YoBeat, but it seems like nobody is ever too critical of the riders that come here every preseason. What’s up with that?
AL: Well.. YoBeat! sucks, I’m not afraid to say that. They get off on hating on snowboarding, more specifically Colorado, and you know, everything like that. If you look at it, there’s 300+ days of sunshine, there’s the best groomed terrain parks here in the state between Aspen, Vail, Keystone, Breck, and even Copper. It makes sense if you’re gonna do the contest scene that you would come here and do that. BUT, there’s a whole other scene beneath that and people don’t really see that. Look at guys like Grayson Clifford, and Jamal Dhayni, or the Outlaw crew, Zach Rawles, and Austin Julik-Heine and those guys and what they’re doing in the streets and the movies that they’re making and filming with those crews. It’s (Colorado) completely different when you look at it that way.
You know, is Colorado kinda kooky? Yeah, I mean we’re pulling from a user base from Denver that seems to love Never Summer, ride motocross, and worship MMA, and they come to the mountains and do that. But people’s perception of Colorado is Dew Tour, X Games, a little bit of SIA and they don’t realize there’s a whole other side. When I see people like ‘Oh you live in a mountain town like Breck’, and they’ll talk about how epic that powder day was. You have to understand that the turnover rate in a state like Colorado is higher, so you get people that are only here for a year or two. Then that’s their life experience to relate to a mountain town, they’re not here for the life of it. You know I’d say there’s definitely warranted hate on Colorado but at the same time a lot could be said about Portland, the strip clubs, the hipsters, tight pants, neck beards, the fact that they have to drive an hour to the mountains, the fact that it’s rainy and depressing, you know there’s plenty to hate on up there too. So if they wanna hate on Colorado, more power to ‘em, but they really need to take a good look around them too because they’re not the best ever either. Frankly I’d rather be in a state that has a season that goes nine months of sunshine vs. nine months of intermittent rain, slush, and heavy (dense) snow.
JP: Definitely. So you didn’t always live here and you kind of been on both coasts so why Summit County for so long now?
AL: I’m over moving! That’s the truth. I never wanted to live here, ever. I grew up in New York and moved to Tahoe, from Tahoe to Washington, spent a little over a year in Washington, moved to Steamboat, from there I ended up here in Summit just because of a job offer, but I never really wanted to be here. I thought I’d only be here in Summit for a year but actually every misconception I ever had about Summit county like proved me wrong in the first six months I lived here. Being in Breck and living two blocks from the base of peak 8, just the way the town is, the fact that I can walk into town, a real town, it’s not like Vail where it’s what looks like a town on the side of I-70. We have a real town, we have a real community here that really rallies around making sure our quality of life is good. I mean, they just put like $300k + into our new skatepark, we got the mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, all the different fun stuff, plus all the restaurants, nightlife, and things like that. And, my rent is cheap, so you can’t really complain about that.
JP: Nope! So Peak 8’s getting a six pack and it looks like there’s nothing getting done about the Five chair, got any good solutions for the Five chair situation?
AL: I think everybody wants a solution for the Five chair. Now, the rumor that I heard is there’s gonna be two new terrain parks one to the right of Park Lane and one to the left of Freeway and the reason they’re putting the six pack in is for instructors to funnel their kids and everything to the six pack, funnel ‘em down Four o’clock and push the park riders back over to Five chair. I mean the ideal solution would be cut the bottom tower (off Five chair) and push the load station up one tower so you can only ride that chair once you’ve exited the park. So at the start of the day everybody would ride the six pack, go down Four O’clock and leave the park chair to be lapped all day. The problem would be then that essentially becomes a terrain trap where people show up, get off the gondola, see Freeway and Park Lane and go, ‘Whooo, here’s the beginner park, let’s go!!’. If that happened you’d have more people in there getting trapped.
JP: Yeah.. I get that.
AL: Yeah, so it’s one of those things. Do you have a solution for it?
JP: Uh, no not really . Not unless Freeway or Park Lane was moved to a more remote spot where not a lot of people would go, but.
So the term ‘grom’ seems a little bit ambiguous, at what point do you graduate from the grom to whatever’s next?
AL: When you can hold a conversation with a 30 year old man on the chairlift!
JP: (laughing), that was funny.
AL: That’s why you’re not a grom anymore. You can talk with me and you’re little brother, he’s almost there too. (Pause) The whole grom thing is really just a categorization of kids. I feel that some people just can’t really relate to kids and don’t realize that they’re a little more articulate than they really are. I mean, yes, there are kids that when they talk to me it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Then, there are kids like you that get it and can understand everything, articulate it, they know what they’re trying to do in snowboarding and they also have other things outside of snowboarding whether its music, or skateboarding, or movies, stuff like that. That’s one of the big things you see (that set’s kids apart).
JP: Okay.. Does snowboarding need contests? Like I think I heard you say you’ve never been to a Dew tour event here at Breck and I’m guessing you feel the same way about the X Games or US Open too?
AL: Yeah. It’s funny literally living two blocks away from the Dew Tour and the only time I’ve been to a Dew Tour event was when I poached a VIP pass and ate a bunch of food and took a bunch of drinks.
AL: Really, I just don’t care about the comps. I understand for some riders it’s the only way they’ll get noticed but what you’re seeing , like from the generation that I grew up with, seeing Peter Line and Kevin Jones and those guys, contests were just something they did to make money and it wasn’t something they actually trained for and became their main focus. Now, you roll into Breck and you see Freeway get shut down or you go to Keystone’s big line and you just see people that are throwing three tricks in a row over and over and over again until they dial it in and their style becomes very much, ‘what will the judge give me for a score’, versus not having freedom in it. And you know the whole point of freestyle is you have that freedom in your style and now everyone’s just grabbing mute and doing it over and over. I understand that it’s for the riders to make money, and that’s great. For these companies outside of snowboarding like Red Bull or Toyota n stuff to sponsor athletes, I mean that’s a cash cow for those guys. There’s nothing wrong with that, but, I think if you’re gonna be a contest rider you should film a video part where it’s non contest footy, where you’re riding pow or you’re in the streets hitting urban or doing something different. I think with X Games, the Real Snow, it’s a really great concept . It’s a great concept in the sense that it shows a different side of snowboarding to the mainstream. What I don’t like is that it becomes a popularity contest where it’s not necessarily the best rider wins, it’s more who the crowd is stoked on. So Jeremy Jones could go grind the discs off his bindings and go do shove its on his snowboard and people that don’t necessarily snowboard will think it’s the coolest thing in the world. Where myself as a snowboarder I’m goin, ‘yeah that was cool when Wille Yli Luoma did it years ago and he was the first’, but It’s not original! Contests are a whole different beast.
I’ll tell you what the worst contest is though, USASA. Hands down the worst contest series in the world. If you ever wanna see what is wrong in snowboarding go watch the parents of kids at USASA and you will just realize they are some of the worst people on earth. I feel bad for the kids because for some kids it’s the only way they can showcase themselves. Hey it’s cool that you won your series and your region, and you’re the big fish in a small pond, but when you go to these things, and you see (pause) COACHES and I use that term loosely when they’re just screaming at kids to land 540s n stuff. Copper (Mountain) has gotten better with hosting it so they don’t trickle over to Breck, I don’t see it as much. I can remember one year just seeing a snowboard mom screaming at her kid to grab indy on a back seven on jump four, I just remember her screaming at him to do it right and the kid just looked like he hated snowboarding. I just lost it on her and screamed at her for about five minutes and said if I see you in the park again I’m going to push you over. I just couldn’t stand to that, somebody ruining snowboarding. It was just one of those things. You know with this generation, each generation kind of ‘one-ups’ the previous generation, not by stagnation its just progression. And so the contest generation we’re seeing now where doubles and triples have become standard. They’ve just got their eyes on the prize and yes there’s a lot that goes into winning a contest and training for is, but at the same time when it’s a two foot blower powder day and you’re bitching that the park is closed cause it’s buried under snow versus riding around doing slash turns?! There’s something wrong with you as a person and a rider and you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. There’s a balance that needs to come of that, I think snowboarding is just putting too much emphasis on contest kids. Hey it’s cool that you did a triple but I’m sorry, watching someone do a back 1 indy poke is better than a triple mute.
JP: Okay, so you don’t really have to hold back on anything. Maybe talk about what needs to go in snowboarding, like leave and never come back.
AL: Leave and never come back !! (laughter) that’s such a raw topic. There are so many things that could leave. First off one of the biggest things that could leave is what we call the OWD, Old White Dudes. What these guys are, they don’t necessarily snowboard, they’re just a bunch of kooks that go find an OEM and make a snowboard brand. Normally it’s the Munson factory in Utah, and there’s nothing wrong with Ryan Munson, he’s doing his thing and stuff, he’s actually not a bad guy but the companies that go to him are a bunch of kooks. Maybe I see it more than most people because of the nature of how I do things, but you see these little companies coming in and they’re cookie cutter shape, cookie cutter tech, and they try to do the ‘by riders for riders’, ‘putting the fun back in snowboarding’, all these cliché marketing pitches that we’ve heard for twenty years and I’m like that was cool when I heard it in ’96 but this is 2014, come up with something new. The best thing to say is, ‘Why does my brand exist and why should we buy?’. Those are the two questions you need to answer. If you can’t answer that without using some coined out pitch then get out of snowboarding and don’t come back!
There’s the previously mentioned snowboard parent thing. Like ‘If you don’t land this 540 I won’t love you’ scenario. Don’t put pressure on the young kids, let ‘em figure it out! Let ‘em do it themselves. When I got into snowboarding and skateboarding when I was a kid my parents were pretty hands off, I mean they gave me the guidance when I needed it, but I figured it out on my own. Now, you just have people trying to tell you what it is. Snowboarding, to me at least, I love riding pow and that’s my thing, but I’ll go in the park and hit a rail or hit a jump and do that stuff. But, figure out what it is and don’t simply focus on just one thing. Understand that there’s guys that ride nothing but backcountry and have never ridden a chairlift, there’s kids that will ride nothing but rope tows their entire life, and there’s everything in between. There’s these people that are trying to pigeon hole it and define exactly what it is. I’m guilty of it too, I don’t deny that, I try to be as broad as I can but there’s certain things that I’m just against, like.. slalom racing and hard boots n stuff like that cause that’s just mono skiing.
Another thing I think needs to go is all this snow media that DOESN’T RIDE!! They’ll ride only at events. I’m sorry, but your office is in Encinitas, yeah THAT’S cool, why don’t you tell me how many hours it took you to drive to a real resort or sitting around and trying to say that Bear Mountain is the epicenter of snowboarding. Is it cool that you’re riding around in 45 degree slush?! On top of toxic sludge snow from all the smog rolling outta LA. It’s just not the epicenter and that’s one of the things that kicks me when you consider where a lot of these corporate offices are you and you ask, ‘how far away from snowboarding are you??’ Or, you go to a trade show and you talk to someone and they’re all excited to go to the on snow demo or SIA because they’re gonna get day ten on snow. I’m thinking.. okay, I’ve got 90 days here. Ride more, just RIDE MORE! If people would ride more and just shut up talking about how cool snowboarding is and actually just go do it, that would be so much better. That’s just another one of those things that needs to leave and not come back.
Also, I think Nike and Adidas they need to leave. They’re just (pause) .. they’re product is just crap!! You’ve got the outerwear dialed, but the boots? Adidas? Those are the worst boots I have ever put on my feet in my life! As someone who has pulled apart boots for years, going in and pulling the Adidas boot apart, looking at how it was sewn together, putting it on, .. whoever they used as a foot model their feet must have been crooked. Like it actually made me knock kneed, one of the worst positions you can be when wearing a boot. They were actually making me pigeon toed and making me knock kneed. A lot of people forget that Nike made and attempt and failed to get into snowboarding in the 90’s and 2000’s when they had Mike Michalchuk riding for ‘em. They failed once and this time they just bought their way in. There’s nothing wrong with hiring Bobby Meeks and all those guys to run the division, it’s cool that they have jobs, but at the same time, the product is inferior. For those that read this and want to know the reason your Nike boots smell so bad when they get wet is there’s cardboard in there and it’s getting mildewey, that’s why they stink, they’re putting cardboard in their boot. They’re also just using really cheap foam in their liners. There is just no place for that. If you’re gonna design a product, especially with the product name of Nike or Adidas, a billion dollar company that has the money… put it into the product!
One of the other big things is that snowboarding doesn’t take care of their older riders and older people and pushes them out and doesn’t give them the tools necessary to facilitate it. This goes back to my point about Nike hiring Bobby Meeks, that’s awesome to see guys like that getting take care of. Or, the fact that Peter Line is designing outerwear for DaKine, stuff like that, that’s cool to see. It means that somebody cares enough about them to say you’re not JUST a snowboarder, you didn’t JUST invent these tricks, not just in movies, we think you’re able to do more than that. But also you look at other guys that are laying tile, or bartenders, I mean they didn’t develop the skills. For any company when you go into sponsoring a rider and move them from regional, to am, to pro, to super pro, you need to help them build life skills as well. It’s not just an investment with them as a rider but it should be an investment with them as a person. Look at someone like Dave Downing that can do R&D and marketing and stuff for Burton, that’s awesome to see. You also see these companies that will funnel a rider through from grom, to regional, to am, to pro, to they’re gone! Sometimes that’s in the course of four to six years, sometimes its longer. In the longevity of careers everyone’s on this kick right now to find the next youngest person, milk it for all that they can, get all out of it they can marketing wise and them dump ‘em. I’ll name some names, I look at Flow Snowboarding, they’re the pedophiles of snowboarding, like the younger the kid is the more likely they are to sponsor ‘em versus someone that is 22 or up, like that’s too old for them. Yeah it’s cool like you’ve got a four year old rider and it’s all over your social media stream and everything but do I want to read an interview with them?! No, because it’s a four year old kid, what are they gonna tell me about, Dora the Explorer? That needs to end, this quest for the next youngest person. I’m not saying don’t help the younger kids but just don’t make them you’re focal point. Snowboarding has gotten older, we’ve all gotten older, and a lot of the problem is what works in the mid-90’s into the 2000’s doesn’t work, we’ve all gotten older. I see it now with myself being 31 that there are things that I don’t relate to in snowboarding, that’s fine and I don’t hate it. I can flip through a magazine and read through an article and say I read this piece ten years ago, why is that? Everything as it matures and we reach a point where we have an older demographic in snowboarding needs to be maintained and acknowledged, and you need to help the next generation but you also need to acknowledge the current generation. In the process of working with the next generations if you’re not helping the current gen and you may just see them leave snowboarding and not come back, see them go off to skiing or just not doing it anymore unfortunately. I think that’s everything I could answer on that broad question.
JP: Well, yeah but it was pretty good.
It seems like there’s a never ending supply of fuel to inspire your satire. When inspiration strikes do you kind of start immediately or is there a reservoir you get to dip into whenever?
AL: There is a reservoir… it just really depends on the situation. If it’s something that’s super immediate and inspiration strikes I’ll do it. I don’t have normal office hours like most people. I’ll write an article at four in the morning because I just woke up and had an idea, spend 40 minutes or an hour on it and go back to sleep and wake up and go grab first chair. Then there’s the reservoir part, some of it is actually so easy to capture and mock. I get press releases every day and it’s so easy. If you actually read a press release and change like two or three words you have a whole article, and they’ve created the content for you! You can just tweak it enough that people are interested to actually read it. The case and point was I took the press release from Danny Kass and how he’s taking over Grenade Gloves again and how they fired that idiot Conderelli, who was horrible, and tweak a few things in there and you get a good article out of it. Inspiration is just one of those things, I’ve had some of my best when I’m just sitting there on the chair staring off into space for no reason and think, “I should just make an article about that”. Like right now, this article will come out, my friend just hit me up about she went on a date from that dating app Tinder and it was with a washed up former pro snowboarder and the whole thing was just beyond comical about the thing went down. Long story short they agreed to meet up and he went to pick her up and she went out to meet him and she’s like I’m gonna go in and grab my purse and she walked in and came out and the guy was just gone! (laughter) just drove off and left her. There’s a whole story behind it and stuff that happened afterwards, and so that’s just an example of inspiration there. Living in Breck and living in a resort town my whole life there’s just so much comedic material because if you realize ski resort towns are like Never Never Land where people never grow up exactly and so you have this whole Peter Pan syndrome going on. Sit around and just watch you can pull inspiration from just the day to day interactions to make things interesting. Sometimes real life imitates art as well in the sense that you can draw inspiration from other things, like say movies, and you can tie it into snowboarding. It’s a whole interesting process and I don’t think there’s any black or white answer on what inspires me, it just happens, you can’t look at things exactly the same as everyone else, you have to look at it differently. Maybe the best example is look at Hunter S. Thompson with his gonzo style of riding, it works and it’s unique, and I want to do a different version based off his gonzo but I wanna call it Satirical Realism. It’s satire with realistic points in it and people can get what they want from it off the top but then understand there’s over the top elements. Make sense?
JP: Yeah it does. Yeah, so maybe anything else you wanna talk about that we haven’t discussed yet?
AL: When are you gonna drop your edit finally?
JP: Well we’re having a guy do it, so I think it’ll be out soon.
AL: The only thing I wanna ask is how’s it feel to be a local celebrity up here?
JP: Ha, it’s pretty sick.
AL: Yeah, well a lot of people are pretty stoked when they see you up riding. Everyone was stoked when they saw the video of you landing that double wildcat. You keep doing what you’re doing man, you’re doing good things.
JP: Ok, thank you.