Oh yes, this is what snowboarders looked like back in the days! – both photos: Sami Tuoriniemi
Interview: Melanie Schönthier
Hometown: Fischbachau, Germany
Sponsors: Amplid, Burton, Ortovox, Dakine, Smith
What was your chosen board back in the day? And did you change your board for different conditions?
In 1985 it was this Burton Cruiser Swallowtail that you can see on the picture. In the beginning, all boards had swallowtails. By the middle of the 80s, tail kicks for freestyle boards and flat tails for alpine boards were introduced. The Burton Air was my freestyle board and the Burton Express or Safari my alpine boards. At that time the pros took part in all disciplines: Terje Haakonsen, Shaun Palmer, Craig Kelly and their buddies all dressed in slalom race pants! And we all stood on the top of the pipe with Sorel boots waiting for the first drop in.
What was your stance?
For freestyle, it was 30° on the front and 0° on the back. For alpine, 45° front and 36° back. I was never one of the ‘super steep riders’ like Andre Mascewski or Eric Rey.
What was so special about Burton at that time?
To be part of this company was just amazing. Suddenly you were in a team with Mark Heingartner, Ricky Fruhmann and Andy Coghlan, all the guys you have only known about from US movies like Winter Waves. And Jake was taking part in all photo shoots and trips back then – it was just so much fun. Later, Craig, Mike Jacoby and Terje joined.
Which bindings were you rocking? Can you describe them a little?
For the race boards I had plate bindings and on my freestyle boards I rode Burton Fastex Clips bindings. They were completely screwed into the board, which means that you could actually see the inserts coming out on the base. The worst thing was when the bindings got broke off and you still had them strapped to your foot but not to the board anymore. That happened about once a month.
Were your boots soft or stiff?
The first boots were really painful and not waterproof at all. We all had those Sorel boots – Canadian lumberjack leather boots with a solid rubber sole. But thanks to ski liners and duct tape outside we could ride in them.
What pants and jacket did you wear?
The outerwear I’m wearing in this picture is from 1989 or 1990. Burton gave these slalom pants with protection inlays to their team riders. I don’t even know which brand they are! A tailor added the all-over print patches so the pants matched the jacket. The jacket is from Chiemsee and the all-over print was super trendy – of course it wasn’t functional at all! The funny thing is that you see tight pants and all-over prints everywhere again these days!
Did you layer up with technical base layers or just wear a hoody?
Technical layers? The most technical layers you could get were underpants from the army and a cotton t-shirt with a Burton print.
Did you wear any protection back then?
Of course – knee protectors for the slalom races and slalom gloves that went up to the elbow!
What one thing did you always take with you when going up on the mountain?
A Walkman was really cool (for all 15-year-olds: this was a tape-compatible iPod!). But to ride without the fin on the boards was the real deal!
And this is what he looks like now… A lot better. eh?
What is your chosen all-round board?
For all-mountain conditions, I ride the Paradigma UNW8 163, which is one of the lightest boards in the industry. The 159 only weighs 2500 grams and spins like a carousel. Additionally it is a directional board, which offers great all-mountain attributes – a bit more nose than tail makes it love powder as much you do. If I would have to spend the rest of my life with only one board, I would choose the UNW8 163. It is the perfect sled!
Another all-mountain favourite is the Falconoid with its true twin shape. It has a bit more pop in the tail than in the nose as we moved the maximum core thickness back by about 5cm. It was designed for our team rider Stefan Falkeis who mainly rides pipe and bigger kickers. But it is also a good all-mountain choice which makes it one of my favourites after the Paradigma.
Do you usually change your board for different conditions?
Yes, for powder days I take the Equity 166 which is a pure big mountain board and also available in 174. Thanks to its elliptic scoop line and 10mm tapered shape (pin tail!) the board always floats on the surface, no matter if you just started or if you bomb a landing. Floatation, that’s what riding powder is all about.
Do you test your own boards?
Yes, of course. The nearest resort is only 10 minutes from my house and in winter I go riding with friends every day from 8 to 10am before the office work starts. For the big mountain boards, we fly to Atlin, BC as the North American powder is a bit different to ours.
What’s so special about Amplid?
We are a very small company but do everything by ourselves. We don’t just go to a factory, use their moulds and put our graphics on the boards: we have developed our own technologies and have our own moulds. We can also react very quickly to developments in the market. If I’m deciding to build a new prototype today, I will be able to ride it on snow within a week.
Which bindings are you rocking? Can you describe them a little?
This year we developed completely new bindings. I’m riding the Electum, which gives me the possibility to adjust the flex of the highback depending on the terrain and the condition of the snow: in the backcountry I like it softer, on an icy slope stiffer. With the Electum you can also rotate the highbacks, and the heel air pillow makes landings more comfortable for my old bones.
Do you prefer traditional toe straps or cap straps?
Our straps have an FOC (Freedom Of Choice) construction, which means that thanks to the inner O-Wire-Frame you can wear them like you want. I only use them as cap straps, though, as you can strap in faster and the feeling on the backside is better.
Are your boots soft or stiff? And do you crank your laces or ride with them loose?
I like them softer, but cranked up like hell.
What pants and jacket are you wearing?
I wear Burton AK as I like Gore-Tex and minimalism – I don’t need anything more. I’m riding a lot in high mountains like Atlin, BC, or AK and there the stuff has to work.
Do you layer up with technical base layers or just wear a hoody?
I wear Ortovox underwear made out of merino wool. It keeps you warm and doesn’t make you smell, which is especially important when you are hiking a lot.
Do you wear any protection when riding?
My backpack has got an integrated back protector. If there are many rocks, I ride with a helmet too.
What one thing do you always take with you when going up on the mountain?
A mobile phone (but switched off and only in case of emergency), a beacon (Ortovox S1), shovel and probe, a small first aid package and chocolate with nuts.
What was the best innovation in snowboarding?
Highbacks and steel edges changed the sport a lot. For those who sometimes like to ignore history, yes, there was a world before highbacks and steel edges!