Salt Lake City Resurrection – The Greatest Streets on Earth

From Onboard Issue 143.

In the early 2000s, snowboarding saw jibbing’s second coming. Elite superstars and unknown upstarts alike flooded the urban environs of North America in search of street features that had never been hit in order to try tricks that had never been done because, well…they had never even been attempted. The epicenter of this massive revival soon emerged in Salt Lake City, Utah.

With its easy and seemingly unlimited access to world-class backcountry terrain almost literally in the city’s backyard, Salt Lake had long been a top residential destination for those who chose to make a run up the ranks of professional snowboarding. This reputation was mainly spearheaded by local legend Andy Brewer, who was instrumental in putting Utah in play as a world-class destination.

The jibbing revival burst open the frozen floodgates to the SLC streets, and Salt Lake City officially became the Mecca of metal. That is, until snowboarding outgrew Salt Lake. Moved on. The spots were blown out. Every trick had been tried, most had been landed, and the spots were shut down. The photos looked too familiar, and film crews knew that a hiatus was inevitable in order to find new zones in other parts of the world. Salt Lake was deserted; a rustic old mining town after all the gold had been panned, as snowboarding moved on toward the middle of the new millennium and left SLC before the cold smoke of the mass exodus had time to settle.

Finding new cities for filming was all the rage, and many crews weren’t confined to the borders of North America. While frigid cityscapes like Buffalo and Minneapolis became more frequented, the European scene exploded with photos and footage filmed in cities like Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, and as the interest spawned by snowboarding’s biggest sub-genre continued to incubate, so did the desire to keep turning the next corner in order to uncover new, never-been-ridden areas of the world.

But Salt Lake was always there, with its massive mountains on the horizon and its veritable junkyard of metal in the valley, and eventually, long after that cold smoke had settled from the migration to other parts of the world, riders realized that the simplicity and convenience of Salt Lake could be ignored no longer, and saw it only logical to revisit what many argue is the birthplace of modern-day rail riding.

After Buffalo, Minneapolis, Helsinki, Stockholm, and other even more “exotic” locales like Madison, Wisconsin, Calgary, Alberta, and Omaha, Nebraska were used, abused, and discarded as quickly as they were discovered by some of shredding’s most coveted video-part producing icons, it was finally time to come back home.

In Salt Lake’s heyday, it was JP Walker, Jeremy Jones, Mikey LeBlanc, MFM, Brian Thien, Bjorn Leines, Ali Goulet, Micah McGinnity, Chris Engelsman, Kurt Wastell, Chris Coulter, Joel Mahaffey, Seth Huot, J2, Justin Hebbel, Nate Bozung, Erik Christensen, Matty Ryan, and other Salt Lake stars who were pushing the limits of progression, and in turn, snowboarding accelerated at a rapid rate; it seemed that the media could barely keep up with the tricks being put down on a yearly basis.

 

Because of that, snowboarding seemed to top out and limit itself, at least in the Salt Lake arena, and that was one cause of the aforementioned migration to other spots around the globe. However, street shredding’s massive acceleration opened new doors and changed the way that street-savvy snowboarders approached their craft. In other words, a wall over a fence offering a concrete bank as a landing wasn’t looked at as a feature in 2002.

In the first wave of jibbing SLC's streets, it's doubtful that this spot would have even drawn a second look. Things are sure different today. Sage Kotsenburg gets whipped in for a step up to wallride.

A decade later, it is a feature, as well as a myriad of other unorthodox obstacles once seen as unrideable, with the tricks that are currently being put down on them once considered equally unthinkable. Back then, a Cab 270 on Mueller Park was game-changing and would be unanimously worthy of not just a cover shot but an ender clip to accompany it. These days, however, it wouldn’t even make the bonus section of a film, and as snowboarding in an urban environment was forever changed by riders of the new generation who sought out these new features that had never been ridden, certain cities were unlocked once again, and Salt Lake came back into play in a big way.

Backside creeper to transfer to front board with a bit of donkey dick thrown in for good measure? Zander Blackmon is a boss.

Not only has the evolution of snowboarding re-fueled the fire in street cinema, but so has the evolution of resources allocated to rail riders. Bungees and winches are prime examples of the tools that have helped eclipse the once-mandatory “natural speed” in order to get a shot. Now, with the pull of a glorified rubber band or the slow thumbing of a throttle, riders can achieve much greater speeds in a short amount of time and allow them to session spots that were once out of play.

This alone has added to the resurgence at areas around the globe that had previously been shut down by an overcrowding of crews and a cornucopia of tricks landed at said spots, and few cities have prospered more than Salt Lake. In the past few years since its re-inhabitance, new features are popping up all over SLC, and while legendary spots are still being sessioned with newer, harder tricks, riders like Dan Brisse, Bode Merrill, Dylan Thompson, Scott Stevens, and Chris Grenier are unlocking un-hit areas all across the city known as “The Crossroads to the West.”

Progression has fueled Salt Lake’s resurgence in the scene in the past two years, but a few freak flurries that stacked the city with snow in 2012/13 only added to the emigration back to SLC. It didn’t hurt that the accumulation started in the second week in November, blanketing the city with a few feet of fresh and kicking off a winter in which the snow just kept coming. For those filming Real Snow parts, SLC was the place to be as the SLC’s celebrated lake effect took hold and covered downtown two feet deep.

Christmas brought with it another storm, and then Salt Lake was hit again the first weeks of January and February, allowing the normally short jibbing cycle to run long. This past winter was also special in the fact that although Utah is world-renowned for the massive snowstorms that stick over the Wasatch Range looming over Salt Lake, a larger-than-normal amount of snow fell in the city as well. At times, the heavens dumped more pow in the streets than on the slopes due to inversion layers, which occur when temperatures oddly increase and not decrease with rising altitude. In other words, the air higher up is warmer than the air below, and acts as a cap on that low colder air, meaning that during a storm, lower elevations will get far more snow than the mountains. Last winter, all the stars aligned and kept Salt Lake snowy, cold, and ready for a resurrection…and the photos in this feature are proof that people struck while the iron was cold.

Salt Lake is back, seemingly for good.

Salt Lake is back, seemingly for good. Snowboarding left for a little bit, but has now come to its senses, unable to deny the convenience afforded by the locale. Sure, some of it was luck—a good snow year here and there—and much of it was also due to the fact that crews had a few good years of blowing out other, more random spots. But a chicken always comes home to roost, and roosting we are. What once was a proverbial breeding ground for talent is back, it’s headed up by tomorrow’s superstars, and they seem hell-bent on staying in Salt Lake for quite some time. In fact, these days SLC is almost a mirror image of its old self, and that can be felt throughout the winter, and most certainly when the photos and footage start flooding the internet and snowboard publications worldwide. After all, we’re talking about the Greatest Streets on Earth, and as far as the foreseeable future of Salt Lake is concerned, people will be pounding this pavement for years to come.

Nick Poohachoff prepares for the redirect. Impact of Doom.