In the snowboarding biz the riders are the rock stars -- and that's for a good cause fo sho. But there's a lot happening on the other side of the industry fence too. Not everyone who loves riding becomes a pro but they still keep being involved with the sport somehow; whether that is by shredding the slopes nonstop, working within the industry or being a sunday cruiser. The point is that our kicks are originated by the same cause -- no matter how it's done. If you are loving it that makes you your own rock star!

Ah -- this intro's point is to represent you one of those people who loves snowboarding without being a pro and gets to do pretty darn cool things while doing so. Give it up for Martti "Mara" Hahtonen -- a 30 yr old international snowboard judge who began riding in 1989; living and loving it since!

1. Hi Mara; thanks for taking part in this short interview. You are truly a veteran in snowboarding. Where and how did you get started with it?

I got into anowboarding when a couple of friends got their own boards and "lured" me into joining them. Our home hill was called "Kokkolanmäki" and we were the first ones to practice our method air's around there.

2. Right; you come from a fairly small Finnish-Swedish city called "Kokkola". It's located on the coast line of Finland and isn't really close to any hills. Besides Kokkolanmäki, was there a specific resort you used to go, or did you always hit the north to catch some snow?

Yeah, Kokkola is right in the flat land area, but fortunately there's a few hills around. A place called "Louekallio" in Sievi was the most snowboarding friendly place at the time so that's where we spent the most weeknights and on the weekends we cruised around bigger resorts like Ruka and Iso-Syöte which are located closer to the arctic circle.

3. You've been judging some of the biggest contests around throughout the years (e.g. Burton European Open/Nippon Open/US Open, Toyota Big Air, Freestyle.ch etc.) – did you always want to be on that side of the industry fence or did you aim to be a pro rider in the earlier days?

At first the riding was the main focus -- the only thing on my mind was to be on snow as much as possible as it was just so much fun. Many years were passed by while just having a good time riding with friends. At some point in the mid-90's the judging circles came along and I'm still on that road.

4. Seems that you are getting the best of both world's. So what kinda road has it been; getting to be a judge on such high scale contests?

In the early says I did the Suomi Cup (Finnish Cup) and some commercial contests in Finland. Between 1997 - 1998 I was an exchange student in Munich/Germany so I took the advantage to do an international judging course in Davos/Switzerland. That way I got into small international events and it grew from there.

5. What would be the hardest part of judging – any examples from real life situations?

The most difficult thing is to get the so called "hockey dad's" to understand that their kid did not ride as good as they think. Getting that through their thick skulls can be really hard sometimes.

6. I hear you there -- I think every sport is cursed with that kinda parents. But fortunately you've had the priviledge to see the good sides too like travel a lot, meet a lot of talented snowboarders, participate a lot of events while doing your job – what experiences would rise above the others or are you even able to compare?

The travel part has probably contributed the most into my life and what could be better than doing that with great, same spirited people. I have had the priviledge to see awesome events in some of the coolest places on earth within good company. So I can't really complain!

7. Doesn't sound bad at all to me. How does all this go along with your life at home in Oulu? You are building a "normal career" in your family business. How often do you still go on judging trips?

Unfortunately I don't really have the time to judge Finnish events anymore, but I try to do them as often as possible. The past winter I spent about 5 weeks abroad, doing international events, but this becoming winter I won't be able to do as much despite the invitations, because of my work at home.

8. You have seen the sport develop over the years – how crazy do you think the level is right now, say compared to 10 yrs ago?

The level in park and pipe riding is pretty wild compared to what it was 10 yrs ago. The parks have grown size-wise a lot and I think that the laws of physics will create a natural limit, no matter how much the riders keep pushing them. The pipes and kickers can only grow so much, you know.

9. Right you are; I think it'll be interesting to see when that limit really becomes reality... Well, as you have been holding the best seats in many huge events, you must have seen some of those riders who keep pushing the limit higher and higher. Can you give us your all time TOP 3 trick list -- if possible?

1. Kevin Pearce, SUPER BIG Fr 3 from a corner, Nippon Open Slope Style 2007 2. Eero Ettala, Switch Double Back Flip, TBA 2007 3. Andy Finch, Method air, Europen open 2006

Thanks Mara -- we'll be seeing you on that judging chair for many yrs to come, I think! Keep it real!