Shortly after being introduced to Alex Dymond and his photobook showcasing the golden era in snowboarding, Snow Beach, it was confirmed that there was still much of the sport’s monumental happenings throughout the 80s and 90s that had yet to see the light of the day or be heard by civilian ears. We’re talking thousands of legendary photos from a heavy era in action sports, along with accompanying equally as heavy stories, just laying around in unconverted film slides and preparing to be forgotten in time.
With the help of Alex and the relationships he had + created in curating Snow Beach, we were able to link up with a few photographers who had their lenses fixed on the scene back then and convince them to share a bit of their collections from snowboarding’s initial heyday with us.
First up? Dano Pendygrasse, a Vancouver-based photographer with over two decades of capturing monumental riders + moments in the sport. The following photos and words from Dano are a visual and written testament to how just how swiftly and stylishly snowboarding evolved during the early 90s—when the style of a trick often outweighed the trick itself. Strap up.
The 80s in snowboarding were characterized by terrible equipment and a mish-mash of questionable fashion choices, but as the 90s hit their stride, innovators like Noah Salasnek ensured that we were headed in the right direction. His version of “skate style” struck a chord with like-minded crews around North America and the course of snowboarding was set for the decade.
Noah Salasnek on the Horstman Glacier in Blackcomb, BC (1992)
This hand-dug halfpipe on Blackcomb’s Horstman glacier was a testament to the drive to progress. Not satisfied with the standard 10-12 foot pipes that were available, Sean Sullivan set out to build a “super pipe” in the summer of 1992.
The practical realities of digging and maintaining 20-foot transitions soon hijacked the idea though, and pros like Noah had to settle with sessioning a hip at the bottom while the workers tried in vain to build the beast.
Jamie Lynn on the Horstman Glacier in Blackcomb, BC (1992)
Sean Sullivan’s “super pipe” session (affectionately nicknamed ‘Sulli’s gully’) brought some of the world’s best to Blackcomb, and in 1992, Jamie Lynn was at the top of the game. Along with the big transitions, the sessions would focus on innovative riding, including handrails mounted on the lip.
Jamie was spinning 360 out of his frontside lipslides, while Sulli shot photos for Snowboarder Magazine and Artie Krehbiel from Fall Line Films documented it all on 16mm film. The footage would show up in their now iconic film, “Riders on the Storm“.
Russell Winfield at Snow Summit (1993)
As parks started becoming a reality at resorts, management started to see the potential benefit and allocated funds to build better, and more, features. In 1993, Snow Summit was leading the way and catering to the new rail revolution.
At that point the Ride team was a tight little squad of progressive riders and I spent a week shooting them in the park. Russell Winfield had shed his East Coast roots and fully embraced the West Coast lifestyle, living in Pacific Beach and splitting time between sun and snow. A stylish frontside lipslide on a flat bar wouldn’t even qualify you for a local junior contest today, but in 1993 it was cutting edge.
Peter Line on Blackcomb (1994)
They say that history is written by the victors. In snowboarding, history is being written and re-written almost constantly, by the folks with the biggest budgets. With this process in place, certain people’s statuses rise while others fade. There might not be any marketing value for a brand to tell Peter Line’s story today, but let’s not forget that he may be the single most innovative freestyle snowboarder from the most innovative decade in snowboarding.
In 1994 you could still ride around the mountain and shoot photos on the side of the run, on natural hits. On this day Peter spun frontside on a side hit that launched him over a road and into a well-worn landing. His style, always on point, was distinct, reserved and emulated by many.
Chris Nichols at Kimberly (1991)
I can make a strong argument, in photos, that Chris Nichols was one of the biggest contributors to snowboarding’s progression in the early 90s. Injuries limited his career trajectory, but when he was healthy, he always pushed limits. As skate influence quickly dominated snow culture in 1991, handrail riding became the new proving ground. Nix was ahead of the pack.
On a trip to Kimberly, BC, for Snowboarder Magazine, the weather conditions deteriorated and the air temperature plunged, making resort riding not worth the effort and the frostbite. Nix found this handrail though and salvaged the day. A handrail photo was unusual in those days and it wasn’t considered to be worthy of the published story. Looking back though, it was a groundbreaking part of the trip.
Terjé Haakonsen on the Horstman Glacier in Blackcomb, BC (1992)
Can we talk about tweaking for a second? Maybe at this point it should be referred to as the lost art of tweaking, but in 1992, how you tweaked your tricks was as important as what tricks you did. Riders like Noah Salasnek broke ground when it came to all kinds of pokes, and Jeff Brushie made tweaking his own.
During his second season of summer camps at Whistler, Terjé brought a lot of pop, a bag of tricks and next level tweaks. I guess that technically this is an indy, but realistically it’s something completely different. There were long sessions where a friendly rivalry emerged between Terje and Brushie. They would sometimes match each other trick for trick on a run, but try to go bigger or bring a personal twist to a trick that had the crowds in awe. We were witnessing the sport progress in front of our eyes.
Devun Walsh on Seymour (1992)
Devun Walsh was just a pup in ‘92. As a B-team rider for Westbeach he was a small fish in a small pond. That was up until we did this catalogue shoot on his home mountain. He quickly served notice that he was the future and everyone else would be following him from now on.
Late backside 180s were all the rage in 92, but Devun took it to the next level, doing the trick switch. Soon after this shoot he was swept up in the game and within six months the entire snowboard industry knew the name of the new kid from Seymour.
Jeff Brushie at Mt. Hood Meadows (1993)
Jeff brought style to everything he did—his clothes, his taste in music, his speech…it was all a reflection of a unique character at a pivotal time in snowboarding. Sometimes lost in the talk of his style though, is recognition of his absolute power on a snowboard. Jokes were made by friends and competitors, that Burton had bio-engineered springs to replace his femurs.
His access to altitude allowed him time to hold his tricks and made him a photographer’s best friend. Always pushing it, sometimes his trick would get away from him, but he had a cat-like habit of always landing back on his feet.
Danny Way at Squaw Valley (1993)
Some folks think that the influence of skateboarding on snowboarding was a one-way-street and for the most part, that’s true. There were, however, quite a few legends of skate who strapped into some bindings to see what the snow shred was all about.
My recollection of Danny Way this day was that he wasn’t terribly good at turning and when I saw him ride up to the park, I didn’t pay much attention. The thing about those jumps though, is that the need to turn wasn’t really crucial. Danny figured it out and as soon as he was in the air, he was in his natural environment. That drop-knee Japan grab is about as good as it gets.
Jon Boyer at Snow Summit (1993)
In 1993, Jon Boyer was 23 years old and already a veteran. He had started to shift his attention to documenting snowboarding from behind a 16mm camera, although he was still respected enough to have a pro model board and was regularly featured in snowboard magazines and movies.
At this shoot in Snow Summit, he would spend time shooting, following riders through a lap of the park with his Arriflex, and then put the camera in a bag and ride while we shot him.
Not many had the board control that Boyer had, and he could press onto the tip of his nose while sliding across a tabletop. The skate influence was clear.
Jamie Lynn on the Horstman Glacier in Blackcomb, BC (1994)
Jamie represents the line of demarcation between old-school style and new-school style. Prior to his emergence, the snowboard world took their style cues from Craig Kelly, with his locked-together knees and fluid lines. Jamie chucked all that out, squared up his knees and ratcheted up the aggression. Still smooth, his combination of power and spins set a new bar for the people who followed him.
He was known to ride without gloves, even in winter, and even there many pros followed in his footsteps. By 1994 he was a well-known name, and wherever he rode cameras would follow. When he showed up to the summer camps in Whistler, throngs of campers would watch his every move.