Signal Snowboards has developed an almost-religious following with its "Every Third Thursday" web videos, wherein Dave Lee and the factory boys build concept boards on platforms ranging from golf to Fender bass guitars and beyond. Last Thursday, the crew changed dimensions by building an adaptive snowboard in partnership with Crankbrothers Mountain Bikes and Tim Ostler, a pro snowboarder who was paralyzed 12 years ago in a halfpipe accident at Park City, Utah.
This new E.T.T. build eschews wacky conceptual shenanigans in favor of pure utility. The goal: Getting injured snowboarders back on board, using Ostler as the guinea pig. The crazy rig is a snowboard you can shred from a seated position. It has studded mountain bike tires, dual shocks, a seat made from a snowboard and arm bars with brakes. Ostler calls the idea "groundbreaking."
It had a flow to it that reminded me much more of snowboarding as opposed to sitting over a ski. I also saw the potential to get back in powder and that got me really hyped!"” --Tim Ostler
Before his life-altering injury, Ostler rode for the Revelation Snowboards team, Dragon, K2 and Quik, among others. He came sixth in the Baker Banked Slalom -- a contest that carries heavier prestige than most -- and appeared in classic videos including "Kingpin Chronicles," and "The Brotherhood." With power and style to spare, Ostler was primed for a storied career as a pro.
Seeing him back on snow is just plain cool and the new contraption offers hope for other users looking to embrace the sideways lifestyle from down low.
"Riding next to Tim as he was linking turns with a snowboard under his feet was easily one of the most magical moments I can remember in all of my years of coming up to Mt. Hood," says lensman Andy Wright, who was along for Ostler's new ride. "I can't wait to see the next step in the evolution of this process and for Tim to get to get to ride it on his home mountains in Utah."
Ostler, 36, lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Kellie, "two dogs, a mortgage and an unfinished '68 Cutlass." He has worked as a buyer for the board sports divisions of Backcountry.com for seven years. He dropped out of art school twice but "made up for it with a worldly education through great friends, snow travel, culture, art and music." We hit him up to gauge his response to this truly-new adaptive snowboard and what it might mean for the rest of the world.
ESPN.com How did this opportunity come about with Signal?
Tim Ostler: My friend and co-worker Colin Edwards and I were attending Agenda Long Beach [trade show] and took a side jaunt one morning to see the Signal factory. Dave and Marc [Wierenga] asked if I'd be interested in being a part of this "wheelchair" snowboard concept. I said yes thinking we'd ride it this winter. Four weeks later we were at Mt. Hood!
Had you wondered about an adaptive snowboard before?
I had wondered about it quite a bit after I first heard about adaptive skiing, even more after I tried skiing. I wanted to be on a board again for better stability and for the fact that "snowboarder" was/is my identity.
What other sports are you involved with currently?
I actively participate in wheelchair rugby (eight years) playing for the Utah Scorpion Club Team. I also played a year with the U.S. Paralympic Developmental Team before resigning my spot due to financial obligations at home.
Now that the video's out in the world, how do you feel about the experience? Is it a one-off or a new direction for people out there wanting an adaptive snowboard?
The entire experience has been fantastic. Reconnecting with great friends and getting out on snow is the same feeling as snowboarding was for me years back. Traveling, riding, laughing and getting sunburned! The feedback I've received at every level, after the E.T.T. spot aired, has been 100-percent positive. I love seeing people take notice of something unique. This is a groundbreaking idea they have.
So what do you think about the potential of this adaptive snowboard?
This build has so much more potential than what we got from it. Dave and Marc both feel the same and we discussed furthering this build. ...
[My] first thoughts [on seeing it] were, "Holy s---, this thing looks wicked!" I had no clue how it was going to perform. If you've seen the [video] you know we busted it up good and repaired it equally [well]. Better materials next round!
How does it compare to other adaptive devices to get people out on the hill, technically? And, how does it compare to traditional snowboarding?
Other devices are pretty dialed to various abilities. This build is so different and unique. Conceptually they have something big here. After refinements, my thoughts are that this will allow for a simple, fun experience for anybody at any level. It had a flow to it that reminded me much more of snowboarding as opposed to sitting over a ski. I also saw the potential to get back in powder and that got me really hyped!
What's been your big take-away from this Every Third Thursday experience?
Simply put: Fun. Fun has always been the best part of snowboarding and anything really. Physically it felt great. I have always loved the manipulation of gravity for pleasure's sake! Emotionally it has reconnected me to something I semi-lost 12 years ago. Athletically, we will find out what is possible coming soon!
I just want to thank the ones who got this going and made it work: Dave and Marc at Signal; Jason Brown (his Jedi Ways...) and the Red Clouds Collective; Kharma/Jake Hobbs at Poler; Timberline Ski Area (Bryan the cat driver/sled towing champ); Bobby Meeks at Nike; Andy Wright ("Medium" R.I.P.); my wife Kellie; and Nature of course.
Check the amazing video of the making of Ostler's sweet snow ride here.