Snowboarder Editor Pat Bridges has no equal in the shred industry. While others speculate about "the kids," he's actually known "the kids" since they were 11 years old and landed their first double cork. Through his mag platform, the Superpark event he spearheads every year and enough time riding each season to cause frostbite, Bridges has an eye for young talent that would put most team managers to shame.
Most importantly, his passion for snowboarding -- in all its forms -- makes his opinion worth listening to. He's been sitting in Snowboarder's big-kid chair for almost 10 years but has been a force in snowboarding for over 20 -- as a writer, rider and advocate of the rad over the wack.
Pat's a tastemaker without the trendiness -- a trench-leader who'd take a bullet for snowboarding (if he hasn't already). The 39-year-old Vermont native is equal parts New England gentleman and gruff uncle, and he's a true presence from flat decks to sun decks. The proud goofy-footer will talk to anyone, cracking them up, but he'll never miss that next-level trick going on overhead. His handplants, especially on wall rides, are as legit as it gets, and it's not odd for a teenaged pro to ask Pat's advice when performing some arcane variation for the first time. Find out why there is and can be only one Pat Bridges.
ESPN: What is a "tastemaker" to you and do you think of yourself as one?
Pat Bridges: A tastemaker is someone who not only owns their passions, but has the charisma and confidence to make these passions appealing to others. I have probably spent more of my career as a "bad tastemaker" than a tastemaker...
Who would you like to see having more cultural influence in snowboarding and who do you think needs to have a bit less sway?
As cliché as it is to say, I think we as snowboarders need to have more influence -- and by "snowboarders" I don't mean people who ride less than 10 days a year. Rather than calling out any specific groups, I will generalize by saying anyone who rides less than 10 days a year should have less say.
This includes any agents who are out of touch, skiers, shop buyers, team managers, park managers, etc. ... I could keep going for a while with that list.
Has snowboarding finally found a "balance point" in the last few seasons?
I really don't know. Snowboarding is more expensive than ever, while the global economy is worse than it has been in our lifetime. Climate change appears to be going from bad last season to worse now with [Superstorm] Sandy. These are the outside forces that really affect snowboarding, and our "core" bubble isn't as insulated from these factors as it once was.
From a competitive standpoint it is great to see jibbers and film pros get their mainstream due with X Games Real Snow and Real Backcountry. Now these riders can start to get compensated for their best efforts without having to become contest jocks.
On the film front there are great edits emerging, yet we aren't seeing the level of quality in the traditional movie genre as we did a year ago. A lot of this has to do with the poor 2012 winter, but 2011 as a whole was arguably the best year ever for snowboarding cinema.
How about on the traditional contest front?
Athletically, halfpipe has been stale since 2010. Elena Hight winning the Open and ending Kelly [Clark]'s streak was a high point and Elena probably has the best style of any women's pipe rider in history.
Indirectly I feel that Enni [Rukajarvi], Spencer [O'Brien] and Jamie [Anderson] are currently having the same progressive effect on women's slopestyle that Gretchen [Bleiler], Kelly and Torah [Bright] have had for the last five years. As the women's side of the competition card continues to get marginalized, having overt progression in women's slopestyle is crucial for its survival.
For dudes, triple corks have become even more of a separator, as doubles have now become stock. Yet there is a crew of young park jumpers who have a proper style that can make simple 720s seem anything but stock. They can do tailgrab truck drivers or late nuclear nose grabs and hold these insane grabs for three-quarters of the rotation. Sam Taxwood, Johnny Brady, [the] Mindnichs, Nils Arvidsson, Ethan Morgan...
The list of these new-school slopestyle mavens is, like, two dozen deep and growing by the day. It's like they watch Cody Rosenthal ride for inspiration. These are the dudes bringing style back to slopestyle and providing a vital counterpoint to the flip parade.
What do you think about the U.S. Open moving to Vail?
If this question was posed in 2002, I would have [been] passionately opposed to the whole notion. That said, the Open should have probably moved by 2004. The naysayers shouldn't be pissed at Burton. They should be pissed at Stratton. The X Games or Dew Tour obviously didn't see the level of support necessary to keep their events in New England, yet no one is giving Disney or Pepsi grief about it.
As a steward of our sport, Burton is once again being held to a higher standard, and they should be. Yet the fact is that Burton diligently tried to make it work for three decades at a loss. It is simple: If Stratton wanted the U.S. Open, it would still be there.
Vail, on the other hand, was home to the Honda Sessions, which were arguably the best contests held in North America in the last decade. By building upon that pedigree, Vail could return the U.S. Open to its once-hallowed position as the most important contest in snowboarding. If that happens, I don't care where the U.S. Open is held -- with the exception of Alta, Deer Valley and Mad River Glen, of course.
In snowboarding, who are a few tastemakers that stand out for you?
Both Jeremy Joneses are tastemakers, in my opinion -- Jib Jones for his drive to redefine jibbing season after season, for sure. His wall smack to takeoff re-entry in Burton's 13 will definitely create new urban spots this winter. Similarly, Big Mountain Jones and his inspirational "earn your turns" ethos has been instrumental in driving the splitboard/sidecountry movement. There are now over a dozen brands making splitboards, compared to less than three four years ago.
Jed Anderson has obviously changed the way a lot of people ride. He led the movement to tighten stances up to less than 20 inches. That is a feat in and of itself.
On several occasions I have witnessed Chris Bradshaw have photo ops on the deck at Bear Mountain with Japanese fans who have flown 16 hours and driven another four just to meet him. He has the only name in snowboarding that can double the views of a video just by being mentioned in the description.
With Think Thank, Jesse Burtner has changed our sport's media paradigm by showing insane tricks that are still somewhat relatable, which is something that Brain Farm, Shaun White, the X Games and the Olympics don't do. In turn, Think Thank has made heroes of insanely talented and creative riders like Scott Stevens.
Burton's Global Resorts VP Jeff Boliba could be one of the most passionate and influential figures when it comes to driving our sport's future. Jeff's mission is improving the on-hill experience for all riders, from the snowboard bum getting their fix in the Jackson Stash to the five-year-old standing sideways for the first time in the Star Wars-themed Sierra-at-Tahoe Riglet park.
I don't know anyone who brings more drive and vigor to the problems of retention and growth. He deserves this platform far more than I do.
Lastly, [Salomon's] Java Fernandez has put together an insanely popular team of iconoclastic riders that otherwise might not have found success elsewhere. He put together this crew -- the manifestation of a vision that was his own -- ignoring outside pressures. The result is that Salomon is now a core alternative to a lot of brands that are bigger, have been in the game longer and don't also make skis.
What's the best thing to happen to snowboarding in the last year and what are you looking forward to most this season?
Unfortunately, it is easier to point to the worst things to happen in the last year, which are the weather and the economy as well as the loss of June Mountain, Forum and Tom Sims. The best things to happen are the rise of the rider-driven media, brands and events (i.e., videos like Lick the Cat and Givin' Too, brands like Lobster and Drink Water and events like the Dirksen Derby and the Bode Merrill Mini Pipe Invitational).
I am also satisfied to see the return of camber. In riding, I am looking forward to going back to the Holy Bowly in Japan and maybe entering my first Mount Baker Banked Slalom...so long as that doesn't end up getting moved too.