Travel Journal: Mt. Hood August 31, 2018 – Posted in: News, Photos
Words and photos by Alex Henniffent
Earlier this summer, a handful of our team riders, a filmer, and myself embarked on a summer snowboarding adventure to Mt. Hood, Oregon. For the first time ever, VOLTFUSE had partnered up with High Cascade Snowboard Camp as an official sponsor.
What does that actually mean, you might ask? Well, basically it was an excuse for us to grab a bunch of friends, travel to a place we had never been to before, and experience something entirely new. Most importantly, it was a chance for VOLTFUSE to legitimize itself and strengthen its presence within the US.
For many outside of the “snowboarding realm,” riding a snowboard during the summer months doesn’t necessarily cross their mind. Hell, why would it? Aside from the blank look on their face, there are usually two common responses – one, “doesn’t snowboarding end when the local mountain shuts down?” And two, “why would you even want to ride a snowboard during the summer?”
Well, for many of us inside of the “snowboarding realm,” we just can’t get enough of this shit. And as corny as that sounds, it was true.
In fact, the drive to continue snowboarding far surpasses the point when the chairlifts stop turning. Past the point when the last patch of snow on the local mountain finally melts. And then takes us to the point in which we’re willing to drive, fly, and sometimes hitchhike to one of the few places on earth that permit riding a snowboard in the summertime.
At times, the struggle can be real – and definitely expensive – but the passion and drive that is so widely held and practiced by those who have chosen to “pursue snowboarding,” is certainly admirable.
After the saddened closure of Camp of Champions last summer, both VOLTFUSE and myself personally felt as if there was a major void left within our summers. Each year for nearly the past decade, we would make the west-bound voyage up to Whistler to ride at the legendary Camp of Champions. And for the past three years, VOLTFUSE was a sponsor of the camp. Looking back, I can say that some of my fondest memories and experiences were made up there.
Having said that, I’m a firm believer that change can spark amazing things, and I’m also well aware of the risks that can exist when getting “too comfortable.” In this case, Camp of Champions had shut down – an annual event that I had considered to be a huge personal influence and deemed critical for VOLTFUSE to attend. Now what?
To no surprise, the next logical move was to try and join forces with the folks just south of the border, at the snowboarder-driven and fun-oriented High Cascade Snowboard Camp. Housed on the majestic Mt. Hood in beautiful Oregon, High Cascade has been making summer snowboarding a reality since 1989 – that’s nearly 30 years!
When some hear High Cascade’s name, they often think of it as just some sort of summer camp for parents to pawn their kids off to for a week or two. Although that might be true in some regard, I’ve come to learn that it’s far more than just that.
Rather, High Cascade is an international gathering of like-minded individuals, each of whom share a mutual passion towards snowboarding. A gathering that attracts riders within all age brackets, each with varying technical abilities, joining together for the sole purpose of riding their snowboards. Probably not their official mission statement, but that’s what I’m sticking to them, and others who have been there might agree to it.
On top of that, High Cascade has been unofficially tasked with the responsibility of creating and deploying new, top-tier snowboarding content during the summer months. Let’s face it, not everyone can go snowboarding during the summer, it’s undoubtedly a privilege. So, the photos and videos that surface from High Cascade can certainly help keep antsy boarders sane during the snowless months. I can personally attest to that.
In the past, we had entertained the idea of involving VOLTFUSE with High Cascade, but things had never seemed to line up… mostly because taking on a project like sponsoring and traveling to High Cascade would require a hefty pocket of money. However, this year I was determined to make it happen – and we did.
After lots of contemplation and planning, it was set – we were on board as an official sponsor of camp, and Session 4 would be “VOLTFUSE week.” Personally speaking, taking this step with VOLTFUSE was huge for me. Not only were my pursuits with VOLTFUSE and snowboarding taking me to another new place, but I was fulfilling a childhood goal.
Only just a few years ago, it was seemingly unrealistic to think that VOLTFUSE would one day be able to play an active role in the world’s largest and arguably best snowboard camp. Even more personally rewarding than that, VOLTFUSE was able to give its team – a group of up-and-coming riders – the opportunity to tag along for the ride, which in turn allowed them to tick off some of their own goals.
Heading into this trip, we had hoped to bring together as many team riders as possible. But like anything, things never pan out exactly as planned, and only a handful of us could make it down. When it was all said and done, our crew consisted of Jasper Fast, David Lee, Charles Leclerc, Colton Carroll, Conor Carroll, and then Errol Elli and myself (Alex) on camera.
Errol and I termed ourselves as the “content curators” and chaperones. Not only were we creating A-grade content, but we were ensuring the guys were on their best behaviour, eating properly, and getting a good night’s rest. Ha – if only the chaperoning part was true.
On July 13th, we flew into Portland, Oregon. Once everyone was herded together, we piled into a badass soccer-mom van and began making our way up the densely forested highway. We were headed towards Welches, a small mountain town that was just down the road from Mt. Hood. High Cascade and its campus were also headquartered out of there, which made things convenient and accessible for the camper activities that we had planned for that week.
Once we had arrived to Welches, it was made clear by one of the guys that our first pitstop had to be at a cannabis dispensary, which I should note is fully legal in the state of Oregon. He claimed that we needed to “embrace the culture,” so being the responsible and culturally-curious team manager that I am, I complied. After the guys were finished their “souvenir shopping,” we checked into our AirBnB, which despite being randomly booked on the fly, turned out to be a sweet little condo on the side of a golf course. Unfortunately, none of us really knew how to golf.
First days on-hill
We spent our first two days on the mountain warming up and lapping in Timberline’s public park. Here, we linked up with Colton and Conor Carroll, two brothers who both work as park diggers for Timberline. Basically, the Carroll brothers spend their mornings chiseling out a bitchin’ park, and then spend the rest of their day enjoying the fruits of their labour. Oh yeah, and they also totally rip. Do yourself a huge favour and go follow them on Instagram (@coltoncarroll_ and @conorcarroll_). You’ll scratch your head a few times.
During these first few days on the glacier, it just so happened that there was some sort of massive butterfly migration going on. I don’t know too much about it, but apparently each summer hundreds of thousands of butterflies depart the Pacific Northwest and head down to California. And if seeing thousands of butterflies fly over a snow-covered glacier at an elevation of 11,249 ft wasn’t crazy enough, I was told that the average journey of these butterflies is about 500 miles. Pretty damn impressive for a little butterfly if you ask me.
Beginning of camp
After two productive “warm-up” days in the public park, it was time for us to migrate over to the opposite side of the glacier and check out High Cascade’s private park. In between sessions, they close their park for a few days in order to tear down and completely rebuild it for the following session.
On the first day of session 4, the crew and myself were a bit later getting up to the mountain. I had a few things that I had to get taken care of that morning, thus causing a late departure of our soccer-mom van. Knowing that we would now be getting less time on-hill that day, we opted to hiking up the mountain instead of paying for an overpriced lift-ticket.
Even before we got here, we had told ourselves that we would “embrace the Mt. Hood culture,” and hike up at least once during the trip – and that day was going to be today.
Of course, this impulsive decision was made before we had thought about bringing hiking shoes and comfortable clothes with us. Instead, we ended up embarking on the upwardly hike in snowboard boots and snowboard pants – in the blistering 35°C heat and sun. To make this even more pitiful, it turned out that we had taken the wrong pathway, which lead to some Timberline staff spotting and preventing us from hopping on the final ski-lift that would then take us into the park. Talk about being a bunch of foolish Canadians.
As a side-note, you’re technically not aloud to hike up and ride the mountain without a valid lift-ticket. But again, there’s a thriving “hike culture” down here at Mt. Hood when it comes to being a broke local and getting up the mountain to ride. We had to experience it, obviously.
Luckily, we managed to pull some strings and still get into the park that day. Afterwards, we had decided that it would probably be best for us to bite the bullet and stick with taking the chair-lift for the remainder of the trip.
Together, riding in harmony
High Cascade’s park was solid. I was told by an inside source that there had been some corporate restructuring recently, which led to High Cascade and Windells – a predominantly ski camp – being merged together. This meant that snowboarders and skiers would now share the same park with each other, something that was unheard of between the two camps in the past. However, in turn this meant that everyone would get to enjoy a much larger park with more terrain and on-hill action.
Whatever, one plank or two planks, we’re all friends up here – regardless of how someone choses to get down the hill. As long as the race skiers and their silly spandex suits were secluded and kept out of the park, things should be just fine.
We then spent the next 7 days or so bouncing between High Cascade, Pro Park, and the public park. Having these three different parks to pick from, while each were continuously being changed up and tweaked, kept things super interesting for filming.
Huge amounts of respect towards all of the hard-working diggers up there – and for that matter, diggers everywhere. These guys and girls work tirelessly so we can have fun, and it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
Ending the day
The best part of the day? The “ride out” – without a doubt. Basically, at the end of each day, you have the choice of either riding your snowboard down to the parking lot or riding the chairlift down. Making that decision was a no-brainer. It dazzles me to think that some people consciously choose to ride the chair-lift down opposed to riding out.
After last call in the park, we would then grab our backpacks and begin the treacherous journey to the parking lot.
First, we’d have to pass through the Olympic-sized half pipe, which by the end of the day has evolved into a slushy side-hit paradise. In my opinion, these super-sized halfpipes were probably the scariest thing within snowboarding. Maybe it’s because I was never exposed to them growing up, and whenever I did encounter one, they were ridiculously steep and icy. Anyhow, surfing and slashing our way through this thing was a real treat.
After the pipe, the real challenge had begun. We needed to figure out who was able to go the fastest down a steep, narrow, and slushy pathway, while dodging ruts, rocks, debris, and other people. Sprinkle in some natural side-hits and rock slides, and then you have yourself the daily “ride out” ritual. Luckily, everyone made it out alive at the end of the day – but there were definitely a few close calls.
After each day on the mountain, we typically hiked to one of the local swimming spots, often equipped with a backpack full of beer. Like everywhere else in the nearby area, the mighty Mt. Hood always seemed to stagger far above us and its surroundings, allowing for observation and serving as the topic of conversation.
To think that we casually ride our snowboards down this massive glacier, which is located on the side of an actual volcano, is pretty crazy stuff. Nonetheless, I was told that the last time this thing had erupted was “way back“ in 1907 – so we should be all good, right?
Once cooled off and refreshed at the lake, a proper BBQ back at the condo was in order. Afterwards, we often made our way over to High Cascade’s campus to hang out with the campers and check out their top-notch skatepark.
It’s insane to see all of the activities and events that campers have at their disposal while at High Cascade. Foam pits, trampolines, multiple skateparks, and dodgeball courts are just a few of the amenities that are on-site. On top of that, there’s constantly being free product dished out by camp sponsors, ranging from full board setups to exclusive VOLTFUSE beanies. And just to put the cherry on top, there’s more pro-snowboarders per capita at High Cascade during the summertime than anywhere else – making the chances of a kid meeting their favourite boarder at an all-time high.
Visiting High Cascade as a young shredder would have been a dream come true, that’s for sure.
Onward and upward
All in all, our time at Mt. Hood couldn’t have been any better. We had incredible weather, a solid crew, rode three amazing parks, and met a bunch of great people. My only complaint was that the trip was too short.
Heading into High Cascade as a relatively small and unknown brand, I had zero expectations – treating everything as a learning curve. I knew that there was only so much that we could do with the resources and manpower that we had available. In terms of scheduled initiatives and activities for the campers, we tried to get as creative and fun-focused with them as possible.
Ultimately, though, the focus of the trip was centralized around stoking out campers, punching in as much boarding as possible, and creating an archive of pleasant memories. Reflecting on the trip, I’m extremely proud with what VOLTFUSE was able to do, and I know that it will only get better from here.
This trip would have not been possible without the help of Errol Elli, Sean Genovese, Dean Henniffent, Brian Baker, and of course, the team riders: Jasper Fast, Charles Leclerc, David Lee, Conor Carroll, and Colton Carroll.
To get a better sense of how our trip went down, check out the video that we just released.