Bode Merrill

Maybe it’s called Chiraq because of all the flash bangers being thrown around. Justin Fronius. Chicago, IL.

Sometimes there are awesome trips, too long trips, trips that didn’t last long enough, or trips where nothing worked out. It can be a whirlwind of emotions when it comes to traveling with a bunch of snowboarders, but this particular trip stood out to me most this year not because it was fun, exactly, but because it was so memorable. In fact, I think we lost our minds at one point. (At least I did.) It was New Year’s Eve, we were in some random town in Michigan, it was DUMPING snow, and I think the warmest day in memory was maybe -1ᵒF. Random.

That night we all ended up buying hair dye and beer. (At that point, I think I had spent about 60% of the money I had left on hair dye and beer…) We ended up going out with said dyed hair to some random bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We were all drunk and each of us had a different hair color—it was hilarious.

This was about halfway into our two-week adventure, and at this point I was out of weed and was getting impatient and short-tempered. I became so desperate that I contacted a kid I knew from Facebook who lived in Michigan, but didn’t know him and had never met him in person, so it was pretty much a shot in the dark. Long story short, when I asked him for weed he said the deal was that if he came through, we had to let him hit a spot with us and film for VG. I told him no, as he’d be a liability for us, but he kept saying things like “Oh ya man, I’ll hit up my dealer and we can drive to him,” “Where is your hotel?” and “We can meet up at the spot tomorrow.” This honestly went back and forth for over an hour. Finally, he told me he’d got some, but I needed to go and pick it up. I got in Riley’s freezing van at around 11:30pm, drove about forty-five minutes, and picked this kid up at a McDonald’s near where he lived. We awkwardly sat in the van, he gave me the stuff, and I gave him the money. He continued to stay in the van with his McDonald’s, sucking down his shake like I’ve never seen before, and also smoked two cigarettes. (He was fifteen, had no car, and lived with his mom in an apartment.) I just wanted to get out of there and smoke some weed! When I got home back to the hotel safely, it turned out it was basically half the amount I’d paid for. Also, it looked terrible, but it was weed…and sometimes that’s all ya need.

On this trip we all filmed a solid portion of our video parts, got to all hang with each other, and spent New Year’s together. Dyed our hair. Got pissed, got happy. All the ups and downs are what made the journey so good, and I couldn’t have picked a better crew to do that with. It can be a lot of hard work filming a video part: Shoveling massive amounts of snow, trimming trees, chipping ice from stairs, lifting heavy winches, lights, and generators, getting kicked out of spots…and not having weed. Having the energy to do that can be exhausting every day, but I love it and I’d do it any day with that group of guys.

- Justin Fronius

Jake OE must be awesome to travel with if you’re addicted to the Internet because he has a Signal with him at every spot. Kalamazoo, MI.

Bode Merrill

Not only did they dye their hair yellow, but they dyed the rail, too. Danimals. Kalamazoo, MI.

This is Joe Sexton, front board and center. Kalamazoo, MI.

Last season we went on a trip. It was a good trip, and it had a lot of ups and downs, but I would say it was generally more up than down. First we piled into Riley’s van and drove to Sam’s home state of Wisconsin, land of the Green Bay Packers and cheese curds. Wisconsin is a nice place unless you get sick there, and then I think you lose perspective on how nice it really is, especially if you spend most of your night and the next day sleeping in the bathroom throwing up like I did.

It’s all good, though: I still like it there and we all got shots, so we did all right. Next stop was Chicago, home of “Da Bears,” and otherwise known as “Chiraq.” I really thought Chicago was cool, and even though we barely rode there, everyone got really great stuff. Mike Yoshida flew in and met us, which was awesome. I also remember a particularly funny text conversation between Froni and some kid who sounded like a thirteen-year-old that he was trying to negotiate a “transaction” of sorts with. A few of us had also been sick during our time in Chicago, but soon we were off to Michigan, home to a lot of snow. (At least while we were there.)

Michigan was our most productive place, as well as the coldest place, of our trip. I looked at the temperature when we were there and it was colder where we were than it was in Antarctica. That didn’t stop us, though. We actually ran into some professional snow skaters, too. (I don’t know why you need to know that, but we did.) By now I think everyone who had gotten sick was well again. Jake and Joe filmed some really cool-looking lines there that are in their parts, if you’d like to see them. Froni got his ender there, I believe. Yosh spent a majority of his time rallying the rental, at least when he wasn’t shooting photos. I could keep telling stories, but I would say this is my 400-word recollection of our big trip.

P.S. Jake Durham was with us and had a surprising number of matches on Tinder due to his thumb just swiping right to every single person. And I’m out.

- Danimals

Hey Joe, in Chicago you gotta watch out for “Da Stairs.” Joe Sexton. Chicago, IL.

Bode Merrill

Follow the yellow brick/rail. Justin Fronius. Kalamazoo, MI.

I don’t even know where to begin, as this particular day was something special. I’ve been filming a long time and situations like this rarely occur. First of all, let me just say that my grammar sucks—I’m not good at spelling and not good with commas, so this will be me basically ranting about a particular day in 2013. That day was December 31st, and we were about halfway through the awesome time that was 1817 Trip X. The crew included loose Jake OE, smooth Danimals, comic relief Justin Fronius, “The Mastermind” Jake Durham, adult and ringleader Riley Erickson, tough-as-nails Sam Fenton, photographic genius Mike Yoshida, and myself. Pretty awesome crew if, you ask me.

So anyway, it’s December 31st and we are in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s not really an exotic locale, but for what we do, this place might as well have been Fiji. As we drove around town looking for spots, we came across one zone that had a lot of options, so we made a mental note and decided to come back in the morning. The next day we woke up and got breakfast and the vibes were really high. We got to the spot and everyone looked around to see what was possible. (If you have seen Videograss’ Mayday, you will maybe recognize the spots and tricks.) The first was this big yellow kink rail. I started to try it and it was really steep and scary, but on an early attempt I just got put in the right place and was able to get it. I rarely get tricks quickly, so it was a huge relief to get it within ten tries or something. This was just the beginning, though, and it was probably only 11am or so at this point.

From there Jake OE got a really cool line on the yellow rails, and using his creative mind he pieced together two really cool tricks in a short amount of time. Done. With two shots in less than an hour, me and Jake kicked back with cold ones and cheered while we watched the other guys start to try tricks. Fronius was looking at this closeout 50-50 to thread the needle. Same story—he got his trick within three tries and then he did a 50-50 back 180. He threaded the needle and it was a done deal; Fronius is really impressive to watch. Right after that it was Danimals’ turn, and he worked on his trick for a bit, which is a shocker because Dan usually gets tricks right away. This next generation of kids are amazing, and with Fronius and Danimals at the forefront, it’s cool to see them do amazing tricks with great style. Dan was trying a nosepress back 180 50-50, a hard and awkward move. Of course, after a little bit of tinkering Dan was riding away perfect, which made five clips in only a couple hours.

Everyone was so excited because there is no better feeling than everyone in the crew getting clips. Fronius found one more thing he wanted to do just to bury the hatchet, and did a quick cool line. It was getting dark, and we had six clips in the bag, which is almost unheard of in this day and age. It was New Year’s Eve and everyone felt like this was such an awesome start to the year that we did a hands-in howl of New Year’s cheer. We then went back to the hotel and proceeded to crush ice colds and we all dyed our hair (except Riley). Then we went out to a nice dinner and Jake OE got bleach poisoning from not washing his hands. Just one day in 2013, but I will remember it forever. I love traveling, filming, and snowboarding with my friends, and days like this really make you feel lucky. Thanks to everyone that came on the trip and thanks to SNOWBOARDER for letting me rant almost incoherently!

- Joe Sexton

Bode Merrill

The King of Beers has mad hops. Jake OE. Chicago, IL.

Bode Merrill

Justin Fronius

Jake OE Words

The whole point of this trip was to get the whole gang in Riley’s van and head east following the snow, hopefully finding epic spots in tiny towns that no one else would ever find. We called it “Trip X” because we didn’t want to tell people where these spots were so we could keep them secret and could claim we went to Town X on Trip X hitting Spot X! Fast-forward to now looking back on the trip: We only went to classic spots in normal towns that people have been filming in for years. Haha! This trip was amazing, though. Our crew was super tight with each other, so traveling from hotel to hotel was super-smooth. Sam and Riley did a good job of putting up with our antics.

The best story I have from our trip was when Froni was sessioning that wood flat-down flat-down. The guys were on fire that trip, landing so many hammers. Joe did that back 50-50 on the yellow rail to lipslide super-fast! That thing was super sketchy—the top down was steep and had a knob on it. Danimals did that front 50-50 to early pop-out transfer back 50-50 on that epic kink, which was also crazy. I was getting used to seeing at least one crazy hammer go down every day, but when Justin was doing that 50-50 360 50-50, I was completely blown away! The top flat of the wood rail was really small and in order for him to have enough speed to make the down after the 360, he had to go fast. I was watching him do the first 50-50, and because of the speed, he had to be weightless and pre-wound up on that top flat, which was nuts. He almost landed it right away, but the impact from that transfer was super-harsh, plus he was landing blind! Anyways, he almost landed it twenty times, getting his ass kicked every try. He was starting to get tired, so we did a little team meeting to help him collect his thoughts and give him a break, as we could tell he was getting frustrated.

Just as a side note, Fronius is a good singer and is always singing Brett Dennen. But after our team meeting with Froni, he goes back to strap in, then all of sudden starts singing some gospel music as loud as he possibly can. I swear, it was so funny! Then we pulled the bungee back and he landed it! I’ve never seen that gnarly of a trick go down with so much consequence, plus pulling the bungee back for someone singing. It was one of my highlights of last winter for sure. I might not know why he was singing, but it worked, and I thought it was the best thing ever!

- Jake OE