words and photos: Pat Harrington
Those of us addicted enough to snowboarding spend our winters chasing the snow and following the events that represent what snowboarding is to us. For those that find a deeper connection to their board and how their snowboard experience can change depending on camber, sidecut, form and flex, there is the Jackson Hole Pow Wow.
In early March, Rob Kingwill hosted his third annual powder board test and all-around snowboarding cultural exchange at his home resort of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. More that twenty snowboard brands ranging from garage-made boards like Soul-Motion, cult heroes like Gentemstick and High Tide Mfg. to some of the most well represented brands on the planet gathered at the base of the Jackson Hole tram for three consecutive days of riding, presentations, discussions and shenanigans.
This year's installment of the Pow Wow was a bit different from the previous years, seeing that the conditions were not necessarily the powder that Jackson Hole is known for. That being said, the groomed, hardpack and variable snow did not deter the testers from going all out in their quest for finding that perfect shred sled.
One of the current trends in snowboarding is the departure from the once omnipresent popsicle stick snowboard shape and the exploration of more unique and specialized shapes. The idea behind this is to create and accentuate a particular feeling on the hill, whether you are riding bottomless powder, carving an early morning groomer or navigating that natural snake run through the trees. The concept of shaping a collection snowboards for different purposes has reinvigorated a more methodical approach to snowboarding that existed in the sport's surf-inspired infancy.
Walking through the demo tent at the Pow Wow offered a glimpse at boards akin to early Winterstick, Barfoot, Sims, Burton and Gnu shapes, bringing old ideas back to life and paring them with modern materials, sidecuts and camber profiles to create one of the most unique quivers on the planet. As for the cadre of testers, Kingwill invited pros, legends, retailers and members of the snowboard media to move freely through the quiver room and make their own agenda on the hill, creating an organic and zero pressure approach that most demos lack.
Upon returning to the tent after slashing and bashing all day long, the testers sipped on local brews while filling out the online-based evaluation forms and brainstorming with each other on what boards they liked and which ones could use some tweaks. As if the daytime activities weren't enough, Kingwill organized cultural activities each night including his SHRED-X talk series, highlighting snowboard history, art, culture and design and an informal "pass the mic" storytelling session and vintage board expo at the local Franco Snowshapes Factory.
Amidst constant industry babble about the struggles of snowboarding, it is easy to see just how healthy the snowboard community really is at events like the Pow Wow. Having legends like Dave Downing, Jeremy Jones, Seth Wescott and Travis Rice making this event a priority and interacting with locals, reps and shop kids clearly illustrates how these thought provoking events are becoming more important in the continuation and growth of snowboard design, maintaining an interest in the evolution of the sport.
A big thanks goes out to Rob Kingwill for his life-long commitment to snowboarding and his motivation to host this event, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Franco Snowshapes and all of the attendees who came from far and wide to make this event possible.
For board reviews and more information on how to participate visit www.jhpowwow.com.