Main photos below. Bonus CLICK THROUGH gallery above.
Words & Photos: Laura Austin (unless otherwise credited)
First of all... someone in Mammoth must have pissed off Mother Nature; that, or some unrelenting ski bum has been seeding the clouds. It is still winter up there. It is June and the mountain has a 9-17 foot base. Last year at the Frendly Gathering people were melting, forced to tap Crowley Lake as a reprieve from the heat. This year people were wrapped up in coats and huddled by the fire to stay warm at night. Nothing a little whiskey couldn't fix though.
Weather aside, flocks of people still made their way up to Crowley Lake to gather in a Frendly manner (for the most part... the chick who got punched in the face might say differently). I have to hand it to the Frends crew: Jack and Luke Mitrani, Danny Davis, Kevin Pearce, Mason Aguirre, Scotty Lago, Mikkel Bang, and Keir Dillon. Underneath the major sponsorships and the money that is probably associated with being Frends in high places, is a group of down-to-earth guys that just want to keep things fun... and are happy to let everyone else to join in on it ie getting high in Frendly places.
As much as I sound bummed about Mother Nature it is hard to complain when you can still snowboard in June. Everyone spent two days on-hill bringing snowboarding back to its roots with a giant slalom race the first day and an old school halfpipe competition the next. The slalom was complete with snowball gauntlets and a decent-sized jump halfway down the course to spin off of, land switch, and continue to ride the rest of the course fakie. The halfpipe wasn't far from something that you would've witnessed at the first halfpipe World Championship in 1983. Sloppy four-foot walls and tombstones. Both events were incredibly laid back and equally entertaining to watch. It was refreshing in the world of televised, structured snowboard spectacles we have today.
Once the sun dropped, things got wild at Crowley. The Frends brought out a full-on stage which hosted "Hippy Hop" rappers MOD SUN and B-Rolla Friday night and Led Zepplica Saturday night; a spot on Led Zeppelin cover band. I should probably just leave it at that. You kinda had to be there to understand what really happened during those hazy nights at the lake. Sunrise was the only sense of time people really had to crawl back into their tents, campers, or just straight up sleeping bags in the dirt for a few hours of shuteye before they got up to do it all over again.
I have to admit that once Sunday rolled around I was happy to be heading home knowing that I would be able to sleep in an actual bed that night. But it was nice to be cut off from what people consider the "real world" for a few days: sans cell phone service, internet, and e-mails. But as this event evolves year after year, I've come to realize that's what Frends are for, and I feel obligated to thank them for that. Want to experience the Frendly Gathering for yourself? Then head to the east coast edition from July 19-22 at Timber Ridge in Vermont.