words: Mary Walsh
photos: Mike Yoshida and Mary Walsh
It was in a localized fog that we hopped into an Uber and headed to the airport Friday morning. Pat Bridges and I had emerged, fairly unscathed but definitively groggy, from the type of late night that happens during the very beginning or very end of the season, a hallmark of premiere season and reunion. We were departing Salt Lake after a night spent lauding the year-long accomplishments of Bode Merrill and Jon Ray. The duo had premiered their film, Reckless Abandon, the previous night at a movie theater/bar called Brewvies in downtown SLC. The entire cast of the film, Bode, Erik Leon, Ozzy Henning, Hans Mindnich and Jesse Paul were in attendance and stoke was high for what the boys had produced over just one winter. The night had run long with celebratory cosmos and sooner than expected, even though our itineraries were burned into our brains, it was time to head to Denver. Our destination, the snowboard film and music festival, Snowboard on the Block.
In its fourth year as an annual season starter in downtown Denver, Snowboard on the Block is coming into its own. As its constituency grows, so does the event itself. A new venue at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Sculpture Park, just shy a few blocks from the infamous convention center that houses SIA every January, provided The Block with a new look and a more centralized layout, as well as a grassy hill that acted as a natural theater from which to watch outdoor movies. 2016 marked a streamlining by focusing on ten of the season’s most anticipated movie, making for a more ergonomic schedule. In the past, while the marquee was filled to brim, which was awesome, but Block attendees faced decisions on which movies to watch, at times choosing between overlapping shows. This year, the new schedule further highlighted the films and ensured that everyone could see every bit of snowboard porn they desired. The sponsor village had a welcoming, easy-to-find-your-friends-if-you-had-one-too-many-Sierra-Nevadas layout and there were plenty of booths to visit. The food cart zone was stocked with pizza, poutine, an pad thai and the lines at the beverage counters were quick (see: easier to find your friends).
Also new for 2016, SOTB expanded from one day to two, which provided the extra time for movie showings and allowed for multiple headliners, both of the film and music variety. Friday night, festival gates opened at 5pm as a throng of season-eager snowboarders streamed through the entrance. A bevy of professionals were also in tow. Anto Chamberlain, Charles Reid, Mark Tremblay, Iikka Backstrom, Helen Schettini and many more were in town to showcase powerhouse flicks borne in Canada from The Manboys Full Moon, and the Wildcats. Dylan Alito, Nial Romanek, Brady Lem, Ian Sams, Seth Hill, Jordan Morse, and more were hanging out before Saturday's rail jam. Beanie-clad packs wandered the sponsor village, walking between the Woodward and Under Armour booths, the Tailgate Alaska and Ski Utah RVs, stopping to check out new snowboards from Smokin, Arbor, and Sims. Sculpture Park filled with people as the sun went down. The movies began. Absinthe’s AfterForever and The Man Boys Movie set the town for the festival, along with perennial hometown favorite, Never Summer’s Twenty-Five. It was unseasonably warm, almost summery, but winter was on the collective's mind.
As the main stage lit up the Colorado night sky late Friday night, the crowd continued to pack in for a performance by DJ Mimosa and the premiere of The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Resolution. Chris Grenier, Mikey Rencz, Frank April, and Harrison Gordon had make the trek to Denver for the showing and the crowd greeted the guys, hooting and hollering as the opening credits rolled. Chris Grenier has never been shy about professing his love for New England sports teams and his intro, part of which was filmed in the iconic Fenway stadium and referenced the legendary New England Patriots QB, Tom Brady. The intro elicited a chorus of enthusiastic boos. Standing in the center of the field in front of the stage, we were surrounded by a mob of pissed off Broncos fans. The crowd was satiated though, as Grendies put down a heap of mental rail tricks, slightly defying the laws of physics as is the tendency when it comes to this Massachusetts-born rider's parts. Frank April, Harrison, and Mikey all offered up equally impressive segments, shutting down the Denver evening with plenty of high quality hams.
As the final Resolution thank you's rolled over the screen, the Colorado crowd erupted with excitement for Chief Keef to take the stage. I have to thank Chief Keef for his friendliness with the SNOWBOARDER crew. Not only was he down for some fan pics, but he looked the other way when everyone let loose in the back corner of the stage, dance moves notwithstanding. It was an epic and unique experience for the entire posse involved. As Sosa left the stage, the mass of SOTB-goers filtered back out through the front gates and into the establishments lining 16th Street and the vicinity. Snowboard on the Block was to continue on Saturday, complete with preseason rail jam and headlining premiere of The Union Team Movie, Stronger.
Stay tuned for a second photo gallery from the day two of Snowboard on the Block.