Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit and yet to strap into a snowboard, I struggled to find my place among the ultra conservative students in my all-girls Catholic high school. The struggle concluded at the age of 15, however, when I stepped foot into an asbestos-ridden warehouse. I had just entered my first rave, scintillating, begrimed urban wildness.
Back in those days, I relished the protocol to attend an “underground” party. On the day of the party, I would anxiously twiddle my thumbs until it was time to make the phone call. The recorded voice on the other end would disclose a map point. Around midnight, I would arrive to a location in a dilapidated Detroit neighborhood, where someone would hand me a small piece of paper with a scribbled map. Driving wearily trying to pinpoint the location, my pulse would quicken as thumping bass became audible from a seemingly bomb-riddled building. (How did I find my way without Google Maps?) Then, within the confines of defunct car factories, theaters and slaughterhouses, some of the best DJs and electronic music producers of the day, armed with crates of vinyl, performed for a sweaty patchwork of nocturnal revelers. Much like snowboarders, ravers back then subscribed to myriad styles and philosophies. You had your hip-hop kids – B girls and B boys (breakdancers); the breakbeat obsessed junglists, the minimal techno lovers who were donning thick rimmed glasses and skinny jeans long before the hipsters of Williamsburg, and the candy kids sporting beaded bracelets to their elbows and 69-inch Kikwears. But despite everyone’s varied proclivities, I noticed that people seemed to place little judgment on one another. Disenfranchised youth in their teens, 20s and 30s, we were bonded by our mutual desire to be a part of something that rejected mainstream culture.
But as the scene shifted into a commercialized spectacle, my fervor for raves waned. Especially when I came to grips with the fact that more and more people were not involved for the high caliber of music gracing the nightly menu, but instead for the cornucopia of drugs that inundated each party.
It wasn’t until I picked up a snowboard years later that the old feeling from raves, a gleaming and unbridled anticipation, returned. I had once again found my way to a scene that fulfills one of our most basic human needs – to feel accepted and a part of something. In the rave scene, there is the anthem “Last night a DJ saved my life.” Today, I can’t help but say this about snowboarding and I bet in some way or another, you can too. For me, snowboarding introduced a healthy lifestyle reliant on judicious decision-making that would allow you to return to the mountains and snowboard another day. I traded calling the rave hotline after sunset for calling the snowphone before sunrise. I went from lingering in smoky midnight queues that wrapped around warehouses to waiting for the tram in a sunny line that snakes down to the Bridger center.Similar to the rave scene, however, I have found that I can travel to some of this earth’s most far flung mountains and instantly forge connections with other snowboarders through a mutual respect for snowboarding and the mountains we that call us.
As our world becomes an increasingly volatile place, celebrating the positive things that bring people together, that bridge cultures, genders, ethnicities and race – is an important practice. This year’s issue of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine offers some testament to snowboarding’s remarkable ability to do just that.