Valerie Black’s artwork is an ode to the places that make us feel small
The number of snow-covered trees on Valerie Black’s camera roll is too many to count. She collects videos and photos of them constantly when she’s on skin tracks deep in the mountains. She can’t help it. “I find myself studying the environment when I’m splitboarding,” she says. “I’m constantly thinking: How would I paint this?”
This determination to soak up every drop of her surroundings trickles back into her art, and her body of work is a snapshot of a life spent on snow. Her style is free-flowing and constantly evolving thanks to the variety of mediums in her toolkit: acrylics, paint pens, aerosol paints, and digital art. Full of intricate detail and vibrant colors, Black’s work uncannily captures that awe-inspiring feeling of being immersed in the mountains.
Part of Black’s talent stems from the sheer amount of time she spends on her board. “It’s so cyclical,” she explains. “I find when I’m painting these scenes, I’m reliving being in the mountains and it feeds my need to go snowboarding.” Black is Canadian but she is always on the move, usually splitting her time between Jackson Hole and Canmore, Canada. Her snowboard “season” typically starts in October with some early turns up north. Then, when the faucet turns on, this human-powered board fanatic heads south for the Teton backcountry. Mount Glory is one of her favorite zones, a place where she earned the title of “Backcountry Snowboarding Robot Sent From The Future” for her prowess breaking trail in waist-deep snow. In the spring she heads back to Canada to chase snow as long as mother nature allows—sometimes stretching the season all the way to June.
“I blame the Tetons for my inability to stop painting.”
The Tetons sparked Black’s artistic career. She first painted the range during a casual paint-and-sip night with friends and fell in love with being behind the canvas. In 2016, an injury from climbing spurred this new passion even further, and she used the recovery time to paint as much as possible. “I blame the Tetons for my inability to stop painting,” she laughs. In 2019, she quit her day job programming boiler systems for hospitals and became a full-time artist. Three days after leaving her previous career she connected with legendary Jackson rider Rob Kingwill, who became an early advocate of her work. She never looked back.
Black has become a sought-after artist for collaborations, designing everything from goggle straps for Avalon7, to nine different snowboard top-sheet graphics. “The energy you get from collaborating with other people is so powerful,” she explains. However, her most unique collaboration was the “Temple of Stoke” starting gate for the Jackson stop of the Natural Selection Tour in 2021. “When I saw it firsthand, I had to lie down,” she laughs. “It gave me chills…and seeing the athletes smash their hands on the mural before they dropped in was special.”
Black had a vision for this year’s Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine cover before she was off the concept call with creative director Olaus Linn. Drawing from the Issue Eighteen theme “Afterparty,” the piece is an ode to that last glorious lap you squeeze in before sunset. There’s something unforgettable about that final run back to your car. Maybe it’s the sun hanging low in the sky, illuminating each fractal snowflake with an other-worldly glow. Or it might be the forest coming alive with sounds of powder slashes and cheers of joy. No matter what, you savor each turn as you head in for the day.