Snowboard Iskola

Winter goes by fast. Unpredictable weather patterns notwithstanding, the cadence of the winter season for a professional snowboarder is rapid fire and lightning pace smashed into one. Events. Contests. Road trips. Pow days? Packing. Obligations. Repacking. Days bleed into weeks, weeks turn into months, and before you know it, it’s mid-April. For riders whose seasons are spent in the streets, time is calculated in opportunity to film. And with the recent comeback of rail contests—a great thing but another thing on the schedule—there’s even more possibilities but the season is even more packed.

Grace Warner. Pine Knob, Michigan. p: Mary T. Walsh

While no one is bummed by the current opportunities (more movies, more contests—these are very great things for obvious reasons), snowboarding is a creative endeavor and refilling that well of inspiration can necessitate taking a beat here and there—ie, getting to enjoy snowboarding for snowboarding’s sake. Add in some friends to fuel the fire of collaboration and new tricks are catalyzed, creativity is enhanced, confidence is built and bonds are deepened. During very busy seasons, moments to pause and get some turns in alongside friends is revitalizing, and when those people are all part of a rising tide on the women’s side of street snowboarding, it can create impactful reverberations for the community at large, too.

This is where Grace’s Getaway comes in. At the very end of February, after X Games and Red Bull Heavy Metal and in between filming trips, nine of street snowboarding’s finest gathered just outside of Detroit for a get together designed by Grace Warner with support from Red Bull.

Jaylen Hansen.

Mary T. Walsh

For two days, Grace’s Getaway was a full stop in the middle of the season. Grace invited Egan Wint, Jaylen Hansen, Kaleah Opal Driscoll, Lex Roland, Ava Petersen, Tara Kipilla, Brantley Mullins, and Ava Warner to the event, riders who are members of a rising class redefining what is possible in the streets. They are part of a groundswell of talent that knows no hesitation and whose support of each other comes through at contests despite the inherent competition, the result of which is a full-on renaissance in snowboarding. At Grace’s Getaway, the crew would enjoy two days to get back to basics: no competition, no judgement, no extraneous pressure or stress. They would get to snowboard without distraction and have fun just spending time together. This was why Grace had invited everyone to Pine Knob, a little resort just under an hour northwest of Detroit that tops out at 1,202 feet with a 302-foot vertical drop and plenty of room for a rope tow.

Ava Warner.

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Pine Knob is a perfect example of what is possible with a little terrain and a lot of dedication. The park at the resort is fully loaded; rails, jumps, and transition are meticulously packed into the trail by terrain park manager Matt Dunn and his crew, with just the right amount of room between everything. There’s plenty of line options and easy flow from top-to-bottom. It’s a literal oasis of rails in the middle of The Mitten; a rising training ground for Michigan boarders that is has garnered the attention of national event tours in recent years, from Goon Jam to Red Bull Slide-In Tour. Throngs of eager snowboarders routinely show up, emphasizing the outsized community in the area.

Grace grew up riding at Pine Knob. There were few other girls in the park when she was younger, but in recent years, the presence of females has been increasing steadily. “When I was growing up, I was the only girl on the tow rope,” she explains. “Now there’s like 10 to 15 girls that show up every single day, that are on the tow rope, riding in the park and trying to get better.” That’s something she wants to contribute to. Inviting riders to her Getaway at Pine Knob so local girls can see them in the park and get inspired by their riding is a huge part of that.

(l to r) Egan Wint, Desiree Isadora, Ava Petersen, Brantley Mullins, Tara Kipilla, Grace Warner, Ava Warner, Jaylen Hanson, Lex Roland, and Kaleah Opal Driscoll.

Ashley Rosemeyer/Red Bull

The past winter was a little weird in most places and the Midwest is already known for unexpected swings in weather. When everyone arrived at Pine Knob on the first day of the Getaway, it was 70 degrees and sunny. Naturally, the forecast for the following day looked like things would be windy and freezing, so the crew went straight from the airport to the park to take advantage of the spring conditions. The warm temps had closed the resort for the day to preserve the snow, but the park opened for a private session for Grace’s Getaway. It was something pretty special, a private park on a beautiful day, rope tow running for quick laps and the riders fueling off each other without any sort of pressure at all. The high vibes were overflowing.

“Never in my life have I been able to party lap with eight other females and that was unreal,” Grace reflects. “I can’t even explain the feeling of comfortability and confidence, and just feeling like you’re in the right place.”

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The laps continued as the sun set, Pine Knob’s lights popping on and the park crew hanging out and sharing the hype as the riders dropped. The only thing that finally called the session was a dinner prepared by FatCap, a Chicago-based chef who curated an absolute dining masterpiece that was inspired by Detroit musical artists and Michigan heritage cuisine (think a corned beef sandwich-inspired vegan first course underlined by Lizzo’s lyrics, “Breaking bread with the Queens at the dinner table”, and Faygo-macerated cherries incorporated into the dessert cross-pollinated with Kash Doll’s song Ready Set).

While it may seem extraneous to bring up the dinner, the off-hill time just as important as support to the snowboarding. The Getaway crew stayed together in a cozy cabin on one of Michigan’s many neighborhood lakes (ice bath temps just down the hill from the back door). The down time—filled with watching videos, making art, snapping photos with disposable cameras—reinforced connection foundational to growing the community in a domino effect sort of way. Moments like the ones created by FatCap added to the specialness of this group of women hanging out all together.

The Pine Knob park crew minibus warming hut with everyone hanging out.

Mary T. Walsh

On the second day, the weather had turned, but the crew made the most of it. They ripped laps before the wind froze everything too much and then hung out in the park crew on hill clubhouse, a repurposed minibus. Even though conditions were less than ideal, energy was still high. Everyone was still stoked. Ava Petersen whipped out her airbrush machine and customized everyone’s hoodies. The appreciation for just being there at Pine Knob was heavy in the best way.

“I think just watching all of us feed off of each other, progress together, and have the best time together is exactly what I was looking for," commented Grace the evening of the second day. "And I’m so happy that it’s turned out the way that it has.”

In snowboarding, as in anything in life, the creation of space directly influences possibility. More film projects with women riders on board; more contests outside of the traditional pipe/slope/big air sphere; more unique park builds; more events that provide mentorship, education, and new experiences—these things are conduits for evolution, be it through rider opportunity, terrain knowledge, tricks, style, creativity, whatever it may be. This can happen in a variety of settings and on so many levels, but sometimes all it takes is a small group of riders coming together to put the emphasis back on why we all snowboard in the first place: because it’s fun, because it’s fun to do with friends. And everything else really builds just on that.