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Thursday, May 7, 2009
Updated: June 10, 2:59 PM ET
Johan Olofsson's Alaska

By Nate Deschenes

Johan gets down to business with his bindingless Noboard.
Everyone has an opinion regarding this or that rider and what they have done for snowboarding, but in the curious case of Johan Olofsson you aren't allowed one. It is a brave man who would challenge the proposal that almost single handedly Johan took big mountain snowboarding to the next level. The proof is there: Look at Standard Films "TB5" through "TB10." You can't argue with facts that are so well documented. In recent years sure, Jeremy Jones has put down some committing lines and rode with comparable speed. And dudes like Gigi Ruf and Travis Rice have brought some gnarly freestyle to the Alaskan arena. But rest assured, it was the lunacy of a young Swedish kid over 10 years ago that made their feats possible—they will be the first to tell you so. Not to say you shouldn't have an opinion, but with Johan facts are facts.

Needless to say the guy's a legend, but he's also a friend, so when someone fitting the description of a Viking wildebeest on acid came over and tapped my shoulder last week as I was finishing up breakfast at the Bamboo Room in Haines, I knew "The Alaska Sessions" were about to get serious...

So I thought we would sit on the curb like proper professionals and talk.

Well here we've got nowhere to run... so that is no good.

Before I kidnapped you and took you out here to Valdez to film a bit with Standard, fill us in on where you were at and what you were doing?

Tackling a not-so-mellow spine in AK.

I was on this amazing trip with amazing people. It was probably one of the best trips of my year. It was back to nature, no helicopters, no snowmobiles, no TV, no cell phones. Nice. Really nice.

Who were you with?

It was me, Travis Rice, Jeremy Jones and Jonoven Moore...say no more. And Tom Burt was our guide! Then of course a media crew documenting the whole thing. I was invited on this camping trip that Jeremy had put together. I was actually sick as hell so I missed the first couple days and then when I could make it I flew straight into an eight-day snowstorm. I caught the last window of flyable weather and flew right into hell. But I like that. Usually people will hide behind their laptops or cell phones but after three or four days in the wilderness people start to show their true identity. For example, Travis Rice: people have these conceptions of who he is I'm sure because of his riding and I was surprised as well, because the guy never lost his mood ya' know. He was just as positive throughout the duration of our trip as he was in the beginning. It says something about his mentality and how he does what he does. People start to crack down after a while in a snowstorm like that.

It is a much more rewarding feeling when you earn your snowboarding. You feel like you achieve more.


I can imagine. You have nothing more than your provisions, shelter and very few creature comforts, right? What do you do to pass the time?

Well, Jonaven Moore was there. He was such a great factor to the trip—so full of life. If you are around him you are always smiling. Let's just say we built an amazing snow cave.

I just look at things these days like... I am so honored to be on trips like this. Because in the real world, outside of snowboarding... people don't know. At the same time, I don't even know how to explain it to a normal person. To be in that zone with the same kind of people and with those who kind of have the same wishes out of life is just great and a really rewarding feeling.

What do you think brings people like this together?

I think it is passion. A very high passion.

The enigmatic Johan Olofsson. Untouchable.

When you got people like Tom Burt with you, a guy who has been doing this longer than many of us have been alive, and someone like Jonaven, who doesn't even have a sponsor and is just doing this with his own time and money it says a lot.

Yeah, it's people like them who are a real representation of snowboarding. Jeremy picked these special people to come out and join him for part of a movie he is making. From what I understand the project is a back to the roots movement. Not spending 10,000 dollars every week flying to different peaks up here. This is all about climbing and skinning to your lines. And from what I have learned over the years, is that it is a much more rewarding feeling when you earn your snowboarding. You feel like you achieve more. Hiking up the mountain is usually way more scary then coming down so you get a good trip out of the whole experience. Plus, these days more and more people are seeing that stuff is accessible if they want it. Having Tom Burt there was great because he is always showing you how to behave in the mountains, how to be smart. A good level head. It puts you in a different state of mind. On a side note here, I need to thank my only sponsor The North Face for having the same shared vision of what it is to explore the mountains and making trips like this possible for me.

Johan wants to be riding when he's 50 years old. We hope we'll be able to watch him do lines like this for years to come.

Is this something that in the future you would like to pursue as opposed to what you did in the past?

Oh, of course! Way more!

The whole bang, bang, bang... getting shots and cranking out descents with the heli, for me is not interesting. Living in a hotel, eating breakfast in the lobby then suiting up to see if maybe we fly today. I have done that. I did that for a long time.

Anyone who knows anything about the progression of snowboarding knows that. You don't have to prove yourself to anyone.

Dropping...Noboard style.

Yeah, these are tough days man. I feel like I am at the breaking point of my life as far as what am I going to do from here on out. And I think that something like this life now is going to make myself way more proud.

There are always going to be people who want to see the old Johan, the one that had the big video parts and rode with that controlled recklessness. What is your response to that?

Well, exactly. People want to see "TB5" again. You gotta realize "TB5" was just the peak of an era that was combined with so much snowboarding and a nomadic lifestyle, combined with no respect for the outside life—I was just a kid. These days my brother has kids and maybe some day I want to have that, so it seems almost egotistic to put myself on that kind of trip again. Even though I think it's fun, maybe I should take a step back and look a little further than that.

What has changed since those days?

Nothing really has changed. Except that people are going after it harder and harder. Look at the time since we have been here—two people have died. There are more and more out there these days and I just don't want to be part of that machine that takes people away from this place. I always try to keep snowboarding as my personal thing that takes me away from everyday life. It's my personal pleasure. But if you are looking for it too hard you might get taken. There have been plenty of guys who were out here doing it just right and got taken anyways. I want to be riding when I am fifty years old. There is no rush.