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Saturday, June 6, 2009
Bjorn Leines

By Tim Brodhagen

Minnesota flatland born, Utah powderfield bred, Bjorn Leines is a seventeen year vet in the game. He's a somewhat remarkable specimen of a shredder in that he still rips urban, resort or backcountry with the ease and lunacy of a dude ten years younger. On top of that he still shows up to contests and rips those too. He's also got Celtek, the glove and accessory brand he started with this brother Erik, as well as a wife and two kids.

So how does he do it? Aside from being as naturally gifted as a Mountain Goat, Bjorn Leines has learned to play the game way better than most. And that's not to say it's all a game, although it definitely is all fun for him. Bjorn has kept his inner powder fiend intact and his friends and business associates super close, two essential ingredients for longevity in the snowboard biz.

At a time of chaos and uncertainty in the industry, ESPN joined Bjorn in the tranquility of the vegetable garden behind his Minnesota cabin to dig into how he's achieved such a remarkable career. The OG knowledge he drops are words to live and shred by. Say hello to the one and only Bjorn Leines.

Backcountry bumpties for Bjorn? Not a problem.

Where are you right now?

I just got to Minnesota. I spend the summer months here. We've got a pretty extensive vegetable garden and I'm in it.

What's the best part about the off season?

My favorite thing is not having such a hectic schedule. Just being able to be a full time dad and being at home chilling out with my family.

Do you prefer Minnesota to Salt Lake?

I prefer it in the summer time but it's so flat here. The biggest hill within a hundred miles of my house is one hundred feet tall. I can't help but miss the mountains. Part of me is all about the mountains. But it's a good refresher to leave and come back.

Did you have some particularly good times this winter?

You always get a couple of good powder days that stay with you the whole season in your mind. I had one of those at Snowbird in Utah with Scott Sullivan where the snow was like three and a half feet deep and there was nobody there and we were just doing these epic top to bottom runs. There was another trip that was pretty much all time where I went to Silverton, Colorado and rode the Silverton resort and did some heli there. Then we stayed up in this hut at 12,000 feet for three nights. It was really cool. Nine guys, no power, no water, no nothing. Just books, bros, and powder.

Would you say that your overall stoke on shredding is as strong as it's ever been in your life? Are you at all jaded?

No I'm as psyched as ever. I trip out on guys who retire from snowboarding and just get "over it." I don't know, I guess I'm just a powderhound.

You were one of the few guys hitting the Loonatic Jump at this year's Super Park. What was that like?

That was a big jump. I only hit a couple park jumps this winter, so I haven't been doing that that much but it was really cool. It was a fun session. It was Dan Brisse, Pat Moore, Lonnie Kauk and Chelly Miller, Bode Miller's brother. It kinda messed with your head because what they did was they carved out from the backside of the jump to the landing and took away most of the snow so as soon as you left for takeoff your were already like forty or fifty feet off the ground. It was intimidating for a lot of people. There were a hundred and something snowboarders at the Super Park but there were only ten to twelve guys hitting that big jump.

I think the next logical step is what Travis Rice did with Natural Selection. Freestyle freeriding on semi-manicured terrain is the natural evolution of snowboarding events. I think it has way more of an entertainment value


Do you think twice about hitting something like that now that you are a little older?

Not really. I don't feel old mentally or physically at all. I mean I crashed pretty hard during that session. I over-rotated a 1080 and went too far—they said I went about 140 feet, and I slammed sideways. I made a beeline for the woods, I thought I was gonna crap my pants. That was a wakeup call but that's just part of the game, sometimes you take a hard one.

Do you feel that you are as fearless as ever in the backcountry too?

Pretty much, but I think as I've matured I've also become more aware of snow safety. That knowledge just comes with more time in the mountains. It's all a calculated risk anyhow, but I feel like I know more snow science so it can almost work to my benefit to put myself in a sketchier place. I guess I feel like I'm still trying to push myself and I'm trying to push the limits of what can be done.

Do you consider Snowbird your home mountain?

I ride there a lot. But I also ride Brighton a lot. I'll hit Park City when it's hard pack but pretty much Brighton and Snowbird. We did a lot of snowmobiling in the backcountry too; that eats up most of our day. My favorite place would have to be British Columbia, also the interior of Canada.

If you see this guy on the side of the road, pick him up. He knows all the spots.

How is it riding for Rome? What was it about Rome that attracted you to the brand?

I actually called them up to ask if I could ride for them. I thought they had a really core appeal and amazing product. The owners love snowboarding. Paul [Maravetz] goes and hikes a run every morning before work, five days a week, by himself. To see owners that have that much passion for snowboarding, it's great to see and be a part of it. What they've done that's unique is that they created the SDS, The Snowboard Design Syndicate, that's a group of people from all walks of snowboarding from a pro to a retail guy to an everyday mountain guy and they take all of that input and apply it to their products. They really have their ear to the street on what's happening out there. The team is really strong too. They started with more amateur guys and now they've all stepped up into the pro ranks and made a name for themselves. We've got a good camaraderie while filming.

What setup are you riding next season?

I pretty much ride the Mod boards, the 158 or 160. I ride the Agent board a lot too. Then the Targa bindings and the Folsom boots.

You've been on Volcom for a really long time, was there any consideration of joining their board team?

Not really. The thought came through my mind for sure but from the standpoint of what Rome has going on I'm super happy to be with them. I have a great relationship with Volcom and I'm pumped on all the guys that work there. It's like a giant family and they've always treated me really good. I have signature outerwear with them and that's been awesome so I felt it was best to just keep it at that.

How is Celtek doing? Has all the downturn effected the brand?

No, we've had solid growth every season. Celtek's been in business for six years now and since we're a smaller company we're able to grow a little bit easier than the big guys that have already grown and now are feeling the hurt with the economy. Celtek is thriving. My brother is the president of the company and primarily runs it. My duties are Marketing Manager and Team Manager so I deal with that stuff but I have my hands in everything from design to sales to marketing.

"I trip out on guys who retire from snowboarding and just get over it,'" says Leines. "I don't know, I guess I'm just a powderhound."

How do you even have time to do anything else?!

Ha, it is crazy. But I've got a team guy, John, who handles the day to day, I just delegate. Same thing with marketing, I have someone I can delegate to. My main focus is snowboarding. My brother and I started the company both as pro snowboarders and he made the decision two years ago to fully concentrate on Celtek and not be a pro anymore. My agenda is to be a pro. Celtek is number two for me when it comes to snowboarding. Supporting my sponsors, filming and getting photos in the magazines and doing contests is my number one concern.

Cup of coffee, some eggs, sun creeping over the ridge, a few pow turns through some Aspens...

Anything new poppin at Celtek that you want to mention?

We did a collaboration with the artist Hailey Wright. For the Celtek clan we have a few guys in the works like Will Jackaways, he's a kid from New Zealand. He's a ripper, rides for Volcom and is on fire. The main team is Aaron Bittner, Justin Bennee, Stevie Bell, Eero Niemela and Zac Marben. Zac has a new pro model glove coming out this year that's really sick.

Are you planning to branch out Celtek similar to how Danny has expanded Grenade?

Our main focus has been gloves but we are starting to move towards more accessories. We will be releasing backpacks and other softgoods stuff like belts, wallets, t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and facemasks. Facemasks have been something that has been going really good for us. There isn't a lot of competition in that market. We've got a double sided, reversible, breathable facemask with a Velcro strap. Nobody else really makes one like it that actually functions. That's been sick. We do also have some plans to branch into skateboarding. For both Erik and I, our first passion was skateboarding. We have a mini ramp at Celtek and it's just a logical step for us. Lizard King has a glove with us and has been in the clan for three or four years now. He's straight up trying to get skater of the year. Lizard King's the bomb. We've got some other heavy hitters waiting to join the skate team too, I just can't talk about it yet.

Come on, not even a hint?

I'll say this. He's MEGA. If you think about that real hard you might be able to figure it out. But that's not until next year. That's all I will say.

Back to something you were saying before, you said you are still first and foremost a pro snowboarder and you satisfy those duties ahead of others. How do you keep it all together with a family and kids when you have to be on the road living the pro snowboarder lifestyle?

I could have ridden for Burton when I was like 15, but it was pretty easy to see that Burton didn't give a damn about their team, they just chewed 'em up and spit them out. Now that times are tough it's super apparent. They just cut like five of the best guys on their team and it's crazy.


You know it's had its ups and downs but the rad thing is that my wife is super supportive. It's been nine years now and she gets it. We bought an RV two years ago and we've just been rallying the RV around. I basically bring them with me everywhere I go. I've got a 36-foot RV and I tow my truck with my snowmobile in it. We've gone to Canada and Alaska and it's pretty much all time. Having her support makes it all worthwhile. A lot of people were tripping when I got married at twenty three and had my first son at twenty six. We definitely went for it. My snowboarding brings home the bacon and she knows it but she knows snowboarding would be a part of my life even if I wasn't getting paid to do it.

With all these things to factor in, do you strategize your season differently to make sure you are staying at the top level of riding? How do you pick and choose what to do?

I think just having good relationships with the film companies and the photographers is super important. It's still a super small industry. This season I concentrated a lot on photography. I shot with every staff photographer at Snowboarder and like half the guys at Transworld. If you shoot with the staff guys you are gonna get coverage. Just cover your bases and don't burn bridges. I kinda know the formula you know? I have this theory where your whole season comes down to three weeks in March. If you get good stuff in March then you are set. In January there's not quite enough snow, in February it's good but you are just getting into the routine but in March if you don't get the good weather and snow then it's April and it's over. You're getting a couple pow days maybe as soon as April 1 hits. It's kind of a science, and you have to work hard when it's go time. I've realized that in June I'm in Minnesota gardening, working on Celtek, skateboarding and dirt biking for twenty of the thirty days and then the rest of the days I'll be at Mt. Hood snowboarding.

Pop it likes it's hot: Bjorn Leines lightin' the wave up.

Is there more pressure these last couple of years because certain brands are having trouble etc?

There's always pressure to perform. One thing I learned early on is that you have to trust the people you work for. With Volcom, they love snowboarding, they get it and it's more like family. There is more pressure from a company like Oakley that has a big superstar team and they've got a budget and they've got to figure it out but with the other brands it's been good. I could have ridden for Burton when I was like 15-years-old but it was pretty easy to see that Burton didn't give a damn about their team, they just chewed 'em up and spit them out. Now that times are tough it's super apparent. They just cut like five of the best guys on their team and it's crazy. I don't know. The industry is super tough. My brother for instance, he's an amazing snowboarder but he just couldn't get enough support from his board sponsor to make it worth it. He still totally rips and that's one of the reasons we started Celtek: To be able to create an umbrella to take care of our friends and family, you know?

What do you think about contests? Are they worth it? You did some last year including Snowscrapers right?

Yeah, Snowscrapers was pretty fun. But some events are hard to relate to. I think the next logical step is what Travis Rice did with Natural Selection. Freestyle freeriding on semi-manicured terrain is the natural evolution of snowboarding events. I think it has way more of an entertainment value. I think that halfpipe riding is super duper technical but I think it's starting to look a little bit too much like gymnastics. It's so one dimensional. A lot of guys who ride half pipe, that's all they do. To me it's still fun to watch because I love every aspect of snowboarding but I think that the key to longterm success is that people see through the fake stuff. The truth resonates and lasts. If you stay true to yourself and don't follow the fads and trends, you're gonna survive. There are a lot of guys out there right now who can do every trick on a handrail. You see it in the videos and I know it's hard as hell but it's starting to look easy. Besides that there are like fifty guys doing it. How many guys are there out there like Jeremy Jones the big mountain rider doing gnarly extreme descents? There aren't a lot and that's why he stands out. He takes it to another level. I wish kids these days would learn board control and how to turn and jump and not just be locked into one aspect. I love handrails, I'll film some for my video part next year because I like that part of snowboarding too. And I like halfpipe riding. I like it all but it gets boring to see somebody do the same stuff over and over.

Are there young rippers or any riders in general that you are feeling?

There's a couple guys, like Eiki Helgason on the Rome team. He's young, he has a lot of talent and he's very skateboard-y. I think that if you're rooted in skateboarding, its gonna come out in your snowboarding. I like Scotty Lago, he just has a really smooth style and does hard tricks. And then there's Travis Rice who pushes the limit of how big you're going and how many rotations. I haven't really seen the next kid yet. It seems like every six to eight years somebody comes along and you are like daaamn, but I think Travis Rice is still that dude right now, I haven't seen the next dude.

With all that said, what are your plans for the upcoming season?

I definitely plan to get to interior Canada and up to Alaska. I'm praying that Rome makes this video. They really want to but still need to make sure the timing is right. But hopefully I'll be working on that next season. If Natural Selection goes down, I'm definitely gonna be there!