Crested Butte’s rich snowboard culture began as the first boards started hitting snow in the early to-mid-eighties, and continues to thrive as one generation passes on the love of the sport to the next. Gareth Van Dyk, or “GVD” as his friends call him, has been charging around these mountains for more than 20 years. Here’s his take on the legacy of snowboarding in the West Elk Mountains.
How many years have you lived in Crested Butte?
I have been living in CB since my Western State College days back in 1991, but I left for 4-1/2 years from 2000-2004. So, around 23 years total.
What was the first snowboard you owned?
A Burton Elite 150, purchased in 1987. I actually co-owned it with my twin brother—we bought it together.
Who taught you how to ride?
My brother Nick and I taught each other how to ride through trial and error. The equipment was a little different then, so we had to kind of barge it and hope for the best. We were some of the first riders at Sante Fe Ski Basin, our home mountain growing up.
What is unique about the snowboard culture here?
The snowboard culture in Crested Butte is sweet because it's so laid back and open-minded as far as riding style goes. Even back in the day here there were no vibes whether you were a jibber park rat or a granola-eating billy goat. You all just shredded together—skiers included. It's way different than say Summit County, where I have always noticed such a difference between the crews. CB is non-discriminatory as far as that goes; just a bunch of good vibes all the way around.
Who are some of the most influential snowboarders in Crested Butte, past and present?
That's a hard question to answer without leaving some people out, but to me there are a couple different generations that have come through and made their mark in one way or another.
In the early years I would have to give it up to people like Seth Weiner from the OG Colorado Boarder, Ken Perkins, Chris Cox, Paul Parsons, Dave Bryson, James Brown, Paul Elkins, Christian Robertson, Jason Troth, Brian Delaney...the list goes on from that era. As far as the next generation...which is kinda around my era...there were a couple Super Pros that started their careers here like Barrett Christy and Chris Engelsman. And even two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Seth Wescott spent a season or two here.
Then I think of another generation a little younger than me which would include shredders like: Lucas Dehmlow, Stephan Babler, Janet Antram, Susan Mol, Josh Columbo, Cliff Dimon, Jason Pogoloff, Elija Valencia, Danny Hartigan, this list could go on too. I don't know too many from the younger generation but riders like Andrew Buergin, Kyle Anderson, Austin Gibney, Mary Boddington...so many unknown grom rippers that are out there, too.
Some people say this is not a snowboarder’s mountain. How would you respond to that statement?
Anybody that says this is a skier’s mountain is probably a skier (haha). As snowboarders, we definitely have certain disadvantages compared to skiers as far as getting around goes. But it's not an issue once you've gotten up to speed with traversing on a snowboard. It's a good idea to practice ‘one-footing’ because it can be a critical skill during those big pow days; or just strapping in quickly and manipulating the terrain to your advantage.
Is there one day that stands out from all your years riding here?
There have been so many good days with so many good friends over the years, but I do remember a day back in the mid-90s when I still lived in Gunnison and made it up to the hill really early on a big powder day. A bus jackknifed on the highway and other cars piled up (with no injuries). But it created this huge mess that didn't get resolved until much later. I was on the mountain picking off lines with nobody around for most of the day, just laughing at how incredibly deep and quiet it was out there on the mountain. It felt like my own private resort.
Favorite run on a powder day?
Probably Third Bowl area if I get in there first—so many fun little sections to play on in there. But there are plenty of other runs I don't want to mention J.
What’s the gnarliest line on Crested Butte Mountain?
There are lots of gnarly technical lines on this mountain, too many to count. Skier’s right on the Edge has a couple lines that are up there (when they are filled in). Every big, steep, tree zone has a line that will make you crisp your pants if you want it bad enough. Rocks and trees command respect.
What’s the key to riding the T-Bars without getting bucked off?
It's about letting it do all the work for you on a snowboard. A little trick for the first timers is to slam your back foot against the back binding and twist your hip and back foot slightly inward into a relaxed position. Then just chill and enjoy the ride.
Describe your perfect day on the mountain.
My perfect day would be to wake up late on the biggest pow day ever and have a big, awesome breakfast that my amazing wife Sarah made. Then we would stroll up to the lifts and casually get first tracks on every run, regardless of whether hundreds of locals are in front of us at the top or not. Then I would stomp every line doing whatever trick I could think of, and every landing throw up the deepest faceshot ever as I ride away straight-lining and levitating over all the compressions. I would end it with the biggest bar tab ever with my wife and all my bros at the Brown Lab baking in the sun, and enjoying the après banter that goes along with the deepest day ever.