Words and photos by: Ralph Kucharek

In 1989, Billy and Teeta Langlands opened the legendary shop we know today, Darkside Snowboards. The shop's roots began down the road from Killington Resort and since then has expanded to Okemo and Stowe. While each location has its own distinct authentic character, they have also played an integral role in nurturing Vermont’s snowboarding community, North to South. The “Dark Park” and Slash and Berm Banked Slalom are two of their grassroots actions that continue to fuel snowboarding in the green mountain state.  

Bonfire Outerwear, Snowboard Jackets, Snowboard Pants, Ralph Kucharek

Billy Langlands (owner) and Tucker Zink (manager) talking shop and berms after Sunday's event. 

On March 11-12, 2017 over fifty competitors braved arctic temperatures at Killington and Darkside's Slash and Berm Banked Slalom. Riders unified together into teams of four to test their edging, jumping, and jibbing abilities in a non-traditional banked slalom. And, in true good-hearted fashion, the proceeds raised from the two-day event were donated to the High Fives Foundation. For the past four years, Saturday’s race is individually timed, while Sunday’s race counts the culmination of each team’s three best times.

Bonfire Outerwear, Snowboard Jackets, Snowboard Pants, Ralph Kucharek

The man, the myth, the Jay "Rosey" Rosenbaum about to snake the line.

The slalom designed and built by Killington Parks' own, Jay Rosenbaum and staff, tried riders through a combination of snow and wooden features throughout the Stash Park. It was the third year I have attended and the courses have all been different and unique, and always challenging and fun. The addition of a mandatory 20-stair firecracker, jibs, quick jumps, and icy berms made navigation at high speeds much more nerve racking. Again, this year’s course did not disappoint. The fate of the coveted “bear” trophies new home and the winning team that would be etched onto it for eternity rested within one timer.   

Bonfire Outerwear, Snowboard Jackets, Snowboard Pants, Ralph Kucharek

Killington Parks staff watching Sugarbush Parks own Richie Pic blasting by.
   

Closing the most recent chapter of Slash and Berm history was the “Darkside Dream Team." After 100 runs the team of hometown heavy hitter Tim Major, Darkside store manager Tucker Zink, Mike Fanning, and dark horse Tucker Speer proved to be the quickest team on the mountain. They wrote and closed the most recent chapter in Darkside Snowboards history by dominating the podium and keeping the title within the family. In the end, the coveted bear continued to stay in its den at Darkside for 365 more days until next years Slash and Berm Banked Slalom. Until next time and cheers to your local snowboard shop.  

Bonfire Outerwear, Snowboard Jackets, Snowboard Pants, Ralph Kucharek

Tucker Speer. The quickest competitor of the day.  Do you think it's because he is a tucker?

Results:

Overall Woman

Rachel Stem - N/A

Overall Man

Tucker Speer - 1:13.56

TEAM:

1st - Darkside Dream Team

Tucker Speer -1:13.56

Tim Major - 1:13.64

Mike Fanning - 1:14.08

Tucker Zink - 1:16.87

2nd - The Fifth Phase

Ralph Kucharek - 1:14.10

Evan Ricker - 1:15.96

Jesse Gomez - 1:17.81

Jay Rosenbaum - 1:19.56

3rd - Board Barn

Wyatt Mosher - 1:16.72

Mike Murphy - 1:18.46

Will Mercer - 1.18.51

Nate Dunn - 1:25.46

Note: Bonfire Outerwear's Ralph Kucharek is a veteran banked slalom competitor. Supposedly, Bonfire's Kane Pant and Klamath Jacket improve speed on all terrain, proving they are tried, true, and tested. 

Ralph Kucharek scores a 10-point wave at Sugarbush's Sidesurfers Banked Slalom! Tantamount to Mt. Baker's Legendary Banked Slalom, this event brings out many of the East Coast's finest up-and-comers and fondest OGs. Edge control maestro and Bonfire Outerwear rider Ralph Kucharek brought home the bacon in Bonfire's Harrison Bib. Check out the full recap and gallery on snowboardermag.com!

Bonfire Outerwear, Ashley Rosemeyer, Bonfire Harrison Bib, Snowboard pants, Snowboard jackets, Sugarbush, Sidesurfer Banked Slalom

P: Ashley Rosemeyer

Sidesurfers Banked Slalom 2017 Recap from Sugarbush Parks on Vimeo.

 

Bonfire Outerwear, Big Boulder Resort, Bonfire Axe Jam, Snowboard Pants, Snowboard Jackets

Bonfire Outerwear and Big Boulder are set to host the Bonfire Axe Jam this Saturday, March 25th at the Big Boulder Park in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania. The event takes place on the heels of Winter Storm Stella, which dumped three feet of snow in the Mid-Atlantic last week, even prompting a few rare avalanches in the Pocono Mountains.

The Axe Jam is an open, jam-style snowboarding contest on the custom Bonfire branded, larger-than-life Axe feature in the Big Boulder Park. The event features a pro purse of $400 for best jam and $100 for best trick throwdown, and will be judged by Bonfire pro teamrider Ralph Kucharek. The Axe Jam is also supported by Celtek. 

The Bonfire Axe is a first-of-its-kind custom 15-foot, solid feature developed by Pat Morgan and the park staff at Big Boulder. The Axe is an auxiliary logo for Bonfire and a nod to the brand’s heritage of craftsmanship and quality. Utilizing an actual log from the Pennsylvania forest, the Axe, an iconic brand piece, has been a hot park feature the entire season.

Bonfire connected with Big Boulder, one of the East’s top five snowboard parks, as the official outerwear sponsor of the Big Boulder Park crew this season. The relationship, forged between Director of Freestyle Terrain Pat Morgan and Bonfire’s Tim Swart, sparked further involvement for the 17/18 season, extending beyond Big Boulder to include other Peak Resorts property Mount Snow in Southern Vermont.

Said Swart, “We’re excited about our involvement with Big Boulder all season and the Axe was a dream for us. What started as a cocktail napkin sketch ended up becoming reality, getting built by Pat Morgan and his stellar crew at Big Boulder. The Axe Jam is a no-holds barred salute to what’s fun about snowboarding.”

Bonfire Axe Jam, Bonfire Outerwear, Big Boulder Park, Snowboard Pants, Snowboard Jackets

To shop Bonfire’s outerwear line and check out the Bonfire team, go to bonfireouterwear.com.

Follow Bonfire Outerwear of Facebook/Instagram: @bonfireouterwear 

Bonfire Outerwear has a pedigree of excellence. We've led outerwear innovation, endorsed pivotal snowboard films, and outfitted many of the greatest snowboarders of the past three decades. Today is no different. Beau Bishop and Dustin Craven prove in Turn & Burn Ep. 2 a prowess for pure snowboarding. Ingenuity and talent meet Whistler's endless winter in what is sure to be an edit-of-the-year. 100% snowboarding and 100% Bonfire, this edit rips!

For more on Beau or Dustin, and for Bonfire Outerwear's full catalog click HERE.

Bonfire Outerwear's Dustin Craven is a wildcat at heart. He rides in-bounds, out-of-bounds, and Whistler's backcountry with power and control, even when the terrain is out of control. Check out the three following videos of Dustin getting Wild In Whistler!

Dustin Craven Wild In Whistler Part. 1 from Bonfire Outerwear on Vimeo.

Dustin Craven Wild In Whistler Part. 2 from Bonfire Outerwear on Vimeo

Dustin Craven Wild In Whistler Part. 3 from Bonfire Outerwear on Vimeo.

Get lost in Whistler powder through Dustin's Instagram: @dustincraven. Then browse his high performance, recognizable outfits in our Men's Catalog.

Film: Brian Hockenstein

 

Words and photos: Ralph Kucharek

Merriam-Webster defines euphoria as, “a feeling of great happiness and excitement.” From February 10th – 12th dreamers, lifers, friends, and the Bonfire team made the pilgrimage to Washington on a search for euphoric times. All those at the Mt. Baker's 31st Annual Legendary Banked Slalom experienced great happiness after two consecutive powder days and a bluebird Sunday. 

Beau Bishop guarding the entrance to his future of Baker powder in next year's Aspect Jacket. 

It was a year since the first Bonfire Free Range trip, which all started at Mt. Baker.  That’s where I met Beau, Johnny, Jenna, and Parker. Coming back for more was Beau Bishop who drove south of the Canadian border from an epic winter in Whistler to take a break from his sled and ride with friends, while Johnny Brady drove north from a buried Lake Tahoe to come compete and enjoy the LBS. Team manager and mom, Jenna Kuklinski came back to try her luck in the course and catch up with the team, while Nikita’s own Nirvana Ortanez joined to come compete and score powder.  

Jake Blauvelt, possibly blinded by the flat light or the amount of speed he took into turn three. 

After two days of battling with the course, my mind, and falling very short of finals it was time to go for a hike. On Sunday, February 12th Jenna, Nirvana, Amanda Hankison and I started hiking up the ladder-like boot pack on hemispheres to traverse over to the arm. Other than a few wispy clouds the sky was clear and deep blue, it was a glorious day to be alive. We hiked for thirty minutes to safety line where we found gently rolling powder fields and a small glimpse at the course.

Facing Mount Baker and Table Mountain from, "The Arm" where views take your breath away as much as the hike.

From our vantage each rider looked like a speck. It was high noon and men’s pro finals was on, the first name we hear being Bonfire Alumni, Josh Dirksen who we watched effortlessly navigate the course with his unparalleled prowess. Temple Cummins dropped next and was followed by Nils Mindnich, a Vermonter that tackled the course with a much looser and noticeably quicker run, even from afar.

 

Our view of LBS finals finals from out on The Arm.

At that moment we had truly balanced soul-fulfilling powder turns with watching the best snowboarders on the planet say their prayers. Only at Mt. Baker could this be done. Over the course of five days in Washington, which were full of moments that brought great happiness and excitement, that one stuck out most to me. Until next time Mt. Baker and crew.

Welcome to, “Along for the Ride;" a periodic snowboard blog from Bonfire Outerwear pro snowboarder Ralph Kucharek that covers all sides of the snowboarder's journey. 

Bonfire Outerwear, Ralph Kucharek, Vermont SnowboardingRalph testing out the Beacon Jacket in VT's frigid forests p. Shem Roose

I am Ralph Kucharek, a 24-year-old snowboarder from Northern Vermont and stoked member of the Bonfire Outerwear team. Over the next several months I will be based out of Vermont exploring and reporting about snowboarding here and traveling to various locations throughout the winter. 

The past few days at home here in Vermont have been tried, tested, and true. Of all the things I've heard riding here over this past week this quote has been most memorable, “It’s starting to look like Japan out here!” 

Bonfire OuterwearQuick quiz: Is this Northern Japan or Northern Vermont?

We were at Stowe Mountain Resort in the woods after a fast, hell track traverse and looking down untouched hallways through the trees. Each limb was covered in ice from a storm the week prior and blanketed with snow that was blowing right back into the woods. All while snowflakes simultaneously fell from the sky blanketing the trees again.  We may have not been in Japan’s world famous woods, but with a little imagination it became our own Japanese powder stash.

In October, I had the opportunity to shape a Powder Jet with help from Jesse Loomis.  His boards are tested, pressed, shaped, and designed in Vermont, and the original Powder Jet shape was created with the woods here specifically in mind. 

Bonfire Outerwear, Ralph Kucharek, PowderJet Snowboards

After a few months of waiting for the right conditions it was time to test out the shape that I manifested and shaped for deep days in the trees.  On Monday, the “Know Brainer” was in its element and proved to be quick, nimble, sturdy, and float like no other.

Bonfire Outerwear, Ralph Kucharek, Vermont SnowboardingRalph not giving a second thought to ripping down the slopes on his brand-new self-titled "Know Brainer" Powder Jets board. p. Shem Roose

"I’ve been anxious all week."

Despite feeling some nerves Bonfire Outerwear's Ryan Wachendorfer had a great weekend in Mammoth Mountain at the US Grand Prix halfpipe competition. After a windy start to the day, things settled down enough for the event, and all of the competitors made sure to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Bonfire Outerwear's Ryan Wachendorfer, Mammoth Mountain, Transworld Snowboarding

Bonfire regional team rider Ryan Wachendorfer had his mind made up about a run, and after scoring 88 on his first drop, he came back with a second run that got the judges to award him a total of 90.75 points- linking together a frontside 900 tailgrab, double Michalchuk, frontside double 1080, Cab 720, frontside 720 and ending with a Cab double 1080. 

That second run put him on the podium, finishing just behind Shaun White and in front of Louie Vito. 

Congratulations Ryan! 

Bonfire Outerwear's Ryan Wachendorfer, Mammoth Mountain, Transworld Snowboarding
Ryan in his current Bonfire Jacket of choice, the Linton Jacket.
If you haven't already, be sure to follow Ryan on Instagram at @ryanwach and read the full recap of the event and finals at Transworld Snowboarding.

Rarely does an edit come out mid season with as much power and powder as Turn & Burn. The snowboarding in this is higher octane than a fleet of 155 track 800cc Ski-Doos. So rev up your stoke and watch the crew, including Bonfire Outerwear's Beau Bishop, destroy in Episode 1.

The following interview of Bonfire Outerwear's Dustin Craven by Jens Heig is one of many examples of Snowboard Magazine's superior editorial prowess. Not only do you get to know Dustin, but you get raptured into the magic and madness that snowboarding is. If you haven't seen Union Binding Co.'s STRONGER, check the trailer below and purchase the full film on iTunes. And for all the more snowboarding, check out snowboardmag.com!

Enjoy the insanity below...


CAPiTA started in 2001, and when did you start with the team?

I think in 2003 or 2004.

How did that happen?

I was at the local ski hill in Calgary. TJ Schneider [Former CAPiTA team rider] and I were in a contest together, hitting a big air jump. Then he came up to me and asked if I rode for Burton, because I was on a Burton board, and said I should ride for CAPiTA. It took a long time to get me in contact with Blue [Montgomery, CAPiTA Co-Founder and Owner] in the months after that, but finally I talked to him. Actually the first time I called Blue; their IT guy’s name was Dustin. So he started having a 15–20 minute conversation with me about how I was doing, even though I was the wrong person. That was my first nickname at CAPiTA, Little D.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

Photo: Jeff Patterson

And you just played along with it?

It was kinda just catching up and pretty basic. So it took a little bit before Blue was like, “Wait a minute.” I said, “This is Dustin Craven.”

So you were what, 15? What were you thinking when all this was happening?

It was super. I didn’t even have a shop sponsor at that point. The whole process of it was amazing. Like, I didn’t have to pay for boards anymore. But that first year, I didn’t have a board. Then TJ gave me some of his, which was really funny. He’s six feet tall, so they were way too big for me and had no edges. Then Blue had a bunch of the younger guys down to his house in Seattle for a trip, and that was my first snowboard trip. So going on the road, and talking to my mom to get permission, that was the start of it all. It was a different world, not going to your local ski hill anymore and doing the same thing. It becomes more real.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

One way... or another. | Photos: Chad Chomlack

So you grew up with them in a lot of ways. As far as being a 15-year-old with a bunch of older guys, what was that like?

Growing up at that age with TJ comes with professionalism. TJ was so good at being a professional snowboarder, so being around him taught me a lot about that. Just growing up with the company and Blue, I was a young teenager. Blue just saw me as a cute little grom, then I went into my terrible teens with him, then an adult. He got a bit of everything. Blue was there the whole time, whether it was setting me straight or giving me a pat on the back. We did it all.

You mentioned the terrible teens. Can you elaborate on that?

Starting drinking, had a whole bunch of opportunities and started getting really cocky about it—I thought I was the best. I thought I had accomplished stuff already, when really I hadn’t done anything. People eventually put me in my place. I took so many right turns, but for every few right turns in my career, I would always take a sharp left. Then Blue, or an older person I would snowboard with, they were always there to tell me I was being an idiot.

"I thought I had accomplished stuff already, when really I hadn’t done anything."

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

Photo: Chard Chormlack

Was there ever a moment when you realized that it had to change? Or that you really fucked up?

Yeah, I was fired by multiple companies over the years, and I would always call Blue. He would be my first call. I would get fired and he would already know, because whoever was going to fire me would call him. It definitely was an interesting situation, but that’s just the process of growing up, I guess. It was never a big shock to anyone; it was me being stupid to not see it coming, to fix what was going on. So I would always make mistakes. Every time you make one, you learn and go from there.

But Blue stuck with you the whole time. Why do you think that? Because you’ve been on CAPiTA the longest out of anybody on the team, right?

Yeah. Honestly, even I ask myself that question sometimes. Why did he do it? I guess he really did love me as a snowboarder and as one of his kids that he saw come up. He believed in me. I don’t know. It was just something that he saw through. I think about it so much, and how many times that my snowboard career would be over if it wasn’t for CAPiTA. The longer I rode for CAPiTA, any company I approached afterward was impressed that I was associated with them for so long. I’m very fortunate for that, for them sticking around.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

Photo: Jeff Patterson

"I think CAPiTA is a lifestyle."

What has been your experience with seeing that team and company evolve over the years?

Blue was lucky when CAPiTA started to have a good crew that wanted to be on the team. Like-minded individuals. It was perfect for the art direction and the way CAPiTA wanted to be. Blue also saw a lot of potential in some of us younger guys, and just set that up on the back burner as an am team. He just stuck with us. You could see the progression. Like [Dan] Brisse, boom. All of the sudden he’s huge. It’s still like that, just a slow progression of these ams that are super talented, are waiting and believe in the company. Then they have these older guys on the team to look up to and be mentors. CAPiTA’s not the biggest three-year contract you’re ever going to have, but you can have your entire career here, be happy, and everyone will always respect you for it.

Like TJ was to you when you were a kid, do you have that same role with anyone else on the team?

I have so much respect for the pro team, because everyone is so phenomenal on it, and it’s so big right now. I’m not as much of a team leader, because everyone on the team has matured and they’re all so good at what they do that it doesn’t really need that mentorship or leadership. I’m still so busy being… not really a full grown adult that I really don’t want to mentor anyone. I still want to be as good as everyone on the team, so I’m not as concerned with passing down my knowledge when I’m still trying to learn so much.

Who are some of the up-and-coming guys that you’re excited about on the team?

Worm [Garrett Warnick]. I think Worm will take my job.

Why do you say that?

I just think he’s phenomenal. He’ll probably be our next addition to the pro team. His last part in Absinthe was super good. Johnny O’Connor too. I don’t follow the jib team as much anymore, but whenever you watch him jib you’re just like, shit. That’s so smooth.

He’s a natural.

Yeah it’s just natural. Both of those guys are so nice to be around, you can see that they’ll be in it for a long time, and it will be good for CAPiTA.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

Dustin went absolutely huge in STRONGER. | Photo: Chad Chomlack

"To fully commit my brain to thinking I’m going to be something else is career suicide."

Do you think that partying’s role in snowboarding has changed over the years?

I don’t think younger people think they have to party and they have to snowboard. I think people treat it with a little more respect than they used to. They do the partying afterward. All the guys that are super good at snowboarding, doing contests and stuff, they’re doing a really good job; they still party afterwards. There’s a time and a place, it doesn’t have to be every night.

What are you trying to accomplish right now?

Right now, it’s just trying to be a better snowboarder. Progression in the backcountry takes time: to learn how to sled, how to build jumps, and where to build jumps. I’m finally so comfortable with that, being out there, feeling safe, taking courses for avalanches, and other people in the crew take them. So we’re all out there, and there is less stress.

When did you move to Whistler?

Six years ago.

Do you think you could have stayed in Alberta and had the career that you have?

No. When I lived in Alberta, I was living in Banff and was partying a lot. That was a tipping point in my career. If I stayed there, I probably wouldn’t have a career anymore.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

Photos: Jeff Patterson

Just getting partied out?

Yeah, and I moved to Squamish, which is an hour away from Whistler. There’s not really a party scene there. I just started taking it more seriously. The Whistler backcountry is Mecca, so I moved on to learning a new role from Benji Ritchie, Eero Niemela, Mikey Rencz, that way of life—working hard and not really taking anything for granted.

Do you think that’s part of what has led to your longevity? What do you think has kept you at your level for so long?

You’re your own worst enemy, in every sense. Every year I accomplish something, but every year I’m like, son of a bitch—I want to do way better. What are you doing? How are you going to change it? How are you going to keep moving? I’m so preoccupied with trying to be better that it never comes to a stalemate, where I don’t have anything to improve on. If you lose that mindset… I’ve seen it in older snowboarders. Even when TJ retired, you can see when they’re transitioning into a different mindset.

Yeah, it’s contentment.

You don’t have that drive anymore. People always ask me, “What are you going to do after snowboarding?” If you’re thinking about what you’re doing after, then you’re not really thinking about what you’re doing now. Right now, I’m still pretty preoccupied with being the best snowboarder I can be. To fully commit my brain to thinking I’m going to be something else is career suicide.

"You’re your own worst enemy, in every sense."

With STRONGER, what are things that you’re really hyped on or could have done better?

I sprained my ankle at the end of the season. The back 10 at the end of my video part was the last jump I hit all year. The try before I landed it, I sprained my ankle. So I took three weeks off, went to Alaska and was trying to ride with it. That was awesome, but it was a missed opportunity. I had one of the best seasons of my life, was feeling so strong riding and the sprained ankle stopped me from doing anything I wanted. That was my only thing of the year. Everything else was awesome. I got to spend it with Brisse, I got to go out with Kazu [Kokubo] a ton, go with Gigi [Rüf] in Alaska. My first time in Alaska, I got to be in a helicopter with Gigi and Kazu.

What did that do for your riding?

It just makes me so comfortable. Those guys know what they want to do and what they’re doing. I ride with Kazu quite a bit, so he knows my level of comfort. We talk about lines when we’re doing other things. So when I get dropped off, it’s boom boom boom. Everyone just knew what they were doing. That was awesome. I feel like it would be the same when I take people out sledding. I’m very comfortable sledding and know where things are. If you’re around super comfortable and confident people, it just makes everything go easier because you’re not running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

Bonfire Outerwear, Dustin Craven, Bonfire Pants, Bonfire Jackets

An oldie, but a good one. | Photo: Jeff Patterson

You’ve always been someone that isn’t afraid to speak your mind. It seems to have worked, but there aren’t that many riders that aren’t afraid to put themselves out there. I think it speaks a lot to the foundation of CAPiTA, right? To do you, say what you want to say and do what you want to do. Then move on with it at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, whatever you do and say, like if there’s any regrets with what I did. Not really. Why would that bother me? It’s what happened. It has definitely made me who I am. A lot of things could have been different, but a lot of things could have been a lot worse. To have a career with CAPiTA for thirteen years is fucking awesome.

What board do you ride?

I ride the Mercury 157. This is the first year I rode it. I usually ride the 56 DOA [Defenders of Awesome]. I think the Mercury is a bit stiffer so I started riding it. It’s a bit of a pow dog. But this year I might switch to The Black Snowboard of Death, because it’s even a bit stiffer than that.

Any closing thoughts?

With CAPiTA, all the love from everyone—it’s more than just Blue. It’s everyone behind that company, all the way down to guys in the factory. Everyone is a diehard CAPiTA fan. Even on the team side, everyone there is all for CAPiTA. Feeling that through the years, seeing the same people, everyone has so much respect for everyone. For snowboarding, I think CAPiTA is a lifestyle.

---------

Note from Bonfire: this interview was originally published by Snowboard Magazine on snowboardmag.com. Dustin Craven rides Bonfire Outerwear's Kane Pant and Klamath Jacket. Find both in our full catalog HERE.

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