There's a breed of boarder on the hills who doesn't give a damn. This species toils on the night shift at the Boston Pizza, but in the day on a slope can land tricks good enough to make the cover of any snowboarding magazine.
This localis hot shotticus doesn't run heavy. There's no posse geared with satellite phones, global-positioning systems, and avalanche probes. There are no helijet insertions and brightly coloured technical outerwear made just for the camera. There's no spectacle, no sponsorship, no show business.
This hometown hero says, "Fuck that shit," and rides anonymously for fun, and only wears black. And so can you this season, for both practical and fashionable reasons.
"My preference is definitely black and grey," says Bruce Tucker, who runs UNited Riders, a boarding apparel line, out of his bungalow-cum-clubhouse in south Vancouver.
In his cluttered basement showroom, Tucker pulls out this winter's black Selkirk technical jacket [$300]. He tests an MP3-player pocket by trying to tuck a United hip flask into it. He grins; it fits nicely.
Back on to the topic of colour, Tucker says, "I don't like to be the fluorescent guy coming down who has everybody looking and laughing at him. I don't want to stand out."
The reasons are tactical. Stealth matters when going under the wire and heading out of bounds without a helicopter.
"That's where the fresh snow is and the gnarly shit to hit," says Tucker. "I don't want the ski patrol spotting me in bright red or orange. I'll end up having the patrol pulling my pass."
On a hill covered in white stuff, a dark coat may seem contradictory, but it makes for good camouflage because it blends into the backdrop of trees, exposed rocks, and long winter shadows.
You can also try on a boarding ninja mask from Airhole [prices range from $20-50]. The brainchild of Chris Brown and Kale Stephens, Vancouver-based professional snowboarders, the face protectors take a basic balaclava and add a bandana-like front to keep the neck warm. A definite bad boy look that's very anti-Chamonix.
However, there is a price for being invisible. If you get caught in an avalanche, you won't be easy to find. The good thing is that you'll have the hip flask.
If you survive with your bad-ass status intact, you can take your newfound back-in-black attitude down the mountain and onto the street with a black, full-zip, long-bodied hoodie by Endeavor Snowboards [$120].
"We're known for our full-zips," says Scott Serfas, one of the owners of the label. "I have the Anti-Terror Full Zip."
To demonstrate, Serfas pushes back his chair and stands up in the middle of Endeavor's Gastown office loft. He's a tall, athletic guy with a shaved head and a russet beard. He zips up until his hood closes around him. His face is gone, replaced by two eyeholes and a white-on-black graphic of a gas mask.
"Originally, we didn't put eyeholes in our first full-zip, and we were running in the office, knocking shit over. And then someone decided to take a pair of scissors and cut out some holes," Serfas explained.
Unlike so many T-shirts and hoodies that rely on graphics to make them distinctive, the Anti-Terror melds a clever construction detail with a screen-print image. It's pop art, evoking anarchists protesting globalization, the war on terror, and the apocalypse. Not bad for a hoodie.
Max Jenke, the other owner and principal designer of Endeavor, demurs. "We're not trying to make a statement," Jenke says. "It's just the stuff that's out there. It's pop culture."
Jenke admits they also draw design inspiration from high fashion. "Scott and I are really into underground Japanese designers like Undercover's Jun Takahashi and Yohji Yamamoto," he says. "We go to Japan all the time for ideas. And Prada and Raf Simons are a big influence."
Serfas adds, "We take all that in and we figure out what applies to us."
"For example, skulls are in," Jenke says. "So, we came up with the Stormchaser [a goggled skull graphic]. It's the best skull out there in the fashion world. It's about chasing storms, hitting the back country, and finding powder."
When asked how they dress for the slopes, Serfas says, "For me, it's definitely form follows function. You see guys out there sagging their pants, but you sit down and you're wet and cold."
Jenke agrees: "It's got to be neat and tight. Everything correct."
That's what the rider in black is like. Every hill has a few. The guy out there nobody knows. Doing their own thing.
May the black riders cometh.