Not a lot of people think of the Midwest as a great place to grow up snowboarding. Little do they know of the caliber of rider it can bring forth. You don’t need 1000’s of vertical feet and near perfect conditions to enjoy a great day of shredding with others who push you and bring out your best. Josh Parker is the perfect example of that guy. He pushes you, he encourages you, and is always a joy to watch ride. He’s someone you want to ride with no matter where you are (I would challenge anyone to ride with him and NOT be grinning ear to ear at the end of the day). He’s been from the infamous peaks of Colorado to the Sunny skies of Tahoe. From the extended summer shred of Mt. Hood to the light fluffy powder of Utah. He’s worked in everything from rentals to the web, retail to sales, filming to marketing. Here’s a little look into this Michigan Boarder who has seen and done it all…and he’s not done yet.
Where are you from in Michigan? I know you were born in Pittsburgh or something but ya know?
I was born in Philadelphia but I grew up in Michigan and lived there from age 2-25. I lived in the small country town of Wayland which hides directly in between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids off of US 131. After high school I moved up to Grand Rapids.
How long have you been riding now?
16 years sliding sideways. It started with a middle school “ski trip” to Bittersweet. Everyone else rented skis and I wanted to try snowboarding. I was instantly hooked. I took the lift up and pointed it. I fell so many times but I had the biggest smile on my face. I was hooked.
What do you consider your home resort? You have local status at a few places?
In Michigan it was Bittersweet. Back then it was pretty awesome. We were able to put the first rails in (yeah I’m that old) and I worked park crew with you. I lived in Tahoe for around 6 years and Northstar was my home mountain. Now I live in Utah and I ride at Brighton almost every day.
They make nice socks
I hate you
Working directly for a company, this is always changing. Currently I ride a Nitro T1 with Nitro Zero bindings for park. A Nitro Slash with Nitro Phantom Bindings for pow. I spend a lot of time on my Nitro Thunder splitboard in the backcountry. Nike DKs for boots. Ashbury goggles. Howl mitts. Coal headwear.
How long has it been since you moved out west?
I moved to Colorado right after high school 12 years ago with some friends and spent a season working and riding at Keystone. It was really cold, I was always broke, but it was fun riding a real mountain. I got my first taste of riding powder and hit my first handrail. When the season was done I moved back to MI to go to college. Eventually after 5 years I was really missing the mountains and moved to Lake Tahoe by myself to “live the dream.” I ended up working at Northstar for a couple years before ending up working for a snowboard shop website and sub repping for C3 (Capita, Coal, and Union). A year ago Nitro offered me a job and I moved to Utah. Here I am.
What opportunities did moving out West offer?
First and foremost, the ability to ride a lot more diverse terrain. The parks were bigger and better and the mountains were larger. Waist deep powder was a regular occurrence. It also meant riding with better people which allows you to progress faster. Suddenly all the people I was watching in snowboard videos, were riding right next to me. It was cool and surreal at the same time. All the people I looked up to were now my friends and were showing me around these amazing mountains. One of the first people I met was Nick Visconti. We hit it off right away and eventually started Tahoe Dangerzone together. We were one of the first sponsored online webisode series and it was fun while it lasted. Back then it was just us and TJ Schneider doing his Snowboard Realms (which were AWESOME). We had total control to do whatever we wanted and we got paid for it. It was ridiculously fun. Now everyone has a webisode series and the quality of them is insane. Finally, the length of the season is the best part of living out west. I get over a 100 days a season every year. I usually start snowboarding in October and end in July (at Hood). This summer I went to Woodward at Tahoe instead of Hood and that place is a blast. Less snow but more to do.
What was the transition like for you snow conditions wise?
Like I said, Colorado was cold all of the time. It was amazing to ride runs that long coming from the 300 ft of vertical at Bittersweet but I wouldn’t say Colorado is remotely close to my favorite. Tahoe was amazing. Every day there is like riding in the spring time. Sunny slushy parks and the pow days are insane. One year it snowed so much that it literally crushed my car while I was on a film trip in MN. I couldn’t even be mad when I came home to all that snow. Utah is the perfect medium between CO and CA. Light, deep powder and sunny park days but it stays cold enough for the snow to always be pretty fast plus the shred scene feels pretty localized here right now. I’d recommend that any Michiganders looking to move west skip CO all together and check out Tahoe or Utah.
Besides Tahoe Dangerzone, what other projects did you work on?
I filmed with some great people for a couple local projects. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Heran and Sammy Spiteri who started bHappy Films. It was a local Tahoe project and they were so fun to ride with. Their whole crew started at Boreal just having fun riding together. Now, most of them have made careers out of it. Paul is the head of media crew for Woodward Tahoe, Sammy rides for Arbor, Durell rides for Capita, Colton rides for Salomon, Shane Wright rides for us at Nitro. It’s just so cool to see people make it at something they love. In addition to bHappy I also had shots in the Comune team movie. I always looked up to Corey Smith growing up, so it was cool to be involved with his project. It was a diverse mix of fashion, snowboarding, and art and everyone involved was super creative. I also got a job writing for Yobeat.com covering events for them which eventually led to me spending a summer in Hood filming and editing the first season of Best Summer Ever. Thanks for that opportunity Brooke! I don’t know if there is anything better than getting to spend a summer snowboarding with all of your friends and getting paid to do it. My second year in Tahoe I met the Capita rep Chris Wilmoth. He was such an awesome guy and started flowing me boards. I would help him out at all the tradeshows and eventually met all the guys running the company. C3 has some of the best guys working for them and they were so supportive and welcoming. I helped out at the SIA tradeshows and it was just a great networking experience. Thanks Chris, Blue, Brad, Johan and George.
You got a killer job working for Foundry. How did that happen? What’s your job there?
The Foundry is the distribution company for Nitro and L1 Outerwear in the US based out of SLC. I had met Josh the owner at a few trade shows while I was working for C3 sub-repping. He was always nice and cool, plus he was hooking me up with outerwear. I started dating a girl that lived in SLC and I was still living in Tahoe. Eventually it got serious enough for me to want to move and I asked him if he had any open positions. He was nice enough to more or less create a position for me and 2 months later I moved from Tahoe to Salt Lake. Currently, I help run the day to day office operations. I focus a lot on social media marketing like Facebook, Instagram, etc… and also assist our team manager Knut with getting product to the team and marketing initiatives.
Lots of tight stuff coming from both companies this year, what are you real excited about?
I’m really into splitboarding lately as it allows you to always find fresh and new terrain that lifts don’t access. So I’m really excited about our new Thunder splitboard. Our powder specific shapes are insane as well. The Slash and Quiver Powder board are a blast to ride in the deep stuff and you can ride them a lot shorter than your standard pow stick. Nitro makes over 20 board models so there is something for everyone. Our bindings are killing it and our boots just started getting made in the same factory as 32, so the quality took a huge jump up. As always L1 looks amazing. Its outerwear that looks like streetwear.
Any advice for kids searching for a job in the industry?
Have fun snowboarding, don’t worry about being the next big thing. Progress at a pace that you enjoy and people will notice. If you want to get into the business side of snowboarding then go to all the events, network with as many people as possible, be friendly, and enjoy the ride.
This season is approaching what do you have planned for this year?
I don’t really have anything planned. I am passed my years of filming in the streets. I’m not a pro snowboarder and never was. I just got lucky (other than the multitude of blown knees and torn ligaments) and had a great time. I’m just stoked my sponsors have been helping me out for so long. I’m really into exploring the backcountry these days so my main goal is to just get lost in the mountains and find new cliffs to drop and lines to ride. I’m on the never ending search for the elusive pillow fields.
Where do you ride mostly and with whom?
I ride mostly at Brighton here in Utah. They have a pretty fun park and amazing natural terrain. Plus, it is also a great access point to some backcountry between the resorts. A lot of the time when I am riding the back country I tend to be by myself. Most of my friends are super into park riding and don’t really care to explore which is fine. I used to be like that myself. However, when I do ride the park I just lap with whoever is around. You’ll always see people you know riding the park at Brighton.
Isn’t it you that created the crew name “bittersweet elite” that has somehow been adopted by the next generation of Bittersweet kids?
It wasn’t just me, but yeah a group of friends and I a long time ago made it up. It’s kind of cheesy now that I think about it, but it’s cool to see the younger generation still saying it. Judging from what I’ve seen Bittersweet needs to step their game up to Cannonsburg’s level to still use the word “elite”.
It seems like westerners have a meek perception of Michigan snowboarding. Is this accurate?
I think that could have a direct correlation to some of the edits that get submitted. A lot of edits that come from Michigan end up in Yobeat’s rejected edits. Just because you have a camera and friends that snowboard doesn’t mean everyone wants to see it. Quality of riders, tricks, music, and editing all need to be on point. There are so many kids that are killing it at the same level right now, it takes something special to stand out.
What do you think about Michigan’s riders and shred scene now?
I am so stoked on the amount of talent coming out of Michigan right now. There are so many amazing riders coming out of the mitten these days. Oliver Dixon, Marie Hucal, Tommy Young, Daniel Wells, Ryan Lanham, Pat Lynch, Zeppelin Zeerip, Dominic Palarchio, Alex Cato, Taylor Carlton, Kyle Mack, and so many more. It’s amazing to see kids move out West and thrive. There hasn’t been that many people in the past to really “make it” as a professional snowboarder coming out of Michigan. Basically we have Chris Engelsman and Danny Davis. I think the improvement in the local parks has made a huge impact on the talent and progression of the kids riding there. Obviously Cannonsburg really stepped it up thanks to the talents of Marc Moline. When you have a park that good, the kids are gonna come, and they are going to get better really fast. Another place I am really excited about is Hawk Island. They cater to what the kids want and that used to be unheard of in Michigan parks. When I lived in Michigan, we were lucky to have a few decent rails set up and that was really something special back then. More often than not, we had to set them up ourselves. It’s also cool places like Bohemia exist. It lets the kids know there is something more than terrain parks to have fun with. Get out there and just ride your snowboard in some real terrain. In addition to the riders and parks, shops and reps have been playing a more integral role. You have guys like Ben Clarke at People Skate and Snow really pushing the local scene and supporting riders in the area. Not to mention they carry multiple brands that most shops in the Midwest would be scared to bring in. He “gets” the industry. Reps like Rich Whinnie and Peter Harvieux are heavily involved, they know all the riders killing it in the area, and they actually get out there and shred. Having people that actually snowboard really helps a snowboard scene thrive.
What are your favorite Michigan resorts?
My favorite Michigan resorts 15 years ago were Marquette, Bittersweet, and Boyne. However, when I do make it back to the mitten I would love to check out Cannonsburg and Hawk Island.
What do you hope the future holds for you man?
The future is wide open. I don’t really know what is next. The industry is very volatile and there is no such thing as job security. That being said, I plan on continuing my position at The Foundry, hopefully writing something here and there for Yobeat, and snowboarding as much as possible. Last season I got 127 days in and that was with working in an office 10-5, 5 days a week. I’d love to be a team manager or head of marketing some day but only for a brand I truly believe in.
We ask every interview these 2 questions but what is wrong with snowboarding?
Nothing is wrong with snowboarding. Snowboarding is awesome. However, certain companies and people can mess that vibe up. Rising prices at resorts for example. No one is gonna pay $100 a day for something that should cost half that much. Resorts are getting greedier and greedier while visitor numbers are dropping. Snowboarding is already expensive enough from equipment and travel prices.
What’s right with snowboarding?
Getting off your ass and enjoying the outdoors. The time you get to spend with your friends. The feeling that it provides. How angry it makes you when you can’t do something, and then the elation you feel when it all comes together. Floating through powder. Being in nature. Traveling. Everything.