Story last updated at 4/11/2012 - 11:36 am
JUNEAU - In the snowboarding world, Mark Landvik is a big deal. A seriously big deal. And it all started at Eaglecrest.
Landvik grew up in the Mendenhall Valley, skateboarding and skiing, until one evening in 1990, when he was 11. While out night-skiing (back in the days when Eaglecrest Ski Area was open after dark), a friend of Landvik's, who was a snowboarder, asked if he was interested in swapping gear. Twenty-one years later, Landvik has been a professional snowboarder for 12 years. He has his own line of snowboards through his sponsor Lib Tech, a skateboard and snowboard manufacturing company. He is sponsored by Vans, a footwear company that provides him with footwear to boot. He has a Landvik line of outerwear through the company Volcom, and he is sponsored by the goggle company Anon.
And he did this all on his own. Juneau resident Wayne Smallwood remembers when Landvik broke into the Eaglecrest snowboarding scene.
"When Mark first started snowboarding he caught our eye. We noticed his style. We quickly welcomed him to our group." But, admitted Smallwood, "He quickly surpassed all of us; he was the new talent."
In high school, Landvik played football, and wasn't allowed to snowboard during the football season. So he quit.
"The coach would come knocking on my door," Landvik recalled, to try and convince Landvik to rejoin the football team. "I wasn't having any of that."
He was, however, making other things happen. "He was always down to do any crazy idea I had the night before," said Smallwood. "You had to watch out what you brainstormed around Mark; he'd make you follow through."
Before each winter, said Smallwood, "Mark was definitely leading the pack, running up and down huge flights of stairs with weights in his pack. He was always practicing his tricks at the swimming pool."
When Landvik finished high school in Juneau, he moved to Bellingham, Wash., to ride the slopes of Mt. Baker.
"I wanted to leave Alaska to get noticed and sponsored. I don't know if I ever saw a photo of Baker, I just had this crazy draw to it," Landvik explained.
Landvik admits getting his first sponsors was not easy. He actually doesn't even like competitions, a requirement for those interested in making it in the competitive world of professional snowboarding. But he sucked it up. He entered half pipe and slope style competitions, poetically hucking his body off icy walls, whirling and diving through the air. He did well, but he still needed help.
Landvik's grandma was a real estate agent in Washington. Fortuitously, she sold a house to one of the founders of Lib Tech, to whom she bragged about her grandson. Landvik was later invited for a walk-through at the Lib Tech factory. He was given gear, but not sponsorship. He persistently called the Lib Tech team manager, but, said Landvik, "I was blown off for six to eight months."
Landvik was forced to keep competing.
"I hate competitions," he said. "I just wanted to be a professional snowboarder." Landvik persevered.
"Mark is one of the hardest workers I know," said Smallwood. "He used to work construction with his dad growing up. He had to work for his money for snowboard camps and to go to contests and to buy gear."
His work ethic paid off. After winning a large well-watched competition called Vegetate, the Lib Tech team manager, the same one who had snubbed Landvik in the past, invited him to join his team. After that, Volcom, Vans and Anon picked him up as well.
This meant that Landvik could finally move on to his real passion: riding in the backcountry.
"I don't hit park jumps. I don't like the half pipe. I don't like ice," said Landvik. "I like powder. It's more friendly. Especially at 32. Even if you land every single jump, all day long, you'd hurt."
Landvik returned to Juneau last week, to play in the mountains that raised him, to catch up with friends like Smallwood and to show off his old stomping grounds to his Bellingham friend, a photographer, videographer and writer Liam Gallagher.
During an interview while the two were in town, Landvik reclined on a couch, clad exclusively in Volcom clothing (the company even provides him underwear). Landvik explained, "This season has been my mellowest in 10 to 12 years." He blew one of his knees out last winter, and then broke one of his feet this past November. "I wanted to come up when it was more snowy," he said.
Landvik and Gallagher were calm, friendly; there were lots of shrugs when asked about plans. They were in no hurry. Landvik's already proven himself. Now he just wants to have fun, but still pay the bills. Gallagher was with him as a friend, but also help collect footage for some upcoming films and photographs for "Snowboarder Magazine."
Landvik talked about how he was finally where he wanted to be: traveling the world and snowboarding in the big mountains. But, he said, there is a rite of passage. "You see a trend," Landvik explained, referring to big mountain snowboarders versus the park and pipe riders. "They're a lot older. A guy who's honed his powder skills may not get noticed until well into his 20s; whereas guys in the park and pipe come out at 14."
"To this day, he still blows our minds. He's just raw talent," said Smallwood, who clearly idolizes his old friend. He added, "His sense of humor is one of a kind."
When asked about his future plans, Landvik responded, "Essentially my goal is to be able to snowboard in the backcountry and shoot photos and film video," He would also like to start a family. His girlfriend is currently in medical school. If this is what Landvik wants, and his past is any indication of his future, he'll likely achieve it.
"He's a no-nonsense kind of a guy when it comes to making dreams happen," said Smallwood.
To view what Landvik has been up to the past few years, watch "The Art of Flight," available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Amanda Compton is staff writer at the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.