To spend any amount of time with Ian Walsh, you’ll find he really doesn’t come across as “extreme.” In fact, he’s pretty down-to-Earth, smart, and easy to talk to in general. But get into his background, even just a little, and it becomes obvious really fast that he’s one of professional surfing’s best all-around athletes, able to don a jersey at a contest where strategy dominates as easy as he can charge absolutely frightening waves all over the globe. I actually had the pleasure of riding snow with Ian last year and maddeningly enough, he’s pretty freakin’ good at that, too. That’s why he’s a perfect fit for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Ian has been coming to Jackson Hole for years and JHMR just signed him as a sponsored athlete. I hopped on the phone with Ian to get the download:
So how did this all come about?
The partnership with Jackson Hole is something that happened pretty naturally. I learned how to snowboard in Jackson years ago. Basically, my first trip to go snowboarding was Jackson Hole. I’ve always enjoyed the Tetons and the people and it’s a place I’ve returned to every year, at least once or twice a winter. I’m lucky to be able to go to a place like Jackson on a regular basis.
Why Jackson Hole?
Outside of the fact that the riding is really incredible, the town itself, I just really love the people. Everyone rips on the mountain, everyone is really active. I grew up on Maui in a small town with a ton of active people where everyone surfs, downwind paddles, cycles up the mountain—there are so many activities where I grew up in this tiny little town and Jackson Hole is so similar to where I grew up in that way. But polar opposite in climate, of course.
You’re pretty tight with Travis Rice, who lives there.
I actually met Travis doing a little trip a long time ago and we just stayed close and kept in touch coming to Jackson. We’ve done other projects together, too. He’s so fun to ride with. But my first trip to Jackson Hole was with Andy Irons, Shane Dorian, Joel Parkinson, and Occy. We were a bunch of surf turkeys and we wobbled our way into the snow. Jeremy Jones was helping shuffle us around. That’s when I knew the place was incredible.
Was it a tough place to learn to ride?
I thought it was a great place to learn. Yeah, there’s some heavy terrain there, like on every mountain, but there’s plenty of fun terrain, too. And anyway, I’d rather learn trial-by-fire and just jump in and watch and learn. That makes it fun.
When you’re in Jackson Hole, you stay for a while. What’s your routine like?
It all depends on who’s in town. If Mark Carter or Jimmy Chin is in town between projects, we’ll get up early, get on the tram, do a really good run inbounds, then start to make our way out of bounds to find good snow. Then do inbound party laps all afternoon. That’s what I like about snowboarding—you really get to connect with the people you’re riding with a ton. If it’s not a complete blower powder day—which often happens at Jackson—you can stop and take a breather and talk. Which is different than surfing. You go with people and paddle out and you’re like, ‘see you in a couple hours.’ It’s an amazing vibe when there’s a big snow the night before, and once the patrol opens the door, to get to go rip around with Jimmy, Travis or Mark–it’s pretty amazing.
How iconic is the tram at Jackson Hole? The only other comparison is Chamonix’s Aiguille du Midi–it just accesses so much amazing terrain.
I appreciate everything about that tram: the history, its iconic imagery in the snow world. If you think of Jackson Hole, you almost immediately think of the image of that big, red tram. And you can log some serious vert using that thing. But there’s just this mystique about it that is really special and adds to the story of Jackson Hole in my mind. It’s mind-boggling how well they built that thing and how all those years ago they picked the right spot from A-to-B where it needed to be to access the mountain and they hit it perfect. To walk and hike the mountain, with all these options and to put the tram in that exact spot? Pretty amazing. It’s an incredible piece of engineering.
Dream day in Jackson Hole?
I think there’s just so much to do there from inbounds, to out-of-bounds to these amazing combo trips. Obviously, if you’re safe–don’t wander too far out of bounds without someone that knows the terrain–but I love riding out of bounds there. Last year we did a big day splitboarding. Forrest Shearer, Alex Yoder, Andrew Miller and I saw a side of Jackson Hole I’ve never seen. You can do a lap on Teton Pass on the way into the mountain. And the resort is just the centerpiece of it all. There are so many different ways to enjoy Jackson Hole.