When we first started talking about the idea of Find Snowboarding one thing stood out more than anything else: Adventure.
Each of the trips was designed to be a journey into the unknown, a departure from the guide book. With snowboarding as the only stated purpose, the trips were designed to give the riders the freedom to explore their surroundings and live in the moment. Ideally allowing the environment to dictate the riding and itinerary.
We first set our sights on Kazakhstan, seemingly a bizarre choice for snowboarding, but a little research revealed quite the contrary. The largest landlocked country in the world, Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare its independence post the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. While that fact might confuse or dishearten many Westerns from visiting Kazakhstan, they have been politically stable since their independence. With no history of violence with any of their neighboring countries, Kazakhstan has also taken a staunchly oppositional position to nuclear weapons: dismantling former Soviet nuclear testing facilities and taking measures to abolish nuclear weapons on a global scale. While this has nothing to do with snowboarding but it helped assure us that this wasn’t a terrible idea.
With a population of 17.7 million, 70% Muslim and 30% Christian, we still weren’t really sure how the Kazakh people would respond to snowboarding in their streets. One thing was clear, there would be snow. The southern province of Kazakstan rests on the 45th parallel North, a circle of latitude that is 45 degrees north of the equator, almost exactly halfway to the North Pole. The 45th parallel also intersects Montana and Minnesota in the states, hence the winters are cold and snow remains on the ground.
Our filmer, Theo Muse, has developed some pretty clever techniques when it comes to identifying new spots. One of his favorite tricks is to search Vimeo to find a crew in the area and then pick their brains. Wouldn’t you know it, he found a crew of teenagers in Kazakhstan who had been doing some urban the previous year in Almaty. After reviewing the city of Almaty we were very impressed by its modern landscape and architecture. Confirmation of urban snow fall and surreal city destination locked in we were ready. Well, we were almost ready.
Now we just had to get the crew to Kazakhstan. From the moment we started talking about an urban trip we knew we wanted LNP to be a part of it. With a history of urban destruction and an appetite for actual destruction, we knew LNP had to be on this trip.
Ozzy Henning was another rider who came up early in the discussion, we knew Ozzy would bring his unique brand of shred-anything style to the Kazakh streets.
When you plan a trip like this you have to consider a lot of variables, rider schedules, skill sets, camera presence etc. Ian Boll is an Am who we knew could work a camera, handle adversity and rip on a snowboard. Done. Third member of the crew found.
Anyone who has ever traveled abroad on late notice can probably attest to how tedious the Visa application process can be. Throw in a couple hours time difference, a culture that isn’t really sure why you want to come snowboard in their country, one French Canadian for good measure and you’ve got yourself what we affectionately refer to as a paperwork shit-storm.
Once the paperwork tornado has been dealt with reality sunk in, we’re going to Kazakhstan.
Travel blogs hinted at corrupt police officials, unruly drivers and barnyard inspired cuisine (read: horse meat). Most sources also explained that the Kazakh people were a very welcoming culture, excited to share their country and traditions with foreigners.
We could read about it all day but the reality was we simply had to go there and find out for ourselves. With only plane tickets to and from Almaty we set out to find snowboarding in Kazakhstan.