The fastest cowboy in the West.
[Above: Nils blasting his way to victory at LBS. Photo: Bob Plumb]
Tis the season for banked slalom's, so we thought it wise to pick the brains of the winner of arguably the most important contest of all, the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom. Turning and burning his way to victory this year was none other than Nils Mindnich, the versatile mountain crusher who once had the sickest mullet in the business and still has the switch capabilities of a God. Read on to find out how he won the LBS in just his third time entering, his plans for climbing El Cap in the summer and how to juggle school life with a snowboard career that is shooting him into the stratosphere. Ladies and Gents: Nils Mindnich.
You recently won the Legendary Baker banked Slalom. How many times have you entered that event? Did you ever think you would win? Where are you gonna put your trophy?
This was my third time doing the LBS. I always had dreams of winning, I think most people do. I mean how do you not? I knew about the race and the importance it held in snowboarding long before I got a spot. My first year was such a reality check, though. That season I entered my first banked slalom, the Dirksen Derby, and won the Men's open division. Then I entered The Baldy Banked Slalom in Sun Valley, I won that and it got me a spot for the LBS. When I got to Baker I was feeling pretty confident and after I stood up runs on both qualifier days I still wasn't fast enough to get a finals spot. It was a good reality check. After that first race, I still dreamed about winning but didn't see it as a realistic goal. Then this year I tried my hardest and ended up going the fastest. So wild, haha. My Dad was out there from New Jersey. He'd been wanting to come to the race since before I was born and finally made the journey. It lined up really good that I won it, haha. We were all saying he was the lucky charm! As for the trophy, it's been sitting in my truck since the LBS. I've been on the road filming for Pepper. I think once I get home it'll go on a table in my room.
What's your secret to going the fastest? What board did you ride for the win?
I'm not sure, haha. It felt like I tried just as hard my first year when I didn't make finals, but I definitely had a balls-to-the-wall mindset. I told myself if I didn't feel like throwing up at the bottom then I wasn't trying hard enough haha. In all reality, a lot of the credit should go to the board. I was on a Salomon Super 8. Fun fact, Josh Dirksen who got 2nd was riding a Super 8 and Curtis Ciszek who placed 3rd was also on a Salomon. I was pretty meticulous about tuning my board. All of the pipe riding I used to do taught me a lot about tuning, wax, edges, forward lean, etc. You can really feel the difference when a board in tuned good, even on flat snow you feel like you're accelerating. That always gets me really stoked to ride.
What's your favourite thing about LBS?
The people. It's a small community that I'm super grateful to be a part. Everyone who runs the event and all of my friends who are there are incredible. I just really enjoy everyone who's there. Everybody is so stoked and happy and you can't help to be happy yourself no matter how you do in the race.
What are your plans for the rest of the winter and then summer?
I'm filming for the Pepper video, which has been going well. Hopefully, I'll be able to make it up to AK. I've dreamed of going since I was a little kid. That was my main goal last season, and it never happened. I almost drove up in my old 1990 Toyota pickup last year just to take client runs and when I bought a new truck this fall I had that drive specifically in mind haha. Ideally, I'd fly up with a crew if I can go this year, but you never know. Sometimes you just have to go rouge! My summers are always a good reality check. I got to school full-time summer/fall working on a Mechanical Engineering degree. School so much harder for me, I think last summer I was averaging 50hrs-60hrs, sometimes 70hrs of school and homework a week. When I'm not in school I try to climb as much as possible. Before school starts for me in mid-May I'm going to Yosemite. Not much of a plan as to who I'm going with, but I'm sure I'll make friends. Ideally, I'd like to climb the Nose of El Cap, but I'll probably get a good beat down like most people do on their first pilgrimage to Yosemite. At the end of summer, I'm also going to try and do this thing called the Teton Triathlon. I was training for it last summer but hurt my foot skating and took on too much school. It's something I've been wanting to do for years now. So three more big goals for 2017. AK, The Nose, and the Teton Triathlon - shouldn't be too hard? Haha. Oh, and school.
What single piece of advice would you give to yourself if you could travel back in time?
Be more confident in yourself. I can still struggle a lot with confidence, especially in my life outside of snowboarding. I've never been held back by my physical ability in snowboarding, it's always my mental. I set big goals, then often write them off as unrealistic. I think if I distilled more confidence in myself when I set out to achieve a goal then they'd seem more possible, and when they did happen I'd be more satisfied than surprised.
What's the one place you've never travelled to that you really want to?
AK and El Cap! haha
Banked slalom contests or backcountry. If you had to pick one, which would you choose?
No brainer, backcountry! Every gully's a banked slalom without gates anyways haha.
What's the best thing you've witnessed first hand this winter?
Probably how stoked my Dad was at LBS. Even after my second run when I was hanging out for the day he kept riding by himself, he couldn't get enough. The single greatest moment was when we were at the Salmon Bake BBQ and he introduced himself to Travis Rice. I'd only met Travis once briefly ten years ago. My Dad went up to him with a huge smile on his face and pretty much yelled at him “Travis! Poppa Mindnich, nice to meet you!”
Travis looked so confused it was hilarious. Wouldn't be a trip with your Dad if he didn't embarrass you in front of Travis Rice. They got into talking about sailing and my Dad started chatting his ear off about ice sailing. Travis eventually told him he was really enjoying the talk but had to eat, haha. My Dad might be more on his radar than I am.
How many days did you get split boarding with Mr Dirksen this/last winter? Did he bestow upon you the secret to riding the banks?
I did two separate two-week trips to Bend last year with Mr Dirksen. We splitted a handful of times and rode the resort a fair amount. It was such a good experience to see how he rides in person. I definitely learned a lot from watching him ride. He just understands his snowboard you know? As a person, Mr Josh Dirksen is an inspiration to be around. Most people don't make snowboarding a sustainable career at his age but he rides in a way that's so timeless I always look forward to what he been up to. I'm thoroughly entertained and inspired when I watch him and shouldn't that be the main point of a pro snowboarder?
Does it hurt your face to always smile?
Nope! Just can't help to smile when I'm happy, and I guess I'm happy fairly often. I wouldn't say I always smile, but I do smile a lot. It's good for ya! :-)
Can you ride horses as well as snowboards?
Don't think I could do 1080s on a horse over an 80ft jump or win a race on one so I'd say no haha. I've ridden them a couple times and would really like to do a camping trip with horses one day. It's so crazy riding them, they're huge! There are so many things I want to get better at, horse riding would be one of them. So would square and line dancing haha. Yippy ki yay!
Tell us why the mullet is the greatest haircut ever invented.
Very Simple. The reason why the mullet is the best haircut ever invented is because of its versatility. No other haircut can offer as many impressions at the mullet. Not only do you present yourself as a business man when you approach someone and an absolute party animal when you walk away, but you can turn the hair in the back into a bun, braids or top knot. There's no other haircut that offers as much bang for your buck as the mullet. When it comes down to efficiency and a variety of aesthetically pleasing looks the mullet is without a doubt the greatest haircut ever invented.
Are you and your brother competitive or is it mellow?
I think it's healthy competition, most of the time I'd say it's mellow. I've definitely had some session where we're both battling to land our tricks and feeling beat down, that can be pretty intense. I wouldn't say we're competitive with each other in a negative way, but we can pretty competitive haha. Which leads to both us progressing in whatever activity it is. I think healthy competition leads to a lot of peoples progression with a positive outcome and I'm just grateful that I have that with my brother.
Check out the Giro gear Nils is repping here - http://www.giro.com/eu_en/snow.html
Thanks to Giro, Adam Moran and Bob Plumb for the rad photos.
Interview: William Sleigh