Nitro Cake week with Bryan Fox

Sunshine, slush and goot times. That was the plan for the Nitro Team gathering at Kläppen, Sweden. Nature, of course had other plans. They might not have got much of the sunshine or the slush, but true to Nitro form, they definitely got the good times. Bryan Fox, coming off a recent injury, shares his insights on the trip.

(From issue 24.1)

Intro & interview: Theo Acworth

Photos: Markus Rohrbacher

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Torgeir Bergrem, flying over the party table!

So before we get into things, you’ve been out for a little while with a back injury. When did it happen?
January 7th. I herniated two disks and bulged two discs in my lumbar. It’s not an uncommon injury with snowboarders and also humans in general. But with that is a pretty wild and long healing journey. I’m not saying it’s gonna be a lifetime injury, but it’ll be a lifetime pursuit of strength, knowing that my annular discs are weaker than normal humans. 

My wife did something similar. It’s gnarly. 
It’s a very invisible injury, kind of weird mentally and socially. If you break your leg, there’s a pretty clear understanding of what you need to do. If you walk to the store with a cast on your leg, people get it. Back stuff, you don’t really see it. It has made me more empathetic. Even being in the airport, where you’re usually going a million miles an hour. Being fucked up enough that someone going by you too close and fast can freak you out. But I’m healing.

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Sam Taxwood over the rainbow

 Was this trip the first time riding since the injury?
Yeah. I wouldn’t say I really snowboarded, though. I rode down the hill, but that was about it. It was great, but such a mental thing. Maybe a little too soon if I’m being honest. But I think it was more too soon for the travel than the riding. The travel really fucked me up. I looked like a serial killer, getting up every 45 minutes to whatever open space there was on the flight to do exercises. Baby pose and stuff like that, which sort of looks like you’re praying. It doesn’t make people feel safe on a plane.

Facedown in the galley at the back. It’s a great image in my mind.
It definitely shows me how little of a fuck I give about what people think of me because I was very comfortable just doing some weird exercises five feet away from people in sweatpants and Gucci tops. 

So how many people were on this trip? Seemed like a pretty big gathering. 
I’m not sure, but it felt like at least 80 [ed. apparently it was 55, so some of them must have been really loud]. We had ten rooms with loads of space in each. By far the biggest trip I’d ever been on in terms of humans. 

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Simon, Bryan, Yuto, Sam


How was it stepping back into that atmosphere after being absent for quite a while?
Amazing. It’s the thing that I think we take for granted in this industry and community. Just how many like-minded people there are. After spending so much time alone and doing PT and thinking about snowboarding, it was amazing to be around that many snowboarders again. It’s clearly infectious when you’re one of such a large group who all enjoy doing the same thing. But Nitro is unique, as far as the big board brands are concerned. I guess Eero and Markus Cleveland are big superstars, but also not really. It just feels like everyone on the team is respected the same amount and treated equally. Everyone is sharing rooms, eating together and just on the same playing field. It’s pretty corny, but it does make it feel very much like a family. And that’s to Knut’s credit. He’s pretty into that vibe. It was great. 

Knut mentioned you got ‘the whole cake’ in terms of weather for this trip. [ed. hence the story name]
Yeah. So the Americans got there two days late and missed the only two sunny days. We got pretty much the worst weather you could have for a spring park shoot, but it was really fun. For me, it was perfect. We had some slow-motion powder days and did the classic Knut ‘get everybody to ride down the hill at the same time’ thing. It feels cheesy, but then you see the photos and the footage, and it’s amazing. 

Nitro does seem to do the whole ‘gathering’ of snowboarders really well. It always looks so fun. 
Knut is definitely really good at creating that kind of atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable and excited. And with the sickness ending, this was the first real time that everyone had been together again for a while. So that was kind of freeing. 

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Nitro family


What was the collective energy like on the trip?
I was in the American house, and I don’t know why, but it turned into the party house. Party/the adult house. It felt like we were the party place but also the place where we would cook for everyone. Even the people who weren’t in our room. So the vibe was great because there were a million people around all the time, but it was also a very full-on week of socialising. Normally, I’d be annoyed at so many people being in our house, but because of jet lag, we were sort of superhuman, so we’d stay up until 4 or 5 every night we were there. It is a joke, but some of the crew also take it seriously that they want America to win. Win on the hill and win in the party. Unlike most brands, there are only six or so American riders on Nitro, so we consider ourselves the underdogs against the Euros and play that up pretty hard. 

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Dominik Wagner


You’ve also been hitting the sauna pretty hard, I heard? 
Yeah, that was pretty nice for me. Once I got cleared for heat and movement, saunas and cold plunges became a big part of my healing journey. It’s so great in Scandinavia, they have these tiny little saunas in every single apartment. We’d hit it every night and sometimes twice a day. They were probably two-person saunas, and at some times, we’d have about six people in them, which was pretty funny. The sauna is great. We need things that don’t allow you to have a phone with you when you do them. You have it with you when you’re snowboarding; it’s in your pocket, and you look at it while you’re on the lift. I love that about surfing; it’s not an option to be connected, and I feel like saunas are similar in a social way. If there’s an awkward pause in a conversation, you can’t pick up your phone to look at it. So they feel like a disconnect from reality, and you normally end up having pretty cool conversations with whoever you’re in there with. So I was thankful for that. 

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Celia Petrig


What was the clothing situation? Some Americans can get a bit uncomfortable about collective nudity. 
I’m favourable to the nude approach. Some places would be, and some wouldn’t be. Being in there with six dudes, the nudity would definitely feel more real. With one other person like Basti or Eero, it’s chill to be penis out. 

I don’t get why anyone would want to wear anything in a sauna. You just get all sweaty and clammy. 
I’ve been to Japan a lot, and the onsen culture is so religious about no clothing. It’s nothing sexual, it’s just about purity. Same with saunas. I don’t want to sit there and bake in a plastic pair of shorts. I just try to feel the vibe. If everyone is clothed and you show up naked, it could be viewed as disrespectful. 

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Simon Gschaider


I was on my own in a hotel sauna in Italy, and some people came in, and I was getting weird looks from them, and I just had no idea why. I discovered afterwards that they prefer to keep their clothes on, so I guess I was just the weird, naked guy. Knut also mentioned that one of the sauna things fell off the wall in one of your apartments.
Oh yeah. Luckily no one was in there because that would have been really gnarly. I think the apartment building was brand new, and we were probably working some of the kinks out. We heard this gnarly crash in the bathroom. We went in there, and the whole sauna full of rocks had just ripped off the side of the wall. We’d only got out ten minutes beforehand. It would have been gross. Scalding rocks on naked skin. No one would have died, but if one of those things had landed in my lap… 


“It is a joke, but some of the crew also take it seriously that they want America to win. Win on the hill and win in the party”


So it was a good trip. I had a different perspective personally because my winter was pretty slow and hard, and I obviously didn’t snowboard much. Normally, I’d say the takeaway is that these trips are such a nice icing on the cake of a long winter. Outside of our industry, people maybe would scoff at us or couldn’t relate to it, but when you chase storms pretty much from November to May or whatever, by that time, you’re pretty physically and mentally exhausted from the relentless travel. Just searching for the next storm, trying to film and do all the shit you want to do. A trip like this is a sweet moment to just enjoy yourself and the snowboard culture and the community. I don’t know if I’m saying it right, but it’s more like an end-of-the-year party than a work trip. And a couple of the dudes on the Nitro team are my best friends, so it’s an actual paid vacation. 

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Gabriel Almqvist on his way to the next resort


I know what you mean. The kind of thing where the conditions don’t matter and you’re just having a good time with a good group of people. 
Yeah. And I’m old enough where I’ve been on the other side of planning trips like that, so I have so much respect for those dudes who put that much effort in to get everyone there. It’s gnarly. 


I heard that the AK stop of NST aired while you were all together. How was it having Jared and Hailey on site to watch it?
The vibe was super fucking fun. We had everyone in one little apartment screaming at the TV. Both Jared and Hailey did pretty well, which was cool. When Hailey lost, I was sitting next to her and she was saying that it was pretty embarrassing. And I told her that I empathised with what she was saying but to take a step back. Everyone here is celebrating that you’re even in this contest. It’s pretty fucking cool that a brand like Nitro has that much representation in the biggest backcountry contest there is. You know what it is, collective energy in those moments is really fun. And as snowboarders, we don’t get it a lot. I like watching football [ed. the one with the ball you kick with your foot, not the egg you catch with your hands] and you get so invested in someone else doing something, and I don’t really have that in snowboarding. We were all just in there rooting for everyone. 

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Dom & Eero


I guess that kind of shared sporting experience is not that common for us.
At least not for our side of the snowboard community. I couldn’t even name five competitive halfpipe riders these days. I just don’t really watch that side of snowboarding. I feel kind of bad saying that out loud, but I just don’t. So it was cool to just be a full fan for a night. And Hailey is so kind and sweet, just saying thanks and being humble about it, and then you’ve got Jared over there like, ‘Yeah motherfuckers!’ And wanting all the attention. It was funny to feel both of those. 

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Simon & Ludde


The back 360 king. Were there any particular rider standouts for you on the trip, on or off the board? 
I was really impressed by this new Canadian kid Mateo Massitti. I’m also a really big fan of Dominik and those kids. Eero too. His body doesn’t work, but he always shows up and gets tricks. He’s smart about it. He’ll pick a feature and go get a shot on it. Taxwood is always going to do something impressive, even if he’s psycho hungover. The weather was so shitty, and I didn’t really see too much riding, to be honest. Simon Gschaider might have won overall. He was definitely trying every day and every night. 


“But now it’s funny, no matter what happens on these trips, I just find myself sitting there, even at 3 in the morning, just thinking about what a fortunate existence I have and that this is my job”


He is a beast. 
So yeah, we did all the classic Nitro crap. The funny thing is that everything we do in this industry is manufactured and scripted-ish. People are taking photos and filming and writing about it, and just with that consideration, everything is kind of manufactured. Even when it’s not, none of us are just doing it purely to live it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be documenting it. So some part of what’s going on is Knut doing his best to get people together to have a good time, but also to promote a certain type of snowboarding. So it is contrived and your standard Nitro stuff, but hopefully, it works and gets people excited to go snowboarding with their friends, you know?

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Nils Arvidsson


I think there’s some wisdom in that statement somewhere… 
I guess what he’s just doing is caring. Caring about our experience and how it looks to the outside world, and I love that. I love being a part of that. Especially now that I’m just fucking ‘old’. There definitely would have been times in the past when I’d complain about all the other things I could have been doing instead of stuff like this if there was good snow somewhere else. But now it’s funny, no matter what happens on these trips, I just find myself sitting there, even at 3 in the morning, just thinking about what a fortunate existence I have and that this is my job. Hopefully you get it before it’s too late, right? And I’ve never really been injured. This back injury was the first real halt in my 25 years of snowboarding. It definitely gave me some perspective on shit like that. 

It’s always good to remember that our lives are somewhat of a holiday compared to many people. Ok Bryan, I think we can wrap things up there. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
Just make sure there’s some part of this that says Team America was victorious.


The Nitro Cake movie


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