Celebrating 30 years of snowboarding Northstar California

I turned 30 years old last month, which in turn has caused incessant reflection. The first time I downhill skied I was 18 months old. 18 months! I zipped down in my father’s JanSport backpack at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Then 6 months later I was clicking into my own 70cm Mickey Mouse K2 skis.

Yet now I have to wonder if that was more family folklore passed down from my avid ski father, or, if the story is really accurate. Barely able to walk, but very able to ski? But true or false, what I do know is that a life of snow was inevitable for me. 

I grew up in nearly equal share of San Francisco Bay Area and Truckee; a hybrid childhood of city and nature. Skateboarding was my first love, but I also inherited my parents’ infatuation with the mountains, and more specifically, an infatuation with Lake Tahoe. Their love for the outdoors and my preteen skateboard angst were eventually married in the burgeoning '90s alternative sport of snowboarding. The first time I strapped in, it was a done deal. I traded in my skis for a 136cm Burton Air, and traded in my Gore-Tex ski pants for ripped jeans and gators. The following couple of decades were a time-lapse from ski bum to professional snowboarder.

No one could imagine that professional snowboarding was work. But it wasn’t all work. Professional snowboarding brought with it a fusion of contests, contract fulfillments, and international travel. In my tenure I rode the 16,000-foot peaks of the Swiss Alps, the prairie buttes of South Africa, and city streets in 6 of the world’s 7 continents. It was a 10-year whirlwind of broken bones, paparazzi, and magazine covers. Absolutely incredible!

In retrospect, however, it is too easy to remember only the highlights without recalling the blood, sweat, and tears (often literally). Nothing in life comes without sacrifice, especially success. Nonetheless, I don’t measure my snowboarding success by X Games medals, ESPN appearances, or stamps in my passport. But rather, I measure my success in memories, many of them spanning nearly three decades at Northstar California.

Reminiscing on the past 30 years on snow is like looking through a kaleidoscope of time and emotion, much of which I experienced at Northstar. I remember my wonderment of the old Lookout dual chairlift, hot cocoas from Village Food Company, birthday parties spent in Ski Trail condos, old Avalanche snowboards in ski racks, Northstar’s first halfpipe, the backside’s backcountry before Zephyr Lodge, the debut season of now famous Lookout Mountain, and amateur contests that brought about preliminary fame.

I'd be remiss, however, not to mention other shenanigans, such as evading ski patrol, jumping ropes, cutting lines, and learning new tricks (and the joys of landing them). These were the Christmases, the spring breaks, and the family vacations. It was the memories of teaching my brother and sisters how to ride, my wife’s first day on a snowboard, the explosion of snowboarding into mainstream culture, the rumors of a Ritz-Carlton hotel, the Vail acquisition, and the Village grand opening. I remember it all; I was there for it all.

I am sure many can relate, but as I turn 30, it’s amazing that Northstar has become a barometer for my life. I learned to ride on Arrow Express, became a professional snowboarder on Vista Express, and now snowboard for the love of it on Martis Camp Express.

Many folks have been using the term, “snowpocalypse,” to explain Lake Tahoe's 600 inches of snowfall this season. And maybe this winter has been that. But for me, it’s just been winter, and a great winter at that. In fact, as I recently rode Lookout Mountain with yet another 30 inches of fresh pow, I remembered how in the past, snow wasn’t ever a question. Snow like that was an expectation.

Well, whether an idyllic day for you at Northstar is endless pow, perfect corduroy stripes, or brilliant sun, there will be snow here for you, this season and the next…and the next. Cheers, Northstar, to the past 30 years. Here’s to 30 more!

Nick wears many hats... literally, it’s near impossible to catch him without some type of season appropriate headwear. Truly, Nick is both eclectic and diverse — retired professional snowboarder, global winter-sport marketing specialist, local entrepreneur. Native to North Tahoe, he and his wife, Laura Lawson Visconti, have lived in Seattle, Portland and now indefinitely reside in Truckee, California. If you see him out and about, don’t hesitate to say hello; you never know, that passion may end up with you and him at Petra Wine Bar sipping a cuvée and exchanging life stories. Follow Nick on Facebook and Instagram.