Jake Blauvelt isn’t exactly a new name in snowboarding. After a long and storied career in the park and pipe world, winning halfpipe contest after halfpipe contest, Blauvelt transitioned his riding into the backcountry, filming video parts including his first solo project Naturally. When he made that switch nearly a decade ago, it changed his riding forever and gave him a new perspective on the joy of riding in the mountains, taking in the environment around him, and being immersed in the atmosphere of places like British Columbia and Mount Baker. These days, it’s no longer about just hitting jumps, but more about just going out and riding the way the terrain dictates it. That’s exactly what he set out to capture in his latest short film Atmosphere, shot and produced by his good friend and legendary snowboard cinematographer Gabe Langlois. We caught up with Jake to hear about what went into the new film, the challenges he faced in BC last spring, and his outlook for the future.
TGR: For those in the TGR audience who aren’t familiar with your career, who is Jake Blauvelt?
Jake Blauvelt: I am originally from Vermont, that’s where I was born and raised. I learned to ride back there on the East Coast, but for the last ten years or so I’ve spent my time in the Pacific Northwest, riding around Mount Baker, Whistler, and Revelstoke. Now I have two young daughters, one will be 3 years old in January, the other just turned 1! So my wife and I are just posted up now raising our girls based back in Vermont. We’re based here trying to figure out how to raise our daughters and continue snowboarding at the same time! That’s kind of where I’m at right now. Dad mode.
TGR: How’d your involvement with TGR get started?
JB: That got started through Elena Hight and filming for her video project this past winter. She had hit me up asking if we wanted to ride together, and I thought it would be great to link with her. We had spent a lot of time together, maybe 12 years ago, when we both lived in Mammoth Lakes, California. That was the first spot I moved to after leaving the East Coast after high school. WE were both heavy into the contest and pipe scene. I’ve always really respected Elena and seeing her transition from the pipe scene, being an Olympian, now into the backcountry realm is so cool. I really respect her shredding!
TGR: What’s it like riding with Elena?
JB: It’s awesome. She’s so chill, always going with the flow. Riding with Gabe Langlois over the years, especially heli-ing around BC, has given me an opportunity to really learn the terrain up there, and to be able to show Elena that was so nice for the film. It’s amazing to see how comfortable she is in big mountains. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting it, but there’s no hesitation at all from her. She knows how to turn and ride really well, and it’s really cool to see a woman who’s so strong on her board and take it into big mountains.
TGR: What were the inspirations for the new film Atmosphere?
JB: Gabe Langlois and I really like working together, we’ve been working together for maybe eight years. I really respect Gabe as a backcountry partner, first and foremost from a safety standpoint, but also he’s just so good at having fun. He works like a mad dog and is incredibly talented and is now getting really good at editing and producing. I try to do a project with him every year. Our idea was to just film as much as we could this year, and document backcountry riding the way we do it. We wanted to really capture the atmosphere and environmental vibe the way we see it out there. It wasn’t all about bluebird riding, but really about capturing something a little different. We wanted to switch up some of the angles, use some motion camera techniques, and just make it a little different. I leave all that stuff to Gabe though, and I get to focus on the riding! He shot everything, produced it, edited it, and did most of the work!
We did two trips for the film, one to Monashee powder cats, and then a second trip with Elena to Pemberton for some heli laps. We got about eight days of filming in total before the pandemic shut everything down mid-March.
TGR: Tell us about that. How did COVID-19 affect making a film this year?
JB: Since I was basing in Vermont with my family, there was potentially a lot of travel involved, so I wanted to limit that. I went out to Monashee in January with Gabe to film, and then the plan was to move the whole family to BC in the spring to continue shooting. We had a rental unit for six weeks, and brought both my daughters and my wife out to join me. The heli was based at the rental, Elena was there with us, and the snowpack was stable. Ideal situation if you ask me!
And then of course everything happened mid-March. Being US citizens, and hearing talk about shutting down the borders, we ended up leaving our vehicles packed with all our gear in Gabe’s field near Pemberton. Then we headed down to Vancouver, flew to Montreal, and drove back down to Vermont. That was March 18, and we knew that was the end of the season. Still haven’t been allowed to get back into Canada (can’t blame them) so the vehicles are still up there.
We were saving it all for the spring, and of course that didn’t work out, so for the film we had to take what we had. I wish we had more time, just like everyone else. As with all video projects, you always think you can do better, but in the end we’re all super stoked on how it came out.
TGR: It’s been pretty impressive to see the quality of video parts that came from last winter despite the madness.
JB: No kidding! I think you just have to persist. People are resilient. Humans will adapt to changes, and I think everyone has as a whole, the snowboard industry in particular. Being forced to stay home and focus on the kids was really a blessing in disguise. I think the silver lining was giving us time to hang with the kids. They really thrived! In the end, it’s only snowboarding, and we will get back to shredding the deep white stuff again soon.
TGR: There’s a scene in the film featuring your event Blauvelt’s Banks at Bolton Valley, how does mix in with your big mountain riding?
JB: We did the race February 1st this year at Bolton Valley. That’s where I learned how to ride many years ago in an after school program. To be able to host an event at my favorite mountain was amazing. It’s a little privately-owned mom and pop mountain, and to see the need for an event like that in the Northeast riding community and fill it felt really good. We were able to raise a lot of money for Protect Our Winters, but first and foremost it was about the local community here. It sold out within 24 hours of me putting out a post on social media. Going into this year, we’re excited to make it happen again if we can. I really want it to be a catalyst fundraiser for helping to bring a new skatepark to Waterbury. Stay tuned on when and how we’ll be able to do the event this winter with COVID.
TGR: You’ve been snowboarding practically forever, what brings you joy after so many years?
JB: I think just always remembering what’s important when you’re on your board. When I’m out there, for me personally, I don’t like building jumps, I just like riding and getting tons of laps in. I just tell Gabe to film me going down, and if something cool happens, it happens. Either way, I’m still having tons of fun. For example, I don’t think we need to stop filming if there’s a couple of lines already through a zone, I’m just having too much fun so keep riding and keep filming. At the end of the day, especially on a heli day, whether you got shots or not, so what? It’s all first world problems, we’re still out there in these beautiful mountains with our friends flying in helicopters. Still the best day ever.
It took me a few years to realize that, and now that I’ve realized that, it reignited a little spark and inspiration, which helps to keep me motivated. At this point, moving into the winter I just want to get into really good shape so I can keep riding as long as I want. Snowboarding is never work, it’s the prep that’s the work, but once you’re out there riding it’s just pure fun.