When Nima Jalali burst on the scene in the early 2000s with an exotic, Disney-like name, a style and dress that would forever alter snowboarding and a bag of tricks that even he sarcastically referred to as, “not snowboarding,” people took notice. Some laughed, some shook their heads, while others embraced the fuck outta it. 12 years later, many of Nima Jalali’s Nostradamus prophecies about snowboarding and the future of said activity were correct – tight pants, 4 story building bomb drops, city jib missions, running from the cops, hair and more flair, shredding in blue jeans/ button ups, starting your own companies, all would become about as commonplace and as accepted in snowboarding as, well….energy drink sponsorships? Yes, yes, indeed. Now successfully running three companies – Ashbury, Howl and Videograss, Nima still finds time to turn away from the business end, get the fuck out of LA traffic, and throw down with his nimble, cat like reflexes on what many would consider one of the best front boards in snowboarding.
How did you get into snowboarding?
Same way as everyone else – I skated all the time and during the winter when it was raining, we’d go snowboarding at the local mountain – Kratka Ridge Ski Resort.
Where is Kratka Ridge?
It’s not called that anymore. It’s called Snowcrest now and they never open. 30 minute drive from LA, up Highway 2. If you kept driving up for an hour you’d eventually get to Mt. High. They have crazy backcountry snowboarding there when it snows enough.
What town did you grow up in?
I grew up in La Canada, it’s 15 minutes north of downtown LA. Next door to Pasadena.
Lala land. Wasn’t surfing and the beach more enticing than going snowboarding?
I did that for a little bit, too. Surfing is cool, really fun, but we were so close to the hill and all the skaters I hung out with were more into snowboarding, so I got more into that.
You like to get in the green room though?
I’ve been in the green room once, sorta. I dig it.
No, it’s Persian.
Did your family run from the Iranian Revolution?
I know it was good there, then it turned to shit. I think once it turned to shit my pops came out here.
Is your family supportive of snowboarding?
I grew up with my Pops only. He doesn’t know anything about it, he’s never seen a video or a magazine with me in it. He’s seen an old flyer for Mt. Waterman that I was on when I was 15. That’s the place next door to Kratka Ridge.
Craig Kelly snowboarded in Iran.
I read a story in Transworld a few years ago with a crew going over there, seemed crazy. How’s that for a snowboard trip? No partying, no nothing. Cool to be in the culture for a couple days, but beers are out of the question.
What’s the deal with you and cops?
I don’t think I have any kind of deal with cops, what do you mean?
What’s the deal with the rusted Honda and the cops in your part in Everyday Something?
Oh shit! That’s when Keenan Rice was driving my Honda Civic. We were going from Salt Lake City to Colorado on a film trip during the Neoproto days. He hit a deer in my car and totaled it. It was a nightmare.
Take us back to the Neoproto days.
Those days were great, I loved ‘em. Filming for Some Kinda Life, those were the best days.
In that film you say, “Snowboarding isn’t about jumping off the roof. This isn’t snowboarding.” Then you jump off the roof. Do you still feel that jumping off a roof isn’t snowboarding?
I feel like as long as there is snow, it’s snowboarding. I was being sarcastic. People were hating on that kind of snowboarding back then you know?
Oh totally. We’ve come a long way.
You once said, “Filming Some Kinda Life was the best time of my life” Why was that?
One of the best times for sure. I felt good about where my snowboarding was at then. I lived in Utah for 3 winters and we never snowboarded for fun. We were getting pushed to go film in the city or backcountry jumps every day when I wasn’t really ready for that kind of shit. I should have been getting better at snowboarding. Some Kinda Life was the first time I decided I could live in LA/Big Bear and snowboard every day for fun and travel out of LAX. I had the best crew at Bear and the best film crew. Ned Casual was my filmer, he’s one of my best friends from LA and he doesn’t even snowboard. At bear I was snowboarding with Johnny Miller and Justin Meyer every day. Johnny is so fun to snowboard with – people don’t really know how good he really is and how crazy it is to see him snowboard in person. Justin Meyer filmed a lot of my video part, also. We filmed a lot of Sunday in the Park and Bear footage, too. That’s when I met Justin and he makes the Videograss movies now
You kinda have always been hated on for being an LA snowboarder. How do you respond to that?
I never really payed attention enough to feel the hate, but I respond pretty good to hate in general.
They’ll hate on LA, then all these kids from the mountains just want to hit street rails.
How can you hate on LA? We have the best weather, the best girls, we have the ocean, mountains, the best skate spots. Maybe they hate the traffic? Or, maybe they are just intimidated by it? Not really sure.
Did you start the tight pant craze in snowboarding? Can you take us back there?
(Laughing) Shit, I was just really into 77 NYC punk at the time. I really loved / love the Ramones. I just wanted to look like Dee Dee Ramone in ‘77. That’s the look I wanted – black leather jacket, tight blue jeans, long hair. That’s how I dressed when I wasn’t snowboarding, but I felt like if I am gonna be snowboarding in the city, I’ll just wear the same shit and cut my pants so they can fit over my snowboard boots. I like how it looks. Back then outerwear companies weren’t giving us too many options. Cargo pants were popular. My sponsor at the time only made cargo pants. I never see people in cargo pants in the city. I told Planet Earth to make slim fit snowboard pants, they probably thought I was gay. They shut it down so fast.
You wore a lot of white button ups during your career. Was that your lucky white button up? I mean, shit, it was in 3 video parts of yours.
Yeah, that’s a good look, white button up with blue jeans. I like that. A little Johnny Thunders swag in there.
Was that your lucky button up?
(Laughing) No, I just never thought I was happy with my tricks, so I thought, whatever, I will not use that, so I’ll film this trick in this shirt again.
How did the change from team rider to owner come about with Ashbury?
I’ve always wanted to do something that I could do after snowboarding. Me, Mike Hakker and Lance Hakker always talked about starting something. We had a problem with a lot of brands at the time because they were doing some weird things. I blew out my knee and freaked out. I was on a bunch of vicodin and I called Lance and told him to quit his job at K2 up in Seattle and move down and lets do this. He was down.
What’s harder – team rider or owner?
Both are hard in different ways. I’m really hard on myself, so both are challenging. In snowboarding, I feel like I have to work so hard for a video part. I have to go snowboard every day for months at Bear before I’m ready to go film. I hate going to a spot and being unsure if I can really do something. It’s a bad feeling and I usually work pretty hard to get my tricks, too.
How do you juggle your time with Ashbury, Howl, Videograss and still being a sponsored pro for Artec?
I like being busy. I hate waking up with nothing to do, so in the summer it’s perfect and I have some amazing partners in Ashbury – Mike and Lance Hakker. Amazing partners in Howl, Darrell Mathes, Justin Meyer, same with VG – it makes it much easier. When I’m snowboarding or on a trip, iPhone is a must.
Did being a professional snowboarder help prepare you for running a company?
I don’t know if it did really. I think just being around the industry really helped. I got to be around a lot of companies and team managers. I would visit offices, see how shit is ran.
You went to the mecca of snowboarding earlier this year – South Korea. Would South Korea be your favorite place to ride besides Bear?
(Laughing) The people were really cool there, so welcoming, good food, too. The snowboarding part of the trip wasn’t that good. Crazy icy – bulletproof. The locals there don’t care, though. They kill it in those conditions.
Did you eat dog?
What’s Nima Jalali’s spirit animal?
That one’s tough. Maybe a bird? That’s probably everyone’s answer. Maybe a hawk or an eagle.
You’re from Los Angeles. What celebrities do you snowboard with?
No celebrities at all. I wish I could say Robert De Niro or someone.
As long as he looked like he was from Taxi Driver.
Yeah, or Casino, he had a good look in that one. Goodfellas, too.
What’s the key that most Los Angelenos lack to driving in the snow?
They just aren’t experienced in it. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t even know how to drive in rain because these days it doesn’t even rain down here. They think you need chains when you’re driving up the mountain, even if there’s no snow on the road. That’s not good.
Would you like to ride more powder?
Yeah for sure, I got to ride a lot of powder when I lived in Utah and Mammoth. That’s the funnest type of snowboarding.
People would be shocked to hear you say that. You are sorta known as the rail / bomb drop dude.
(Laughing) I had some powder jumps in my older video parts and in the Technine videos back in the day.
What does snowboarding need more of?
That’s a tough question, I really like where snowboarding is right now, but it would be cool if some of the younger kids cared about jumping. I know my last few parts didn’t have jumps at all, so I can’t really talk, but usually we would get to a point in the year and say, “Okay, I am done with rails, I’m gonna spend the rest of my time trying to get some jumps.” I think it makes video parts so much more interesting..
3 favorite snowboarders of all time?
Peter Line. Honestly if I said anything other than Peter Line I feel like i’m lying. I love to watch so many snowboarders and it’s hard to choose only 3, but Peter Line is far above everyone else for me. He’s like the gonz. If you just watch him go down a hill that’s enough to get you hyped. He just makes snowboarding look so right. I watched his video parts on repeat forever, there was no way I’d get through his part without rewinding a few things. He’s the best ever. Best style ever by far, he did all his tricks so right.
What advice can you give the young bucks of today looking to come up in the snowboard game, like yourself many a year ago?
I’d say to snowboard as much as you can. If you can snowboard every day, do it. Just focus on getting good, don’t worry about getting sponsors or free shit, or filming all the time, just snowboard every day, get your tricks down, learn as much stuff as you can, so when you do make a video, you’re ready for it and it will stand out. Don’t fake your style at all – I see kids who try to copy Bradshaw’s style and they don’t understand that’s how he naturally snowboards, that’s why it looks so good. If you pose it it won’t look good and people notice that shit, it’s a bad look.
Ashbury, HOWL, Flux, COMUNE, elm, Artec, thirtytwo, Aerial7, Videograss, Active