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Evan Wilcox was a little bit of a mystery to me. If you follow @yobeat on Instagram, you’ve probably seen photos of Evan. We’ve reposted a lot of his stuff over the last six months, and as he continued to tag us in images from around the world, I started getting curious. Over the winter he was sending photos from Japan, then as the winter season ended there, he resurfaced in Australia, after a short stint surfing in Bali. It became clear he was chasing the snow, but I was getting curious how he was making it happen? It was the sort of globe trotting and shredding that’s often reserved for top sponsored pros, and film crews — people with backing to the live the life. But this guy was making the dream happen somehow. Outside of his Instagram, all I really knew about Evan was that he had some sort of association with Rome. But I knew he’s been constantly riding spots most people dream of. I didn’t know if he’d won the lottery, he was running from the law, or if he’d figured out some sort of international travel scam none of us had thought of. If you want to be jealous, follow @evanwilcox on Instagram. All the images in this interview came from his posts over the past few months. Read on to find out a bit more about how he’s made it happen.
Niseko, Japan. Photo: @daniel_honda
Yobeat: How did you end up on this globe-hopping mission. Are you chasing the endless winter exclusively, or is there any other tie to the travel? I see you had done some work up at Hood in the past, so what led you to this journey?
Evan: The motivation for this travel shred mission came from the desire to challenge myself. I had a very comfortable routine working nights in Salt Lake City during the winter and migrating back to Hood to work and ride all summer. It was great while it lasted, but I felt something was missing.
I thought back to my experience studying abroad in Austria, hanging out with rad people from around the world, and learning so much about other lifestyles as well as myself. Life was challenging, exciting, and rewarding. I wanted to recreate that feeling while satisfying my snowboarding addiction.
I decided to focus up and make something happen for myself. Every night after I finished my Demo Shop duties at Windells last summer I would apply for a job online. I applied for about 50 jobs all over Japan and Canada, from bartender, to snowboard instructor, to reception — anything that could keep me financially afloat with my student loans and allow me to travel and ride. As an American, working visas can be very difficult. Both Japan and Canada required me to find a company to sponsor me and apply for my work visa on my behalf. Out of all those jobs only one was willing to put in the extra work to sponsor me — It was a shop called Niseko Sports in Japan, so I packed my bags last minute, and sent it to the land of the rising sun by myself. In Japan I met so many wonderful people, including a few who helped me land a job at Mt. Hotham in Australia.
I’m not chasing winter exclusively. What I am searching for is good times with good people across the world. In between the Japanese and Australian winters I was able to spend a month in Bali surfing everyday, and that sparked my interest to explore Southeast Asia more extensively.
Are you just kind of along for the ride then, or do you have a plan where this journey will end up? In other words is there a “next spot” or are you just rolling with it? When you went to Japan, were you thinking “I’m gonna to to the Southern Hemisphere next?
Along for the ride right now! I’m most likely going back to Japan next year. It was too good. Now I know the terrain, lots of fantastic humans, and I have some great opportunities that I should take advantage of. When I left for Japan I was thinking to myself, “I’ll have this wonderful powder-filled Japanese winter, and then I’ll head home, get serious, and make productive moves in my professional life.” Unfortunately a financially sustainable opportunity to prolong my transient snow bum lifestyle presented itself, and I bought a ticket to Australia. I couldn’t be happier.
What are you going to do after that winter winds down?
I don’t have an exact plan after the snow melts in Oz. I’ll likely find some farm work for a month or so to try and save enough money to continue traveling. From there I’ll hopefully squeeze in a few weeks summer in Southeast Asia and surf as much as possible. Then I’ll likely head north to Hokkaido. The consistent snowfall gave me the best winter of my life, and I’m not ready to give that up. Japow withdrawals are powerful. After that, who knows. New Zealand winter?
What did you take away from Japan?
I learned a lot in Japan. I rekindled my love for a simple pow turn, as well as just enjoying my time in the mountains on my snowboard, regardless of whether I was riding well or not. But the biggest take away I had was based off of the mentality of the Japanese people. They will go out of their way to help you in any situation, even if there is no direct benefit for them. I think that is something that the rest of the world can learn from.
Deep days at Honazono in Japan. Photo @jpleydon
Hiking the Niseko backcountry. Japan.
As a culture and language, outside of the universal language of snowboarding, that’s about as foreign as it gets. At least Australia you have the same visual characters. And the ubiquitous Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion. As an American was Japan like another world?
Some aspects in Japan were very foreign to me. Relatively simple tasks such as setting up a bank account would have been impossible for me without friends who spoke Japanese. It was fun learning and speaking little bits of Japanese, but the characters were very difficult.
In the past you spent some time doing demo center stuff up at Hood? Was that for Rome? How many summers did you spend up there?
I worked at Windells for the last four summers. I got my foot in the door as an auxiliary driver, switched to a counselor, and then spent two summers as the Demo Manager. That work wasn’t for Rome necessarily, but it was a great opportunity help give back to them by relaying feedback on next year’s gear. The guys at Rome are absolute legends and it was a blast helping them out at SIA for the last few years.
Matt Stillman at Rome tells me you and Frosty may have had a special use for board bags at SIA?
Stillman may have leaked some confidential information, but it is true that my primary responsibility was to smuggle in party enhancing beverages. Shout out to the whole Rome SIA crew, we are good at what we do.
Did you make connections in the camp years that have helped in your travels?
Working for camp led me to meet some of my favorite people in this world. Connections I made there encouraged me to move to Salt Lake City, where I spent three winters exploring those awesome mountains. It also pushed my snowboarding into both the urban and backcountry disciplines. Working hard to get shots out there really gave me a new appreciation for those who are able to put out a banger video part. It’s extremely difficult. That move into the Rockies also led me to get involved with all the rad companies who support my snowboarding obsession. Traveling and riding like this would not be possible without them as I try and pay off my student loans.
Method in Japan. Photo: Antoine Rigaux
Japan turns. Photo: @daniel_honda
Japan’s kind of an obvious bucket list spot for a lot of people. And it sounds like it lived up to that? What were some standout things you got to do or spots you got to ride?
If you love snowboarding, go to Japan. The legendary Japow is not a myth, and if you are there for a good amount of time you will undoubtedly have some of your best days on a board. I lived in Niseko, which has been discovered by the international crowd, but the area is big enough to handle it. Inbounds pillow lines are plentiful, and the amount of easy pow turns you can score make that place special. When it finally stops snowing in Niseko, it’s time to explore the vast backcountry. There’s wonderful terrain that can be accessed from the resort, but if you have a car your options are huge. By driving around rural roads you’ll see those classic shred spots that are in your favorite movie’s Japan segment. All you need to do is park your car and hike up.
I was also able to summit Mt. Yotei — the Fuji lookalike in Hokkaido –twice last season. The first trip up was a heavy six hour tour up, but we were rewarded with a golden hour sunset ride down the stratovolcano. We took an easier approach to the peak during my second trip, and the weather was beautiful. The snow was stable, so we elected to ride into the crater on Mt. Yotei’s summit. It was so fun that I had to hike up and take another crater lap that day. You never know when you’ll be able to ride powder in a volcano’s crater again, ya know?
Hiking Mt. Yotei in Japan. Photo @jimi_yuki_oertli
Volcanic Crater Pow. Mt. Yotei. Photo Antoine Rigaux
So you mentioned student loans… what did you go to school for?
I have a bachelor’s in Business Management from Oregon State University, with an option in International Business that I earned while studying in Vienna, Austria for six months.
I know I always feel like I learned some stuff in school, and there’s value to that… but there’s a certain type of learning that I don’t think I would have ever gotten without the bizarre and awesome travel experiences and relationships that come out of things like snowboarding.
I completely agree with you in that I learned a ton in college, but there are some things professors and books can’t teach you. I learn the most by putting myself in foreign situations, and that’s why I needed to give up my comfortable life at home. I was hungry to explore and learn more about the world.
Switch back 180 over Japan’s Mt. Yotei. Photo @daniel_honda
Were you hanging with a pretty international crowd in Japan or were you pretty immersed in the locals?
Niseko is internationally famous, so much that there are probably more foreigners than locals at times. However, this has its benefits. Everyone I worked, cooked, partied, and rode with was from around the world. I found that more valuable than just connecting with Japanese locals. I did make many wonderful Japanese friends of all ages and styles over there as well. It was a perfect mix.
Hotham in Australia. More Pow. Photo @benjaminhkaye
Did you get to ride in Austria too? Was that international study decision snow inspired?
I lived in Austria during summer and fall, so there weren’t many options for riding. The main motivation for the European journey was to fully immerse myself in another part of the world for the first time. I bought a rail pass and was able to see a good amount of the continent in between classes. However I did get to ride the Kitzsteinhorn glacier for one weekend. I remember going up a gondola, leading to another gondola, that dropped you into a fully developed resort on the glacier. It was the first time I had seen a resort of that scale.
You said you’re from Oregon? Did you grow up riding Hood then?
Yup, I grew up in the suburbs of Portland. I started riding when I was 16, and had a rad crew of friends who who would take turns driving to Hood, spending all our money on gas. Hood in the winter can be a dreary place at times, but I now appreciate it as the place that developed my lifestyle. I had no idea it was such an iconic location for snowboarding (especially in the summer months) until it got more involved.
No tracks. Japan. Photo @daniel_honda
You’ve got the riding and the travel under your belt, have you sought out or do you think you will seek out any sort of industry job that affords that? It sounds like you’ve got some support already and you’re working at resorts and such. But has any sort of inside gig ever presented itself? Do you think you’d want to? I mean, it can be sort of nice to be rolling on your own program.
Traveling and snowboarding motivates me more than anything else. I would be so excited to find a spot in the industry that supports both. I’ve had a few smaller opportunities within snowboarding come up, but they would have been a compromise. I still want to snowboard. A lot. At this stage my riding is still improving, and I have a fresh outlook on what I want to do that gets me stoked to strap in. I’m hoping to find something that gives me the freedom to keep riding and exploring, but allows me to watch a project grow through my efforts. Based on how easy it is to communicate around the world instantly, I believe it’s possible to do so without sitting behind the exact same desk five days a week.
On US turf. Brighton. Photo by @gill_monty_photo
For sure, if you’re having fun and it’s coming together and working, why not keep going? And the longer you do that the more opportunities that arise. Riding wise what are you riding most? In Japan I know you were riding tons of pow, now I’m seeing more park from Australia. I assuming you’re just riding what’s best at the time? Where’s your preference?
Riding park and resorts is fun, but my passion for powder comes first. Mid-winter in Niseko was incredible; it snowed nearly every day. For the first time in my life I felt like I could relax and fully enjoy riding pow, rather than racing other people to the lifts and the best lines. There was plenty.
Overall, riding natural features in the backcountry is where I’d love to spend most of my time. You have to work with what the terrain gives you, and that definitely delegates what trick, grab, or turn is possible. Even just hiking around in the mountains hunting for natural spots is a great time for me. I find that much more rewarding than spending five hours cutting blocks for a standard backcountry jump that you get to hit three times before the landing is destroyed.
Mt. Hotham in Australia. Photo: @benjaminhkaye
How is Australia comparing so far? Is this your first time to OZ? The general perception is that Australia is a place where everything is trying to kill you. Snakes, spiders, sharks… do you feel safer in the mountains? At least it seems like there would be less poison and teeth to contend with?
This is my first time in Australia as well as my first time being in the southern hemisphere. That perception of Australia being dangerous has been solidified as I learn more from locals. I’m hearing about shark and crocodile attacks, and seeing plenty of huge spiders that can do some serious damage to you. It’s commonplace to Australians, so it doesn’t really bother them. From what I’ve seen Australia is a beautiful place, and those killer animals and insects are worth the risk to be out here.
It’s been a good snow year so far for the Australian Alps. Often wet, but consistent storms have been rolling through. We’ve had a few good dumps that dropped uncommonly dry snow. The terrain around Mt. Hotham can be quite steep and challenging, so this has led to some awesome days that I wasn’t expecting to get in Oz.
Are you out there filming for anything specific? or just getting the clips while you’ve got the opportunities?
If I could do anything in this world at this point in my life it would be traveling and filming with a rad crew. Right now I’m not shooting for anything specific, just doing it because I love it. Lining up opportunities to shoot can be difficult as I work full time, and most of the photographers and filmmakers I know are in the same boat. I’m currently taking bids on who wants me to travel and film powder around the world with an experienced squad next year. Haha. But seriously, any takers?
Japan. Photo @daniel_honda
Hokkaido, Japan Photo: @marimizukami
What’s your lifestyle like over in Australia, and in Japan. Like are you roaching and living the total gypsy life, or you are do you have a place to live and such? I assume if Japan wanted you to have a job solidified they didn’t want you camping in the streets?
Luckily my employer in Japan set up a good living situation. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I arrived at a old ski lodge where about 16 of us lived. One big kitchen and a lounge/dining area, and I even had my own little room. Australia is a little different. At Mt. Hotham rent is incredibly expensive, so everyone shares rooms to make it work. I lined up a small apartment with three friends I met in Japan. It’s a little cramped, but still a great time. Kind feels like college.
I don’t know if you ever saw that Seinfeld where Kramer had a group of Japanese business men sleeping in a set of drawers… that’s sort of what I was picturing.
Haha. I haven’t seen that Seinfeld, but similar sleeping pods are definitely commonplace. Especially in the bigger cities.
What’s your role at the resort over there? How much do you get to ride?
In Japan I worked at a shop called Niseko Sports. We all cycled through different shifts, which allowed us to ride almost everyday if you were committed. I rode a ton and burnt the candle at both ends a bit, but it was worth it.
In Australia I’m working park crew. This is the first time I’ve built the parks for a resort, so it’s been a great learning experience. We have a really tight crew and work hard, so I haven’t been able to ride quite as much as I’d like. But once again it’s an awesome spot to be in, and I’m lucky that my friends hooked me up with such a good gig down here.
I think I saw a photo of you riding a contest in Japan… Do you, or have you done much of that?
I’m not normally much of a contest rider, but that photo in Japan was from a hand-dug, skate style, snow bowl in Niseko. It’s not often you get the chance to ride something like that, so I jumped in. It was shaped really well, giving riders tons of different lines and transitions to find. I love riding creative set ups like that. The outcome was the same as all of the competitions I’ve rode in. I was stoked on my riding, other competitors told me they were as well, but I didn’t walk away on top. Snowboarding is an extremely hard thing to judge in my opinion. If I had a good time then I consider that a win.
The afore mentioned contest in Niseko, Japan. Photo: @alister.buckingham
You mentioned Canada as a place you applied for jobs and considered. Is that still somewhere you want to spend time? Or were you just putting out all the feelers? They have poutine. And hockey.
Canada is definitely still on my bucket list. I applied to a bunch of resorts and such up there, but didn’t get a response due to the same visa difficulties as Japan. I would be so excited to spend a winter in interior BC. Somewhere like Revy, Red Mountain, or Nelson. Getting into cat or heli riding would be ultimate, but I don’t have the money to invest in all the avalanche education I need to get started yet.
Do you ever consider a grand plan? I know you said you said you’d go to Japan and then move into the real world so to speak? You seem like you’ve got it at least a bit thought out.
I don’t have a grand plan necessarily, but I do like to be smart about keeping my options open. I’m lucky enough to have friends in good places who are trying to convince me to get serious and come work for them. I’m honestly not too concerned if I fail out here. I’m lucky enough to have enough people willing to help me out if I get stuck. If I get tired of snowboarding I would be excited to get involved in some sort of entrepreneurial venture. Eventually some sort of social entrepreneurship that can help others who need it, or a project that supports sustainability and clean energy. But those are interests I can pursue when my body is less capable of launching off cliffs and such.
Pillows and chicken salad. Japan. Photo: @daniel_honda
Does the travel desire go hand in hand with wanting to snowboard and ride new stuff? Or do you think you’d be a world traveler regardless?
I would definitely be traveling regardless of snowboarding. At this point in my life it’s the most rewarding way to live. I learn so much by surrounding myself with people from around the world. I like to surf, hike, and camp among other things that I can allow me to explore more while I travel.
Nisseko, Japan Photo: @daniel_honda
Hanazono, Japan. Photo @daniel_honda
Nisseko Japan. Photo: @benjaminhkaye
You get to pick one crew to travel with. Who is it? I mean everyone from the Jeremy Jones and Travis Rice’s to some street dudes wherever. Say someone was like, “you have this season paid for.’ Who do you roll with?
That’s a tough question. Immediately I thought of the Absinthe crew and some of the mind blowing terrain they are riding. They also often film with a few of my favorite riders including Muller and Gigi. I’d also throw in some natural feature style killers like Blauvelt and Kazu. And of course all the homies I’ve been ripping with over the years, you know who you are!
Have you put any thought into where you’d ultimately “settle down” or is that far off your radar until you half to?
As much as I like traveling, I know I want to have at least a semi-permanent place to call home one day. No where in the world is perfect, but the more I move around the more I love where I grew up. Oregon doesn’t have the best beaches or the driest snow in the winter, but an outdoor enthusiast can find something exciting to do every day of the year within a reasonable proximity to Portland. Yet again that is undecided, as I would be happy to settle in many of the rad places I’ve visited.
Who has been supporting you along this journey sponsor wise?
Shout out to my wonderful family and friends for supporting me through all of my adventures. As well as those who supply me with gear that keeps me riding to my potential: Rome Snowboards, Vonzipper, Bern Unlimited, and INI Cooperative.