Liam Syversen(@liam_syversen), Brad Miller(@_brad_miller), Joe Shafer(@joe_shafer), Sean Mcgee(@sean_mcgee0131), Luke Swope(@lukeswope), Ross Heinrich(@rossheinrich4)
Edited by Liam Syversen
Liam Syversen(@liam_syversen), Brad Miller(@_brad_miller), Joe Shafer(@joe_shafer), Sean Mcgee(@sean_mcgee0131), Luke Swope(@lukeswope), Ross Heinrich(@rossheinrich4)
Edited by Liam Syversen
The crew of flannel wearing lifestylers made the most of an early Michigan Spring at Cannonsburg. Featuring Jeremy Vandyke, Kyle Caswell, Ryan Piscotta, Avery Erickson, Jnep, Jack Tobin, Sam Kelty, Adam Rottschafer, Jake Devries, Tyler May, Linden Cool, Aiden Hascall and Brandon Vandyke.
Mt. Holly, Michigan with Luke Swope, Liam Syversen, Brad Miller, and Ross Heinrich
Do you remember being a shy child at a monotonous family gathering? Twiddling your thumbs and waiting ’til you can eat dinner and say goodbye to your touchy Aunt Barb until Easter comes around. Then, suddenly, the cool cousins shows up. Ya know, Dad’s side of the family. Cousin Keith starts telling you sex stories from his college dorm, cousin Sarah has a cute friend with her that makes you think of the Victoria’s Secret catalog cutouts you have hidden under your bed, and maybe Uncle Steve even lets you sneak a sip of his Bud Light. For me, Flanel Lifestyles was the cool Uncle Steve, and a dense group of passionate, committed snowboarders was the brief sip of Bud Light.
It’s hard, sometimes, to predict even the inevitable. When you grow up snowboarding in a tight-knit, tow-rope-scattered state like Michigan, you’re bound to assemble a group of like-minded friends and riders, be it intentional or not. That’s exactly what Flanel Lifestyles accomplished. Spanning from Detroit, to Grand Rapids, all the way up the Marquette, and virtually every little town in between, it’s likely that Flanel has a friend and/or team rider somewhere in the mix. Riding tow-ropes until their gloves burn off, or hiking handrails long after the sun goes down. Flanel Lifestyles just celebrated their 5 year anniversary. 5 years of comradery, passion, full parts, and full movies. 5 years of park-lapping, road tripping, house partying, couch-crashing, spot-scoping, police dodging fun.
Watch this video. Or don’t. Maybe you don’t want to watch 20 or so friends having the times of their lives. Maybe these people have no relation to you whatsoever, I get it. Or, watch this video from a viewpoint other than your own. Use it to reflect on your own past experiences. Use it to reflect upon your own Flanel team, whatever that may be to you. Maybe it’s the few friends you used to hike with in your backyard to learn boardslides on a PVC pipe, or the group of friends you used to take park laps with until ski patrol corralled you off the hill like cattle. Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of it. The Flanel guys (and girls) signify what snowboarding is to me, what snowboarding needs, and what snowboarding can never lose.
Featuring: Jack Harris, Brett Kulas, Matt Miller, Tyler May, Mac Eckstrand, Al Pal, Charles Beck, Joey Leppien, Trevor Newman, Andrew Carroll, Matt Ruhle, Eric Starke, Brent Behm, Brandon Vandyke, Jeremy Vandyke, Linden Cool, Avery Erickson, Dan Pandzic, Grant Peterson, Alek Binder, Dusty Miller, Jackie Lammert, Eric Christopherson, Dan Spooner, Eddie Fauth, Adam Rottschafer and more.
Interview by Paul Bourdon
Zeppelin Zeerip is a name you can’t really forget. It’s not only his unique moniker that sets him apart however. This lanky kid from Sparta, Michigan has been through it all: the ups and down of pursuing a pro career in snowboarding, major injuries, losing his father and watching his childhood home burn to the ground. Zeppelin has now written his own book and has partnered with WZRD media to tell the tale. The coolest thing about Zeppelin is he is not shy about talking about his hard times and what it took to rise above it all. He hopes that his story will help others to realize their own power of choice and personal responsibility. — Paul Bourdon
Paul Bourdon: Let’s start with the basics: Where are you from? Where’d you do your riding growing up? Zeppelin Zeerip: I’m from Sparta, Michigan. It’s a pretty small farming town where the biggest event of the year are the fall football games and homecoming. I grew up riding Pando Winter Sports Park (RIP).
It seems as though Michigan (and the rest of the lakes region) produces a lot of strong, well rounded riders. Why do you think that is? For me it was entirely because of the tow ropes. Not only do you get to take dozens upon dozens of laps everyday, you also get to watch your friends, because you’re riding uphill right beside them. I started riding at Pando when I was six and spent four or five nights a week riding under the lights during the winters growing up. When I first started in the 80s we only had a halfpipe that was dug into the dirt and two log rails. Gradually we started bringing our own rails to the resort and pushing the management to build bigger jumps.
What was the best part about growing up in Michigan? The best part was Pando, hands down. That, the water, and the people. Having the opportunity to swim, fish, or boat everyday is nearly enough to make me want to move back sometimes. People at home don’t give a fuck about keeping up with trends or the latest thing, which is really refreshing after living in a place like Salt Lake that, which at least in the snowboard industry, is often setting the trend. It’s simple at home.
Who were some of the riders you looked up to growing up? Both in Michigan and beyond. Growing up everyone at Pando went under the moniker ‘Pando Commandos’; we stole the name from the “Pando Commandos,” a demonstration group on skis that was part of the 10th Mountain Division for the Rocky Mountain Area, and that was definitely who I looked up to most. I wasn’t too concerned with following pro snowboarders when I was that young because guys like Jonny Sischo and Brady Brunnete were putting down 9’s and 10’s at Pando everyday. Once I moved out of Michigan and started paying closer attention to magazines and videos I began following the Forum 8 and the un.Inc crew more closely. Nowadays I’m most stoked on Cam Fitzpatrick, Hans and Nils Mindnich, Bode, Travis Rice, and of course Muller.
Zeppelin does Argentina. Photo by Ben Girardi.
You had a solid edit drop on this site a few years back that definitely had some flak thrown your way in the comments. What’s up with that? I’m pretty sure about 80% of those were my friends just giving me shit. As for the remaining 20%, I have no idea.
Where does your name come from? My dad read books like a fiend. Every time he’d sit down he had a book in his hand, and eventually he came across the story of Ferdinand Graf Zeppelin, the inventor of the Zeppelin airships that were around during the turn of the century. He proposed the idea of naming me Zeppelin to my mom and she just rolled with it. I kept her last name and took my dad’s middle name.
A young Zeppelin and his dad.
You appear to be a lanky summabitch. How tall are you? Do you think your height gives you any advantages in snowboarding? [Laughs] I’m 6’3”. It definitely doesn’t have any advantages; my center of gravity is higher, it’s easier to break bones, and I’ve got to be that much stronger to keep my arms and shit from flailing. It’s always rad to see other tall guys like Bode, Ted, and E-tree rip though.
You’ve faced some real hardships and challenges in your life. Let’s talk a little about that. A lot of that will is addressed in the film we’ve put together with the help of Ski Utah, Solitude, and Goal Zero. You can check it out on the site above. In the span of four years my father passed away, our family home burned down, and I broke my femur. Those were some rough days for my family, but my mom and sister and I are incredibly resilient, and I think we’ve come out stronger having gone through it all.
Zeppelin’s family home, post fire.
You had mentioned that for you at one point that snowboarding became a sort of competition and kind of lost it’s fun in some ways. How do you combat getting burnt out? How do you keep riding fun and fresh? When I was 13 I was incredibly fortunate to get a scholarship to go to the Crested Butte Academy and get coached by guys like Christian Robertson, John Chorlton, Jason Pogoloff, and even Bud Keene during the last year. I felt like I had been gifted this massive opportunity to prove myself and that if I didn’t give everything I had to trying to ride professionally I’d let a lot of people down. I certainly pushed myself hard as well, it was my only focus from the time I was ten years old. I got hurt a lot, but breaking my femur and tearing my ACL was the final straw. It was such a significant injury that I recognized I couldn’t keep putting my body on the line for snowboarding, and that trying to ride professionally resulted in me sitting on the couch healing more than actually riding.
After moving to Utah I quit riding park. I’ll still cruise through Brighton’s park on a sunny day, but primarily I spend my time in the sidecountry or backcountry, hiking and touring. I lost the motivation I had to learn tricks in the park and refocused it on taking those tricks to the backcountry.
You have a genuine love for the outdoors and a wandering spirit. What tips can you give to those out there who don’t necessarily want to follow the “normal” path of going to school, getting a job, etc. What are some of the biggest challenges you face living the lifestyle you have chosen? My friends and network of people that I met while in school at Westminster College have been the biggest factor in enabling me to create my own path outside of a standard 9-5. For me the biggest challenges relate back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a list of five stages that is divided into basic and psychological needs (physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (self-actualization). Having been through so much stuff growing up, it was and continues to be really difficult for me to look beyond the basic needs and step to the growth stages, but that’s what it takes if you want to make something for yourself. Looking beyond the basic securities and taking a risk to recognize your potential is scary as hell when you don’t have any savings left and your student loans are about to start, but it has all seemed to work out so far. As for advice? I’d say meet and network with everyone and anyone possible even if there isn’t an immediate need and to surround yourself daily with people that motivate you to be a better person in some aspect of your life. Damn, I sound like Tony Robbins.
What do you see yourself doing after snowboarding is done? Snowboarding has never supported me financially, so I wouldn’t say it hasn’t actually been my ‘A’ plan since I was 18. I’ve done a huge variety of jobs in the last few years; I’ve worked on private yachts in Miami, helped DMOS Collective get off the ground, worked to produce the Far From Home documentary and now I’ve joined WZRD Media as a partner alongside Phil Hessler and Galen Knowles. We’ve done film work for Vice, REI, and Redbull already and have some much bigger stuff in the works for this upcoming year. That’s my full time thing right now. I’m doing a lot of writing, traveling, carpentry, and have always been interested in urban farming as well, so all those things will continue to be involved in my future.
You’re working on a book and film that is due out soon that chronicles your travels and experiences. What was the inspiration for this book? The inspiration for the book came from a road trip I took after breaking my femur in 2011. At that point I was still trying to ride professionally, and when I broke my leg I really didn’t have a plan B. My house had burned down that fall, so I didn’t have a great place to go home to, and I decided it would be best to take a road trip and clear my mind. I ended up taking five weeks to drive from Colorado to Washington by way of Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. The book is strongly influenced by Ed Abbey, Jon Krakauer, and Jack Kerouac, so hopefully it won’t suck. You can check it out on the crowdfunding page here.
Do no break your femur. There are rods involved. No fun.
What is the hardest part about being a freerider in snowboarding today? The best part? The best part is getting to travel to new and old places. This last year I took trips to Argentina, Switzerland, Baker, Wyoming, and Mammoth to chase pow and rip with friends. I wasn’t under sponsor obligations to post Instagrams twice a day or send in content, I just got to make turns all day. I wake up every morning in the winter and get to ride some of the best mountains in the world right in my backyard before work. The hardest part is getting out of bed when my dog has fallen asleep on my legs. It’s a rough life.
Some people are worried about the future of snowboarding. That is to say, people are worried about how sustainable this industry can be. What are your thoughts on the future of snowboarding? Are the only people worried the ones who stand to lose money? Or are you concerned for climate change and the viability of the sport from that perspective moving forward? What do you think snowboarding needs or doesn’t need moving forward? I think snowboarding and snowboarders need to put their money where their mouth is. Everyone wants to be green, but we’re the biggest hypocrites out there. One second athletes are posting on social media about Protect Our Winters, and the next they are getting heli dropped in AK or ripping sleds into the backcountry. Would I jump in a heli without a second thought? Of course, but I’m not simultaneously standing on a soapbox preaching. I’ve got a ton of respect for companies like Mervin and Patagonia that really seem to be making strides towards more sustainable business practices, but the remainder of the industry needs to follow suit and consumers need to demand it. It starts at a local level, and it takes more than social media posts to get local legislators to take action. No matter your personal motive for preventing climate change, whether it’s financial or to maintain a quality of life, it’s not fair to sit idly by on the sidelines and hope someone else fights for the environment. I want to keep riding pow!
Do you still have the occupy Pando event going annually? There is nothing I want more than to continue the Occupy Pando tradition, but unfortunately Michigan snowboarding has seen quite the shakeup these last few years and it’s no longer possible. In the fall of 2015 I learned that Pando been sold to Cannonsburg, just a week before it went public on Facebook. Cannonsburg and Pando have historically had an intense rivalry, as Cannonsburg was bigger and better funded, but Pando had the better riders and more of a family attitude. I’m not sure what the current plan for Pando is, last year Cannonsburg didn’t open the resort, but I had the chance to speak with the owner and he hinted that he hoped to reopen Pando in some capacity. I owe Pando a lot, so fingers crossed the ropes start turning again soon.
What do you have planned for the upcoming season? I’ll be in Utah once again riding the backcountry as much as possible and Brighton and Solitude when it’s unsafe to venture out. Doing all of the three star lines in the Chuting Gallery has always been a goal of mine and hopefully I can check that on off this winter. Each line is a big day on its own, ranging from pinner chutes to 5,000 ft. couloirs. This winter WZRD will be busy with one, potentially two documentaries, so that will be my primary focus from a work perspective.
Last chance for thank yous and acknowledgements. I’m most thankful for the five people I’ve been able to surround myself with these last few years and the influence they’ve had on different aspects of my life. Phil Hessler, Galen Knowles, Jake Kopec, Gabi, and my sister Zoe are the best people I know and I’m grateful to call them my friends and family. Also Nitro, Homeschool, DMOS, Goal Zero, Ski Utah, Solitude, Zeal, my grandparents, and my mom for their support and love.
Featuring: Joey Niepokoj, Adam Rottschafer, Sam Kelty, Trevor Spruit, Kyle Vandyke, Steve Sprague, Linden Cool, Grant Norris, Jake Hermann, Ethan Sperber, Tyler Jevaney, Avery Erickson, Evan Erickson, Jack Tobin, Bret Guild, & Tye Kowalski.
Featuring Dusty Miller, Lucas Patrick, Eric Starke, Matt Miller, Trevor Newman, Tyler May, Jackie Lammert, Charles Beck and more.
Everything seemed to be going alright… That is until I popped the tire on my Father’s car. “Apparently it had low tire pressure” said the tow truck driver when he was flipping through my Dads dash monitor. So, that left me asking the question of “How I am going to get through the rest of my trip?” But by some luck or blessing, my friend Nicole calls me and offers to float me up to Bittersweet and crash at her house. I jumped on that offer and within an hour or so I was ripping night lines through Bittersweets park. I didn’t really adventure out much… It was late and they were about 45 mins or so from closing. Ripped some laps, met up with some homies, and began to realize that I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and was about to die! Luckily the homies came through and brought me to a clutch restaurant called “The Crow’s Nest”. Whatever they marinade their baked chicken in for the Caesar salad was so DAMN good! Almost ordered 4 more to go. I shit you not. However, eventually my inner fat ass subsided and sleep took over.
I don’t exactly remember waking up the next morning. And I only faintly recall the drive to the hill, but as the car came to a stop I awoke, gathered my things, and trudged to the lodge. All suited up, I began walking to the ticket window. I was stopped by my friend and given a lift ticket (thank you very much by the way)! I then hopped on the lift with a couple of little rippers from the area. Now before I go any further, this small Michigan hill has a high speed lift and it is glorious. A hill that takes two mins to get down also takes the same amount of time to get up. Shit, it’s faster than most of the tow ropes in Michigan (R.I.P Pando’s Summit rope). Now let us jump back to the ride. I was chatting with the little homies and a friend who worked parks. I was asking how their season had been and the responses they gave me were mixed with joy and disappointment. Joyous responses spoke of sunny days with features that were set up properly everyone would be ripping and getting their tricks. Park crew would be on it maintaining and having a good time, as well. The reasons for disappointment ranged from the hill’s bad conditions, late openings, and park plans not working out. Riding around I inquired more about the season from other people but more the workers. They spoke of how they shot for a high goal this year but couldn’t really hit their mark because of how poor the weather had been. They also had a management change up this year which is always difficult at any mountain.
I acquired a mean lunchtime hunger after ripping with the homies and even some new found friends. I left my board chilling outside, which might I add is dumb of me and recommend that no one do the same! I know it can happen anywhere but for some reason I feel that theft is higher in the state of Michigan. Boards get stolen all the time so DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BOARD UNATTENDED! Staring down the menu I realized that I forgot how expensive resort food is. Why???!!!! My resolve gave way and I spent 12 bucks on a burger and fries. At least it was good and the cashier and cook were friendly so it made for a good experience.
Finishing up my food I began to head back outside. By the grace of God my snowboard was right where I had left it. The sky had opened up and allowed the sun to shine through. My, was it a beautiful day! The conditions felt as though I was out in Mammoth on a spring day. The ride to the park was one to remember; all you could see throughout the entire park were good times! People were ripping around just having a good ole time. The park didn’t have many features out, but from what I understand that was due to a melt out the week prior. But, it was all good because the park was still firing. The features that were out were set up properly and the flow of the place was amazing! You didn’t have to second guess if you had too much speed or not enough. Also, there were multiple lines to choose from which allowed for flow and creativity. Park crew was on top of things- properly raking and maintaining the park and also adding some of their own flavor to the features. Shout out to park management for teaching those young ones how to work a rake! My time at bittersweet was tight! 7 out of 10.
Filmed at Bittersweet and Cannonsburg
Song: Devo- Speed Racer
Where do I begin with this one. Oh, let’s start with the fact that I sat next to a man with an insidious odor on the bus. I haven’t slept either from that eleven hour uneventful flight, and to top it all off I drank entirely too much, which led to me leaving quite the mess on the airplane. Trust me it wasn’t pretty. But all in all, the bus wasn’t that bad, and it got me to my destination; Grand Rapids MI. That’s where I met up with my little brother Miles and we proceeded to Cannonsburg.
We got there a little later in the evening, after the sun had disappeared from the sky and the bright lights of the burg were in full effect. My is it a sight when you pull up and see all the magnificent amount of features Cannonsburg has to offer! As I collected all of my gear from the car, my body was filled with anticipation, ready to see my homies, acquaintances, and all the changes to the place I call home. I mean who wouldn’t be excited. Flanel Lifestyle edits and Cannonsburg’s Insta have shown nothing but greatness. Now, mind you, I have high expectations for my home hill. Three things you should know about the inside of the burg before we talk about the hill itself:
One – if it is the weekend, don’t even think about trying to acquire food at the concession stand or bar because it will most definitely be packed, and you will most certainly be standing in line for a while, waiting. So have snacks handy and be careful where you set your food. Some hungry kid might snatch it when you aren’t looking.
Two – the best times to go ride (if you are a serious SHREDDER) would be weekdays in the morning or early afternoon. Right before all the kiddies get there and rip the place to pieces inside and out!
Three – the earlier you get up to the hill on the weekend, the less time you waste standing in line. There are times where I have seen people waiting in line for an hour oh so trying to get a ticket. THAT LINE CAN GET OUTTA HAND!!
The truth is I enjoyed my time at Cannonsburg. But I will not lie, I also despised it to the core. The place is a blast with a wide range of features to choose from, beginner to advanced. Almost any rail you have ever dreamed of! Shit, they even have a tranny park. I know this might sting, but Cannonsburg is a bad but good version of Troll… At least for Michigan standards. Like I said, there is a “but.”
I chatted with some of the locals, visitors, and people who were around the Burg on the regular and logged numerous complaints. For example, how the parks had only been switched up a couple times that year (keep in mind the weather this season sucked), or that the maintenance on the parks and hill were not all too well. Personally, I could tell that things weren’t kept up as well as they could be. The tranny park looked like a busted water logged mini-ramp. It was disappointing. The tranny walls had quite a bit of oververt, and not to mention the take off and the landings to the hips looked like they hadn’t been tilled in ages. Should’ve brought a pair of ice skates! The rail parks were fun but slow. I couldn’t quite understand what was going on! I get that you guys want to put as many features in an area as possible but if it allows for no flow or capability to get speed what is the point? Also, the more sizeable features were not in line with the grade of the hill. Bigger features need a steeper incline. So many amazing features! And boy, are some of them fantastically built, but poor placement permits poor performance. Shout out to the Flanel Crew – they were working hard for those shots gathered for their last edit.
One more thing before I put this tale to rest. Please teach your park crew kids how to rake and build lips. No one wants to hit a lip that has the kick of a 30-foot booter. And if you till the hill before you guys open it wouldn’t be so hard. For a horrible excuse for a winter though, and a late opening, I will give them a big up for making things happen and creating some awesome stuff. Definitely go check out the Burg if you are in Grand Rapids MI. 6 out 10.
Never ever buy the eleven hour plane ticket because it’s cheaper. Sometimes cheaper means you will have more hell to pay in the end. I won’t speak on how unsatisfactory my transition from Portland to Detroit was. Let us start here instead, as I touched down in Detroit I realized that I had not prepared for how numbingly cold it was. COME ON it was damn near 25 degrees! I had heard tales of warmer weather through forms of pictures, videos, and word of mouth. Beginning to think badly on my decision to fly out that week the realization set in that “Hey bud – you are stuck here for the next two weeks so make the best of it”. Gathering my items I met up with a friend and we headed to Mt. Holly. I was greeted by my good friend and park crew manager Matt Ruhle (who might I add is a machine). He directed me where to get my pass, which was easily located and the person who assisted me with my ticket was very helpful. Hopped on the lift and became conscious of how frosty it was (make sure you bring the appropriate gear if your just cruising). My friend Paul Dobry uttered to me, “don’t worry boss they have a rope,” and I instantly became ok with freezing my ass off for minute or two.
Ripping down to get into the park was fun and fast, good ole icey ass Michigan, I looked around and saw some exciting things. The park was set up nicely with the constant thought of how rough the winter has been for these guys. I was thoroughly impressed! All the rails were set a good distance apart the lips were all built perfectly just about anyone could hit the rails skill level pending . You could tell the park crew cared about how their park rode. I mean they ride it day in and day out perfecting everything keeping everything looking crisp. Why shouldn’t they? I got a moment to talk to people who worked or were just out having a good time about how they thought the season had been. Some explained that even though it had been a rocky season they still made a good time out of it and enjoyed it just as much as other seasons past!
If you are ever in Michigan Mt. Holly is a good place to check out. From the rails, hospitality, and vibe of Mt. Holly I will give it a solid 7 out of 10 for the season. Hopefully next year Mother Nature will comply with Michigan’s demands and put out next season!