Noah Salasnek, snowboarding icon, passes away

On Wednesday, Noah Salasnek — one of the most influential and iconic snowboarders from the sport’s early days — passed away following a prolonged battle with liver cancer.

Sad news about the passing of Noah Salasnek today. Few riders have influenced so many aspects of snowboarding. I met him when I was a grovelling grom in an Alaskan parking lot. He was at the peak of his career and was in the midst of redefining the boundaries of big mountain riding but still took time to pass down his knowledge to me. He was full of life, charisma and wit. The life of the party and captain of the ship but still down to earth. This is the Noah I choose to remember. Thanks for showing us what is possible in the mountains. Up until Super Spines we did not know spines were rideable. I consider it the single biggest breakthrough in Alaskan snowboarding and skiing. 📷 @seddys_snapshots #superspines #noahsalasnek #standardfilms 🙏

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It is hard to adequately put into words just how important Salasnek was in bringing skateboarding style into snowboarding during the latter’s infancy in the early 90s.

As SNOWBOARDER put it, “In 1991, Noah Salasnek appeared in Mack Dawg’s seminal release New Kids on the Twock, and on slopes across the globe, skate-style mania quickly spread. While the majority of riders still liken themselves to skaters to this day, Noah was the real deal.”

Salasnek was ultimately a skateboarder at heart — the Marin County, California, native already had an H-Street Skateboards pro model before transitioning to snowboarding — and so it only made sense that, once he signed with SIMS Snowboards, his first pro model board for the 1993-1994 season sported a graphic featuring skate trucks. It remains one of the most revered pro models ever issued.

After bringing skate style to the snowboarding scene, Salasnek sought out big-mountain terrain in the mid-90s, sending huge tricks off spines and using his technical prowess to be a harbinger of the advent of the freeriding movement before anybody even knew what the term “freeriding” meant.

“No snowboarder has had as wide ranging of an influence on the sport as Noah,” big-mountain pioneer Jeremy Jones told TRANSWORLD SNOWBOARDING about Salasnek last year. “He was the first to bring true skate style to freestyle, then freestyle into freeriding and finally freeriding to spines … At that point we considered them unrideable. Since then both sports have been on the search for dream spine walls.”

“The news yesterday was shi**y,” Pat Bridges, SNOWBOARDER’s creative director, told GrindTV. “It’s easy to say Salasnek was ahead of his time, but when you look at his legacy it really cements that notion.”

“You look at riders today like Jake Blauvelt who are celebrated for linking tricks in the backcountry and bringing freestyle out of bounds,” Bridges continued. “Nobody was doing that in the ’90s when Noah decided to do it, and now 15-20 years later, riders are still aspiring to what he was doing. That’s what makes what Noah was doing two decades ago such an anomaly.”

According to Bridges, not only was Salasnek way ahead of his time, but his very presence in snowboarding brought more eyes to the sport.

“He legitimized snowboarding,” Bridges said. “He was a pro skater — and at the time snowboarding was the redheaded stepchild of board sports, with skateboarders really looking down on us. But Salasnek said, ‘Fu** that, I’ll become a pro snowboarder.’ It really justified what we were doing and got rid of a lot of the condescension.”

Bridges also says that, for Salasnek to leave park contests behind when the sport was growing in the ’90s to hunt big-mountain locations, was a brave and ultimately thankless endeavor.

“Going into freeriding set him on a different track. An outlier path,” Bridges told GrindTV. “For one of the most celebrated freestylers to take it in a new direction that wasn’t as celebrated, that was a brave thing to do, and one that he didn’t get the proper recognition for until decades later.”

#FuckCancer. RIP Salas, hope the pain is gone wherever you are.

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When asked whether he thought it was possible for a snowboarder today to have the same impact on the sport that Salasnek did in his era, Bridges was doubtful.

“It’s hard to say whether or not Salasnek coming up today would be as ubiquitously admired,” Bridges said. “He was someone who could do it all when nobody else could. Today, all the feeds are so clogged, but back then there weren’t that many snowboarders, and even fewer doing what he did. It’d be hard to really come along and monopolize the zeitgeist of the sport like he did back then.”

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