Snowboarder Forrest Shearer Is Loving -- and Working to Save -- the Backcountry

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How has focusing on backcountry riding, going to some of the most remote places in the world, affected your outlook on the environment and the sport of snowboarding?

Let’s start with the environment. It’s allowed me personally to think of the bigger picture. Going out to the backcountry it’s a lot slower pace than when you’re on the chairlifts—or a helicopter, where you get to literally fly by everything and get to the top of the mountain, and you just drop in. When you’re hiking in the backcountry you’re that much closer to your surroundings. You’re taking it all in, breathing in the trees and the mountains and the snow. You’re seeing a lot of what’s happening with the weather, the snowpack. Your senses are a lot more connected.

Then, with snowboarding, it’s a way to open up this whole next level, a door to a whole other realm of being. In snowboarding right now, big mountain snowboarding has always been there but it hasn’t been such a popular deal for everyone. In today’s bigger picture, the X-Games, which are more of a younger-generation deal. A lot of the bigger companies have sort of written off, if you’re over 20. They aren’t really interested in you anymore. They are focused on getting people into snowboarding, getting them into the extreme part of it, drinking Red Bull or Monster. Snowboarding in the backcountry has opened up this whole next stage for me. A lot of people grow up going to the snowboard park and the resort, and at some point you sort of grow out of that. For me it’s been able to open up a whole other level of longevity to my riding — powder for instance — that’s much easier going on my body.

How did you make the leap from being just a snowboarder to be an environmental advocate?

It manifested. It wasn’t an exact changing point. My dad’s an environmental scientist, so I was always brought up aware of what’s going on, having a consciousness about thinking about how what you’re doing affects yourself and others around you. I’ve always ridden for environmentally friendly sponsors, including Patagonia, Jones Snowboards, Clifbar, Sanuk, Poc, and Black Diamond. That’s been an important thing for me: When you’re endorsing something, thinking about it in the long term, do you really believe in it?

Do you think the action sports industry is evolving to address environmental concerns more?

The surf industry is probably the most well developed, compared to snowboarding or skateboarding. They’ve seen the outcome from their sport, manufacturing, and the apparel business.

There was a foam business, called Clark Foam that was [one of the] original manufacturers of the foam that you make surfboards out of. About eight years ago, they closed up shop — it was some sort of regulation in the making of the foam. People sort of freaked out because they didn’t know where else to get foam to make their surfboards anymore. When something like that happens, it makes you stop and think, “How can I do what I want to do and make it environmentally friendly?”

For snowboarding, that’s where we are right now. Surfing is [at a place where] it’s like it has graduated college, while snowboarding is just graduating high school and moving on the next level, to where we’re developed. There are so many more aspects of the sport; for example, split boarding is getting cool and the backcountry has become more popular. There’s no longer just one discipline.

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