If you spent time living the snowboard bum lifestyle in Vail or Beaver Creek from in the early 2000s, you likely have heard of Log Masters. It was, and will be again, an underground freestyle snowboard competition centered around riding the natural features that our forests provide – fallen trees. We call it Logging. O.G. logger Brian “Wookie” Fleming gives us little history about how he got introduced to logging from Arizona to the Vail Valley and how Log Masters came to be.
Where it all Began
It was synonymous with learning how to turn, maybe even before. I had already been on a Snurfer, learned how to link turns on Mega Flex bindings, and was still borrowing boards. Jon Baiocchi, Noah, and even Tom Burt were grinding dead Pacific timber, the Creatures of Habits squad was charging saplings like pole jams – one into another like riding dominos that never fell. I had to get my own board, so I could destroy it. Destroy it real good!
Bear Mountain sliding benches escalated to the first park log ever. In February 1994, Mark “Scabz” Gabriel was featured on the cover of Transworld Snowboarding – front board off a witch’s finger. Skate Parks that went downhill for snowboarders only! This sport is gonna go somewhere, but not every resort was as accommodating to building this image. Lucky would be a light term. Flagstaff, Arizona offered the best of both worlds. Leaving sunny Southern California a week earlier than school started meant seven full days of snowboarding were in my immediate future.
It was so easy back in the day. Observe individual on snowboard, go say hello, be friends for life. It took a few days to meet everyone, but on day one I back-lipped an old gray tree. It had obviously been cut years before to avoid falling on the chairlift. This, my friends, was my initiation. I’m a logger, but Arizona got me just close enough to smell the sawdust in Colorado.
The AZP squad moved me to Colorado. I still claim it: I was told that when I moved to Colorado these logs called rainbows would be there. I moved to Colorado for bent trees – yep, you read that correctly. Bent trees. These turned out to be all natural works of art complete with names that depicted characteristics of hazard or glory. Through association, the biggest and baddest sticks were just everyday occurrences. Life or limb without a doubt. I thought to myself: The Global Superstars are doing this so here we go. Do what they’re doing or find new ones? New ones of course.
When Things Got Real
Vail was the epicenter of snowboarding for a while. The names seen on the daily was a little absurd. The search went on for new and more creative logs while the scene went to another grand location for a big money event. In the meantime, I was allocating every minute to enjoying the powder in between discoveries. The best lumber finds seemed to always be in obscure locations. These stayed the working man’s treat – especially for the woodsman who was usually on some sort of R&D Flowgram since boards were snapping like twigs. Logging definitely aided in making snowboards stronger. The woodsman who knew what he was doing held home court advantage and grew as a rider by delivering the goods when the superstars returned to the valley of giant lumber. Logs just ended up being where a freestyle rider wasn’t heckled or judged except by his peers.
Well just as most items that are found and not created, they either had integrity or came falling down as the snow melted. You win some and you lose some or you cheat and bring dead logs back to life. This was the beginning of the building years as good lumber was getting hard to find. So just grab a piece of dead wood, throw a lag bolt through the log and into the support, and let the snow do the rest. This technique worked to a level that allowed the sanctioning of log lines that appeared in the glades of Vail resort terrain parks.
The Dopewood Logs formed at Beaver Creek before all of this sanctioning ensued. Definitely a more Avant Guard approach than one would expect. These actually looked like the natural logs that were present in abundance. Vail followed suit a few years later on Golden Peak. Stephen Laterra took it a step further by cementing in supports and explaining this would keep snowboarders off the runs. Well of course Vail was receptive to that thought – until 2007 when they were all chopped down. The baffling part is that the Dopewood logs survived till the summer before 2015. I wasn’t to argue, cause someone over there was hanging in the shade.
This is where we flashback, until now nothing of any certainty had been muttered about Log Masters. What, who, where, when, why, wow, and of course win. You catching my drift? Underground from the beginning, except for the signs saying to stay off the logs or you’ll lose your pass (that was the first year), Log Masters was always meant to be a secret. Nobody at that time, as far as mountain personnel goes, even cared. Logs were just part of the culture so nothing was even noticed.
Handmade score sheets, zero credentials, and legendary lost documentation. This changed very quickly as I moved through college earning a Sports Marketing degree that I arguably already had from hosting this event for so many years. Soon enough the players, press, and powers that be, had it on the radar and I was squished right in the middle.
Nothing had fallen on anyone yet, but I saw the dominos being put in place. Cool can’t stay underground forever. Walking a thin line forced operations to be spread around. If I didn’t look like I was doing anything, then nothing must be happening. Infrastructure set and a small village of involvement concentrated on one common goal – act as if nothing was happening.
The course would pop up as quick as you could Priceline a flight, don’t forget about buying your lift ticket. You were in it to win at this point. Features that were on the edge runs were not marked until the first group arrived at the scene. Knowledge of mountain operation schedules become imperative. Moving around the mountain took a certain kind of planning, and it was working. Nighttime operations seemed to be the key as new logs would pop up overnight as if someone was in the woods till dawn. Well, maybe I was?
The course was never as threatening as the first few years as the mechanism of injury was inevitable with these types of logs. Eighteen of the biggest and baddest logs on the mountain. Yep, it was an endurance event and I wanted to see the event keep striding. Witnessing a few near tragedies and it was finally switched up. Gravity and speed were controlled – necessary changes for an event that was happening under the radar. But we kept with the times. Transfers, redirects, and pole jam mounting refreshed the game thus sparking more coverage. Then overnight I was gone.
Tagged as a facilitator, inventor of Log Masters, and documented by the National Forest Service for holding an unsanctioned event on Federal Land, I took the fall for a village worth of people’s efforts. Fourteen years of existence with twelve games being played. heads were turned, eyes were opened, and no one died. That’s called a success story in my book.
Carrying The Torch
Insert: The Bull of the Woods! Rogue event the year Log Masters came to a grinding halt. Second year on legendary snowboarder Jay Nelson’s property. Third year on Town of Breckenridge Property sanctioned and all. Amazing! Entirely different format allowing the rider to take freestyle to the next level of logging. Unlike Log Masters, which required every contestant to handle all 18 holes, BOTW shed players feature by feature until all the finalists were left. Arriving at the base of the first ever ski hill in Breckenridge history, the finalists abused parallel battleship style logs. The install, entertainment, and breakdown were impressive. I have full faith this event will return and bully some logs around soon.
The fact is that BOTW had to of influenced the Bonezone at Brighton. The look and timing is too close, but Utah had a big influence on me as well. Sliding the gigantic logs that separated the Quad Chair from the parking lot at Brighton or the Mother Jib at Snowbird. Terrain parks just were not as present then as they are today – riders had to be more creative and less caring of board condition. This was the early nineties, I had no money, but wasn’t going to let that stop me. I thought to myself: Another board will come along somehow.
The Wild Weston
Back in present day Colorado, Weston Snowboards entered my picture four years ago. Deck designed to reap full advantage of nature’s offerings. How do I get over there? What’s in those trees? Oh, you should see what I found! The deep dark timbers are where loggers found their fortune. Today its hidden turns, mystery transitions, and the precious seed gone bad with a unique shape for rawness. Weston Snowboards are designed to back this culture of environmentally-influenced fun.
Possibly the first DIY event ever held on resort property goes legit! This course will be a tribute to the best log line in America. Some natural disasters, combined with a few desires, will instigate this culture once more. Based on golf rules and the original idea of just completing the entire log, Log Masters pays homage to a simpler but more reckless time in snowboarding.
The par three scoring system sets the amount of attempts it should take to 50/50 any of the eighteen features. 50/50 the entire length and receive the number sequence attempt as your score. Achieving this on the third attempt would result in a score of three, or par. Remember that the lowest score at the end of all eighteen will be the winner.
Board sliding backside or frontside through a targeted zone will allow the player to remove one attempt from the sequence upon completion. Cleaning the feature in this manner on the second attempt would score one. Similar to a hole-in-one for golf, the player receives one and continues to next feature.
Incentives for mounting a log switch means a reduction in points which will come in handy later – especially around hole 15. If board slide or reverting back to normal happens? Switch rewards will still apply upon completion. Playing a feature switch on attempt one allows for the only chance to reduce the player’s score. During the player’s first attempt he rides the entire log switch. This allows subtracting two from the successful first attempt. The result actually subtracts one from the current score rather than adding to it. Thus, lowering the player’s current status while progressing forward.
Failure to complete the feature results in a score of one over par. Players who do not attempt all three tries are penalized by a score of two over par. These results add either four or five points to the player’s score. Lowest score wins and the pendulum can swing by six strokes per hole.
Bring It Home
As an homage to the Masters of golf, the winner is adorned a custom-decorated green blazer, some greenbacks, and a sweet log trophy to commemorate the achievement. The very first game of Log Masters was played on the final day of the Masters golf tournament in April 2001. The inaugural event through to final 2013 extravaganza produced the most condensed logging ever witnessed. Players and spectators’ cheers could be heard from hundreds of yards away. These friendly players were always at each other’s sides, not their necks. You versus the course is how it goes. So, when the chance comes to play, don’t be intimidated. Go at it switch, clean every log, record a negative eighteen, and receive more golf claps than imaginable while being celebrated in a culture that has been around as long as the board itself. Game on!