They call them High Rollers for a reason, and it’s not because they’re hanging out in the casinos. It’s what they’re doing above them that grabs attention.
From the US Ski Team to the guy who tests the new 60-foot kicker, the Heavenly High Roller team is pushing the boundaries of sanity every day in South Tahoe’s backyard. If they aren’t household names already, they’re on the way. Sho Kashima, Kyle Smaine, Justin Morgan, Joanna Dzierzawski, Natalie Vitalie, Scottie Hoffman, Brent Whipple, Chris Geisen and Nick Geisen go big no matter what the venue.
They answered a few questions about what they’ve learned, what they’ve seen and what drives them. So take a second and get to know the pros from the South Tahoe hood.
Joanna “PNut” Dzierzawski
She might be small, hence the nickname PNut, but Dzierzawski goes big. This little lady hits the big boys jumps with the best of them.
Riding background: I tried snowboarding for the first time when I was 12, but my dad wanted me to ski first if I wanted to snowboard. When I was 18 I moved to Tahoe and learned to ride.
Favorite trick: Backside 180
Riding tunes: Usually dance-type music
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I’m 100 percent Polish, and English is my second language.
Most memorable moment on the mountain: I was in total shock and so happy when I won the Grand Prix.
Weirdest or scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the mountain? In Mount Hood this summer we rolled up on a poor little ski racer girl who was knocked out and her leg wasn’t where it was supposed to be.
Do you like riding competitions or are they just part of the gig? I enjoy competing. It makes me hit features that I probably wouldn’t hit otherwise. It pushes me to try new things.
What do you tell yourself before a competition? It’s just another fun day on the mountain with friends.
Best lesson you’ve learned in this industry? Just have fun because in the competition world, life isn’t fair.
Scottie “Banger” Hoffman
Hoffman has been gaining momentum in the Tahoe snowboard scene. From pioneer sweet snowboard videos to sweeping rail jams, Hoffman is on his way to becoming a household name.
Favorite trick: Double twist
New trick you want to perfect this season: Quadruple cork
Riding tunes: I listen to my board carving the snow.
Best concert you’ve ever been to: SnowGlobe
What would people be surprised to learn about you? That I love fishing
If you could have one superpower what would it be? To freeze people in mid air
What’s your spirit animal? The wolf
What do you tell yourself before a competition? Let’s do this.
If you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and who would you take? I would go to Alaska and take a videographer.
Favorite snow movie and why? Any of the TransWorld or Forum videos are on point.
If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be and what would you ask them? Denzel Washington, I’d ask him if he would snowboard with me.
Who do you think is the best rider in Tahoe right now and why? I am the best rider in Tahoe… Duh… Just kidding. Mark Hoit is an incredible rider. Mark is positive, stoked, and throws down so hard.
If someone were cooking you dinner, what would you want them to make? Steak and potatoes.
Favorite drink and favorite Tahoe bar? Racer 5 and Classic Cue has great food and drinks.
Favorite Tahoe non-riding related activity? Mini Golf
What’s the one sport you’ve always wanted to master? Sledding
What do you gain from riding? Good health and exercise, beautiful views and memorable moments
This US Ski Team member eats moguls for breakfast and makes it look tasty. Kashima recently recovered from a second knee surgery and is regaining momentum for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Favorite trick: Cork 720.
Skiing background: 22 years, seven years on the US Ski Team.
New trick you want to perfect this season: Cork 1080.
Riding tunes: Mostly hip-hop, young Jeezy, some metal thrown in there, and battle music like Vangelis.
Best concert you’ve ever been to? Boston and Styx, in Boston.
Superstitions? Are stupid…. just obstacles that hinder top performance.
If you could have one superpower what would it be and why? Unlimited energy and focus; I would be unstoppable at everything.
What’s your spirit animal? Honey badger. It takes a lot to bother me.
What’s your most memorable moment on the mountain? The main thing that got me here, a hardworking, single Mom.
Weirdest or scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the mountain? Skiers in thongs. I’ll let you figure out if that’s weird or scary.
Do you like riding competitions or are they just part of the gig? One of my favorite parts of skiing. They’re the pursuit of improving and showcasing it in a competition keeps me coming back for more. Also, having the chance to represent my entire country at one of them really intrigues me.
What do you tell yourself to push yourself? Too much repetition gets old, learning new tricks keeps it fresh. Fun over fear.
Best lesson you’ve learned in this industry? The most important lessons in life usually come from awful situations.
Best advice for the groms? Find something to do that you’re passionate about. Productivity is at its max when you have your heart behind it.
What do you tell yourself before a competition? The quality of my offseason preparation won’t leave me asking myself if I’m ready.
Justin “J-Dubs” Morgan
Trade: Ski-board (just kidding). I snowboard on the weekends and during Christmas.
Years riding: 13
Specialty: Jumps and rails.
Favorite trick: Back one nose off a huge jump.
New trick you want to perfect this season? Backside double 12′
Riding tunes: Macklemore, Electric Guest, T.I., Rick Ross
What’s your spirit animal and why? An Eagle, they fly, one-of-a-kind endangered species, always on point.
What’s your most memorable moment on the mountain? The most memorable moment I have of riding was with my friends growing up in New York, we used to ride a small, family operated mountain in the Adirondacks. We would always come up with new ideas and the whole mountain was like our terrain park.
What do you tell yourself before a competition? Win or lose, it’s a course that would have taken me four months to build with a shovel.
Favorite snow movie? Afterlame, a true classic. Oh, and Out Cold.
If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be and what would you ask them? Tim Tebow, his documentary was very inspiring and his work ethic is something I look up too, even if the Jets never played him.
Who do you think is the best rider in Tahoe right now and why? Chas Guldemond by far.
If you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and who would you take? I would go to Greece for a bit and take all the Victoria’s Secret models.
Best lesson you’ve learned in this industry? Be yourself and ride for yourself, work hard, be smart. Have an open mind. When failure presents itself, keep pushing.
Lately Smaine’s name has become synonymous with Banzai domination, but the 21-year-old is also a top finisher in national contests. He is a possible candidate for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi Russia for halfpipe.
Riding background: Grew up in South Lake Tahoe ski racing for the Heavenly Foundation. I always had a love for catching air and doing tricks so when I was 17 I quit ski racing and focused only on park and pipe
Favorite trick: Screamin’ Seamen
New trick you want to perfect this season: Both way double corks
What would people be surprised to learn about you: I also know how to snowboard
Superpower of choice? Teleportation. I would never have to pay for another plane ticket or stand in a lift line ever again. I could also sleep at home or in some house on the beach and then wake up and go anywhere in the world at will. It’s the only logical choice for a superpower.
Weirdest or scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the mountain? Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on the mountain was when Walter Wood tried a double flip in the halfpipe while wearing only a thong.
What do you tell yourself to push past the fear of hitting something big or trying something new? I just focus on the trick and visualize. If I don’t want to learn the trick I wouldn’t do it anyway so I don’t have too much of a struggle getting past the fear of committing to new maneuvers.
Best lesson you’ve learned in this industry? I’ve learned that networking and treating everyone with respect is crucial in life. Treating people well will get you further in life than anything else you can do, including school.
If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be and what would you ask them? Sarah Burke – Does she have any regrets and is there anything else she wishes she could have accomplished in her life.
Who do you think is the best rider in Tahoe right now and why? Nick Poohachof, I grew up shredding with him. His style and ability are astonishing.
This 20-year-old is on her way to the top. She placed second at the X Games rail jam in January.
Background: I’ve been snowboarding since I was 14. Once I got my drivers license, I would forget about school and drive up to the mountains from the Bay Area.
Riding tunes: Elvis Presley Radio on Pandora
What do most people not know about you? I am a huge nerd and love to play Xbox. I also play guitar and drums.
Superpower of choice? I would want would have to be invisibility. That could be fun.
What do you tell yourself before a competition? I go through all the tricks I am going to do, and I continuously tell myself “I got this.”
Favorite snowboard movie? Winter Wars because all the female riders give you that stoked feeling to hurry up and get back on the mountain to progress.
Most influential rider? Kimmy Fasani is the rider that has the biggest influence on me. She has the best attitude.
What someone were cooking you dinner what should it be? Some delicious Italian food.
What has this best thing you’ve learned in this industry? Confidence is key and always having a positive attitude will make your riding that much better.
Whipple grew up on the east, came out to Tahoe, and has been riding Heavenly for the past four years and loving it.
Specialty: Park and rails.
Favorite trick: Switch misty 7
New trick you want to perfect this season? Doubles.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I do things other than ski, just very rarely.
If you could have one superpower what would it be and why? To be able to rewind time so I could never get hurt and do things over.
Weirdest or scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the mountain? I wasn’t on a ski mountain, but two bears terrorized some friends and me one night in the summer for our graham crackers.
Best advice for the groms? Don’t huck huge tricks until you’re ready. Stay healthy.
Favorite snow movie and why? Any of the Stept movies, their level of urban riding is insane.
Who do you think is the best rider in Tahoe right now and why? I think the best rider in Tahoe right now is Kyle Smaine. He is insanely technical in not only park skiing, but pipe, big mountain, and just skiing in general.
Favorite Tahoe activity non-riding related? Battle tubing, the most intense summer sport.
Riding can be tough on the body, so what keeps you coming back? The feeling of going big or landing something new never gets old.
Riding background: My first love is skateboarding; my outlook on snowboard style is influenced by my skating.
Favorite trick: The trick that will stand the test of time – The Method.
New trick you want to perfect this season: There is always a way to make your backside 180 a little more steezy.
Riding tunes: Cruising with a crew. I listen to vibe of the mountain and friends. Otherwise, it’s my homeboy Tupac.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? It might be because I am skinny, but I’m not that fond of the cold.
What’s your most memorable moment on the mountain? First day on a snowboard with my twin brother, Chris. We both did Methods.
Do you like riding competitions or are they just part of the gig? I grew up with a twin, it was a fight to the last cookie.
Best lesson you’ve learned in this industry? The ABS, Always Be Smiling.
Best advice for the groms? Follow your heart and do what you love.
If someone was cooking you dinner, what would you want them to make? My girlfriend makes the best sandwiches on this side of the Mississippi.
What do you gain from riding? Snowboarding to me is my escape from the real world. I find a sense of serenity in the chaos.
Riding background: Grew up riding in Virginia, all fake snow and very icy. That is how I acquired such fluid edge control.
Favorite trick: Backside 540 Stalefish
New trick you want to perfect this season: I want to go 100 mph on a snowboard. Is that a trick?
Superstitions: I can’t ride unless my socks are on perfect, any creases and it’s going to be a bad day.
Weirdest or scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the mountain? My first real big mountain line at Squaw.
What do you tell yourself to push past the fear of hitting something big or trying something new? I usually let my twin judge the risks.
Best advice for the groms? Learn to control the board. Do not let the board control you.
If you’re not riding what are you most likely doing? Praying for snow
Favorite drink: White Russian.
Favorite Tahoe activity non-riding related: Girls
What do you gain from riding? Freedom and confidence away from the daily grind of what people think life is supposed to be.