“Have you met Martin yet?” There was excitement in her voice when she asked. It was the same tonality of someone who is about to recommend their favorite movie or restaurant. Gwenie and I had met for the first time that morning at Snowbird for a photoshoot. The two of us got to know each other between shots. Gwenie had an aura of authenticity that caused me to break down my sense of vulnerability and share some layers about myself that I thought noteworthy. Throughout the conversations the parallels between myself and this Martin character had become so abundant she had to mention him.
At that point, I was working in Park City Mountain's rental shop where I felt my individualism embraced in a collective of fellow snow enthusiasts. I was one of many males that worked there, but only one of three black employees - and the only bald employee whose full-time job is as a flight attendant. A very specific collection of traits that seemed to fit only me like the swirls on my fingerprints.
"I don’t think I’ve met him,” I responded.
“He’s about this tall,” she holds her hand above her height of 5’2”, “Works at Park City, he’s black, bald, a flight attendant…” For a moment I think she’s confused and describing me to me.
“… and speaks in a British accent," she adds "He used to race pro” Not me. A cooler version of me. One who at some point bombed down a competition slalom run then ordered a victory drink -shaken not stirred. I hadn’t met him, but I wanted to.
After a series of text messages, Martin and I were finally able to lock down a day to meet. Waiting at the top of Crescent Express, dressed in all black like Johnny Cash (I know he’d prefer Darth Vader), was Martin. After a fist bump his eyes landed on my board which he not only identified the manufacturer and shape but also the sidecut. While on the outside I kept as cool as the cold weather we were in, my mind began picking out best friend bracelets.
Martin gestured towards the run in front of us and suggested we ride it to Silverlode Lift. The two of us cruised and Martin came in and out of my field of vision, disappearing from my left only to reappear on my right. We reconvene at the lift, make small talk on the ride up and again cruise down. On our third trip downward Martin declared, “I’ve got it” he then secured his phone and for the first time I saw Martin’s back as he leaves a trail of cold smoke behind.
We reconvened inside Miner’s Camp. While those around us were feeding their bodies with hot food, Martin began feeding my skills with his experience. While we were riding, Martin had been filming me on Coaches Eye, a technology that had just become available to the instructors at Park City Mountain. Together we watched as I linked turns on his iPhone’s screen. Martin would stop the recording and point out where my body should be positioned for better riding. His finger made arrows and circles on the screen like an ESPN breakdown. Coaches Eye recorded his breakdown of my riding and stored it as a video file he shared with me to digest again later. He’d had my attention, then he had my curiosity.
Riding with Martin became such a staple in my season, it was given the name, “Martin Mondays” by my partner and me. Upon meeting my partner for the first time, Martin gave her the same kindness he gave me; dissecting her riding and directing her improvement. Little by little, week by week we got to know Martin more. One of the biggest surprises came as he recounted an area he’d taken a client.
He said, ‘you have to take it easy on me! I’ve just turned 40!’ Martin laughs then says, “I can’t even remember my 40’s!”. A bit puzzled, this declaration provoked us to ask his age....“I’m 60.”
This changed things. To that point, we had assumed Martin’s age to be closer to ours. We assumed Martin, like us, remembers the transition from bulky TVs to flat screens and both Aunt Vivians on Fresh Prince. He remembers those and much much more. After learning his age, our lift chats always included a little Martin history.
As a kid in the 70’s, Martin and his lifelong friend Paul partook in slalom skateboarding. Without understanding that what they were doing had a name, the two would collect cans at their separate schools then weave between them on their skateboards. On a lark, the two entered a slalom skateboarding competition in which they took first and second place as national champions. Naturally, the two went on to race pro from that day on and eventually became world champions with their own pro model skateboards. In 1985, Martin tried snowboarding for the first time in the alps. His passion for the sport and his knack for teaching led him to become an instructor in 1987. During his time as an instructor in Europe, Martin helped write the manual for British Snowboarding.
In 1999, Martin began splitting his years between Park City and France. During the winters he instructed in Utah then he returned to the glaciers of the Alps to prolong his snowboarding seasons. Paul was eventually coaxed to join Martin in the Wasatch (on an occasional Martin Monday, Paul would join. Sitting between the Brits on the chairlift made us feel like the Beatles. (I’m clearly Ringo).
“You know, he has a Guinness World Record.” Gwenie tells me months into knowing Martin. This fact never comes up. Nor the number of podiums he or Paul have topped nor the sponsors acquired. To date, I’m still unsure how much of the silence is humility, an ability to be present or a reshuffling of their priorities. Instead, we’re more likely to discuss food options (Taste of Thai is a favorite), board shapes, possible snowfall, Martin’s beautiful family (his wife Julie and their daughter Maya) or Veganism.
Since 2019, Martin has eaten a vegan diet. Early on, I suspected maybe this was the key to how a (then) 60 year old could gracefully descend the slopes with demonic speeds. “My blood pressure dropped, my cholesterol dropped off the charts, I lost 24 pounds and I have much more energy. Enough to ride all day flat out!” he noted when his diet first came up. His riding isn’t the only thing that’s flat, at 60 Martin has a six pack. There are other vegans I know, and they’re not riding like Martin. I accepted the answer for a while until our most recent conversation gave me a better one.
“I still have a lot of enthusiasm for snowboarding. I’ve never lost it” Martin’s words gave off light as he spoke, “it gives me a feeling nothing else does.”
On the day we met, Martin gave me a free lesson. When I asked why he said, “I can’t help myself. If there’s a way I can help someone enjoy this sport more, I should tell them.”
On the countless chair rides we shared, Martin wasn’t looking at winters past with glossy eyes that overlooked the winter we were in. When we discussed the innovations in snowboarding, Martin wasn’t a curmudgeon but an optimist. Snow has the ability to reset the world around us, blanketing everything in white. I believe snowboarding has managed to keep Martin a young (now) 61 years old.
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