Mike Estes is a true Oregon legend. He’s been in the Beaver State since before most of you were born, he’s been actively involved in Oregon snowboarding and and the snowboard scene since a chance meeting at Timberline with Tom Sims in 1985, and he’s never been one to hold his tongue to save face. These days he’s a bonafide grown up with real responsibilities, but he has not even come close to losing the rabble-rousing spirit, which has kept him firmly all up in the mix for so long. The man has no shortage of stories to tell, so crack a cold one and read up on a few of his favorites.
How long have you been riding at Mt. Hood? Were you one of the first snowboarders ever to ride the lifts?
I moved to Welches, Oregon in 1974 from San Diego. Reason for my parents migration was I had severe allergies as a child. Looking for work, my Mom discovered the local ski resort Ski Bowl and was hired to sell lift tickets. Being her son, I always had a seasons pass. I can fondly remembering (being a diehard ski racer at the time) watching a local kid from my school on a powder day snowboarding under the chairlift. His movements were very surfer-like and I immediately thought it was ‘cool.’ Later that summer, I was a graveyard janitor at Timberline Lodge when I saw Dave ‘The Weave’ Weaver and the late Tom Sims walking to their rooms. I immediately ran up to them and excitedly asked why they were here. Tom’s reply was simple, “We’re here to test our new boards!” and followed it up with, “Wanna try one?” Mind you all I wasn’t prepared for snowboarding as it was summertime. Tom tore apart his insulated sleeping pad and made my sneakers into a boot. I rode that day. I didn’t ride well, but it was 1985.
How many seasons passes have you had?
Up until three years ago, I had a pass every year of my life and I’ve saved a few. I left a couple behind with my beloved dog “Rossi” who is buried in Welches that I imagine will surface someday. Season Passes literally chronicle my whole life. Now I pay for $99 passes on March 1st and gladly add them to my collection.
How many pro models did you have?
I had 3 models with Barfoot Snowboards, the first two I had literally no say in anything- on the third I stomped my foot around and acted like a baby to get my own input- I was allowed to then go to my friends at Powell Peralta (MC Brad Jay, Mike Taylor and Rob Washburn) and they introduced me to the great John Keister who did my Bounty Hunter Spaceman graphic. It took me a full year to land on Luxury Snowboards, which was owned by Paul Culling. Paul and I were inseparable. We put together a group of riders that influenced the Canadian generations. John Stewart drew my ‘Pepsi’ graphics and I have absolutely no clue who drew my last graphic. But, I loan that board out to Mika Osterhaus now and then and she swears it’s her favorite board, but she has a Lib Tech TRS now, so it’s hard for me to believe.
How did your first pro model in 1991 come about? Something to do with a handrail in Japan?
During my trip to Hokkaido Japan in 1989, I was coming off the hill and a huge group of influential Japanese were walking. I rode past them and jumped onto a wooden handrail that was about 25ft long. Once I came off I heard them go crazy and shouting. I never really thought much of it. When I got back home to the USA, Chuck Barfoot calls me up and just can’t stop talking about this ‘handrail’ I did in Japan. “Mike, what did you do?!?” Chuck says to me. “I just jumped onto a wooden rail Chuck, why?” He explains that nobody would do that and I almost got in trouble for it. But that Japan wants a ‘pro model’ with your name on it. I was blown away. I wasn’t given any creative input on the first two models. So it was a strange achievement. And it was handed to me a year later in Las Vegas at SIA. I had to act excited and grateful for it, I truly am grateful for them, my only regret is not having input in them. Scott Starr also had allot to do with this achievement, he was Barfoot’s photographer and artist. He would tirelessly work with me to get the right shot. He’s a person whom I think of often. He is currently suffering from Menaires Disease and its my dream to get one more photo shoot with him.
What was it like being a professional snowboarder in the early 90s? Fondest memory?
It was unknown territory. Nobody knew anything. We created our own scenes. I have memories of surrounding myself with photographers. Photographers made a rider money. Photographers where the ones talking to the magazines. I would literally go out of my way to meet photographers. I’ve been very fortunate to work closely with Chris Brunkhart, Rob Gracie and Scott Starr. Chris passed away two days ago and I’m still struggling with that news. Seems that the older you get- the more things become sentimental. Cancer is the most ugliest element we face in this world.
Fondest memory would be being in a car with Rob Morrow and maching up to Blue River BC to ride helicopters and film with Ken Achenbach. On the way home we hit Vancouver BC and saw the very last ‘Pixies’ show at the Commodore. I also remember watching Primus play at Boarding For Breast Cancer at Sierra at Tahoe in the pouring rain and even though the guys were getting electrocuted they kept playing for us. Or that time I stopped Mike Ness from beating some idiots ass in the Meadows Lodge during another ‘Vegetate.’ I think saving 9 peoples lives during my lifetime from death’s grip is going to stick with me the most. Hearing a human suck in air when they are blue in the face is something unreal. Ride with a friend folks- this is not to be taken lightly. I keep my eyes on you, for a reason.
How did the summer snowboard camps on Mt. Hood start?
In 1985 I saw summer ski campers, non-stop come from all over the world to chase sticks. One of the most instrumental men in my life, a guy named John Hartung, who owned the original Portland skate shop called “Rebel Skates” on NW 21st and Davis, walked up to me one day at Timberline Lodge and asked JJ Irwin to visit the shop. We walked in and immediately was met with a core group of skaters. We got a ‘sponsored’ basically and during the spring, a fellow Portland retailer called ‘Cal Skates’ hosted a fun event at Timberline Lodge. While John was there supporting a gang of riders, we both brainstormed the ‘Rebel Boarding School’ and we made up a brochure. Our very first camper was Jubal Reynolds. A guy I very much love to see and hope is doing well. While I was at the World Championships at Breckenridge that spring- I made the mistake of endorsing Tim Windell and invited Tim to come coach with me. This mistake I will take full responsibility for because at the time, I honestly thought he was a good person. I learned many years later that he suffers from serious jealousy and can act like a child an the drop of a hat. When the Bones Wheels team recently visited his campus, that was reassuring he is still having problems. Like the time he took a gun into the Oregon City courthouse. Real clear thinker here. He takes credit for starting summer camps- that is wrong. Chris Karol deserves more credit in starting camps before Tim.
Top 3 Tim Windell moments.
Oh Yobeat- you could add ‘zero’s’ to this……
#3 That time he was driving down why 26 from Son Village (a former site of the camp that was a juvenile detention center) and he drops two huge piles of his ‘precious’ wooden’ ramp that was built and rebuilt for 12 long years.
#2 That time he threw a huge rock through the window of Chris Pappas’ car for waking him up too early in the morning. Or that one ‘digger’ who got fired on the first day for peeing on another ‘digger.’
#1 moment for me, was when he threw a beer in my wife’s face and he ran from me screaming like a little girl. Hours later showing up at my house apologizing trying to hand me steaks and food from his end of the summer staff party. I actually kept working for Tim a few times when he was in a jam- I love coaching. I created the Van’s Learn To Skate book when I was kicked off the hill and I focused 100% on teaching kids to skate. Developing skate lessons for girls and now look at Windell’s skate program, it’s blown up. Windell has used so many people to get where he is- the list is mesmerizing. Now it’s a skiers camp. They don’t know what they signed up for…..hehe
Did you really teach Terje to drive?
I had this sweet 1985 Subaru, it was the envy car of snowboarding at the time. On demand 4WD and goes through snow storms with ease. I’m in Whistler and Terje walks up to me. I’m walking to my car and he just tags along- as we get closer- he goes nuts, grabs my keys and takes the driver side. I’m like, OK, the kid wants to drive. He got the car started and thats when he confesses. ‘I don’t know how to use this stick,’ he says. We goof off and the parking lot is massive, so I let him drive around. My roommate is the King of Roller-skates Jimi Scott, he doesn’t have a drivers license, hated the thought of having one. He somehow gets my keys, convinces Terje to drive him to the store. Yeah- my clutch was a little goofy when I got the car back. I just wish he would follow me back on Instagram!
Why did you get banned from summer camp and how was Bryan Iguchi involved?
Oh yeah, this story. Untold to the masses. My version. Typical Mt Hood Summer day. Halfpipe session on a newly salted pipe just beginning to get under underway. I took a run and was walking back up. (yeah kiddies, we hiked our asses off after hand shaping those beasts) when Bryan Iguchi dropped in and over rotated a BS540, or a BS Air. He hit the flat bottom and immediately yelled in pain breaking is collar bone. I jumped in to help him. Ski Patrol arrives and it’s not the ‘Pro’ patrol. It’s the volunteers. I kinda had a grudge against the volunteer ski patroller growing up. So I kept watching the guy, pointing out his mistakes. Once he loads Bryan into the meat wagon- he leaves his should unsupported and hanging off the toboggan. I start yelling at the guy his incompetence. We start toeing up for a brawl. Another patroller intervenes and I’m told to pack it and get to the lodge. I was met at the parking lot by the Mtn Mgr Camille Pearce who wasn’t going to hear a word from me and stated I was banned from returning to the Palmer Glacier for one year. Thanks Camille! Glad you’re not around anymore………I have massive respect for Steve Kruse, if he was unhappy with me, I would be listening. His voice has meaning to me. He knows me like his own kids. He is one guy I would hate to disappoint.
Tell me about Duckboy and Craig Kelly getting arrested at June mountain. How did you escape the fuzz? Or did you?
This is like the greatest day snowboarding for anyone. All your heroes ripping a section of mountain that apparently hasn’t opened in multiple years. A world class group of clowns arrive. Yeah, I was with Craig and Kieth moments before they quickly climbed up on top of the roof at June Mountain. I can remember the boyish smiles on both their faces as they assisted each other up the railing and on to the roof. Carefully strapping in they both started getting too much attention and hastily strapped up. I wanted so badly to go- if you saw that terrain, all that powder and the sunset going down. You would have these thoughts. I can remember stepping off the Quad Mono Chair (cube) thingy and seeing the California Highway Patrol talking to Craig and Keith. One of the rare moments I wasn’t involved.
Tell me about the time you lost $1500 from Japan and found it in a dump truck in Oregon City.
I was going to Japan a lot. During my trips the distributor would always get me to a contest as well and numerous shop visits to meet folks. One particular trip I actually won a halfpipe contest against Jon ‘Boy Air’ Boyer and pocketed $1800 in cash. When I flew 14 hours home I was delirious and my then girlfriend was really upset at losing a loved one. I took her to eat McDonalds and we drove home to Government Camp. I threw my wallet and all the garbage in the dumpster. Next morning, couldn’t seem to find my wallet. I searched. I searched. I began to panic. Yep. Panicking. I retraced my steps to the dumpster- oh that was just picked up by a dump truck. I stop the driver and tell him what I did. He says to meet him at the Oregon City refuge place at ‘X’ time. I’m there- with a couple friends and I dress them up in my gear to ruin. I talk to the driver, he points out where I need to watch when he pushes it out. As this massive amount of garbage is being forced out, it splits. Right there, next a bag of McDonald’s garbage is my blue ‘Billabong’ wallet. I jump into the center, grab my wallet and jump to the other side- to the disbelief of everyone I tip the driver a $100 and took my friends shopping!
Tell me about the time you were denied entry to Vegetate. How did you protest?
Does anyone even remember this event? Well, I worked for years with Mt Hood Meadows to develop this grassroots event- it was meant to be fun, a season ending gathering with music. It was awarded the Silver Eagle by the ski resort industry several times. It was something I took ownership of. Well, Dave Riley, the previous President of Mt Hood Meadows got too involved and tried to be too cool. Mostly controlling. I always had an entry in the event- it was an unspoken rule. Well, I arrive to register and I get “Sorry Mike, not this year,” and I snap. How dare they!?! Well, I’ll show them. I wait till the last girl are lined up. I actually apologized to the girl that was in 8th before she dropped, cause she knew I was going to do ‘something’. Once she got halfway thru her pipe run I dropped my pants and dropped in- I didn’t really care at the time who saw me naked- if you’re around me, you’ll probably see me naked. My wife gets an eyeful all the time. When I stopped in front of the judges and saw Dave Riley glaring at me. I smiled and he glared at me. He’s now in Purgatory, Colorado where everyone glares at each other.
Tell me about the time you destroyed yourself snowboarding on mushrooms.
HA! I was young and dumb. Wait- nothing’s changed. Imagine a deep powder day at Meadows. Imagine your buddy pulls out of his pocket a handful of mushrooms. We eat them up. Gobble gobble. I’m having the time of my life. Laughing. Dodging trees. I remember seeing John Caulkins that day too- another Oregon snowboarding pioneer. So yeah- I’m riding and I just plow into a tree. Hey, this doesn’t feel right. Fully blown Medial Collateral ligament. I did drive myself to my Mom’s office in Sandy Oregon for treatment.
What are you up to these days? Running a brand? Tell me more!
I’m a father to a wonderful 10-year-old daughter. My wife and I manage a 405-unit storage facility. I dabble in social media. Recently I’ve been appointed the North American Sales Manager for the Elm Company. I was the first rep in 2004 with the brand. I left, but always kept in touch with Brett Wiley (owner) and he made some power moves, removed the folks holding the brand back and replaced with guys that have a passion for the brand and know its true potential. I’ve been skating a little bit here and there, I still love a good rowdy fast bike ride in the woods. I really enjoy fishing and crabbing.
Ultimately, I hope to leave a positive image behind to all the kids I’ve helped along my years. From Shaun White to Mikey Renz to Jana Meyen. My close friends Tom Nordwall, Marty Sheppard, Matt Donahue, Mark Hibdon, Robis Marks, Tom Inouye, Tim Snail, Kris Jaimeson, Tim Zimmerman all know our paths have lead us apart but we remain together in spirit. I have met so many great people from snowboarding, so many faces that remember me teaching them a grab or how to slide a rail. I appreciate the kind words people have bestowed me over the years. It’s a true gift. One person who is the most proud of me is no longer here to share it is my father, John C Estes, he would have loved to read this, he was a writer too. So in his honor, I hope you all laughed and enjoyed my hump.
Thank you YoBeat!