Industry Profile: Transworld Snowboarding Associate Editor Ben Gavelda
20 Jul, 2010
Job Title: Associate Editor
Employer: TransWorld Snowboarding
Years on snow: 18, if you include a couple years of pizza wedging
Days on snow: Never enough.
Currently Riding: My office chair
Currently I am: Staring at 1s and 0s
Photo: Chris Wellhausen
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Ben: I am a quiet-Colorado-mountainman-hippie-snowboarder-intellectual-music loving-reader-cyclist-geographer-chef turned SoCal sandcrab, writer? I grew up being an outdoor monkey in Manitou Springs and Durango, Colorado. I’m super fortunate to have had those places as a playground. I peaced out of high school early then went to college in Reno to snowboard. I lived in Turin, Italy for half a year, spent the other half in Bilbao, Spain. I like a good fire. I like learning. And for the last couple years my head’s been stirring with endless thoughts of humanity’s interactions and obstructions with the natural world.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Ben: It’s shaped my life in a lot of ways. I’ve met all my best friends through snowboarding. It’s further solidified my passion for the mountains. It’s made me grateful. It’s made me broke. Pursuing it has led me to some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, directly or indirectly. It’s let me vanish all thought and worry and let me be present in the moment, listening to the humpf of snowflakes crumbling underfoot and muffled hoots from friends. That act alone can cure just about anything.
Photo: Ben’s mom
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Ben: I guess my first real start was working at Inferno Snowboard Shop in Durango, Colorado when I was fourteen. I became as involved as I could, shredded and skated as much as possible, and met a lot of people through doing so….
But my professional career here at TransWorld has an interesting story. It can all be traced back to an essay. A couple years ago TWS and DC were running a snowmobile giveaway contest. You had to answer twenty questions about backcountry riding and safety, then write a short essay about a given backcountry scenario. I grew up doing a fair bit of backcountry riding around Southwest Colorado, went to the Silverton Avalanche School and I’d wanted a sled forever, so I gave it a shot. I spent a bit of time dialing in that essay, submitted it, and kinda wrote it off as time went by and school got busy. Then a couple months later a got an email from Annie [Fast] (Editor-In-Chief), it was like ‘Ben, you’re not dreaming, you won the DC sled.’ I just about shit my pants. I was so stoked! I guess they had like 1,200 entries. I was headed down to SIA to help the shop place their orders, so I met up with TWS there. Things went well and eventually led into a brief interning/contributing stint and a full time editing position. Annie went out on limb and trusted me. She rules.
Photo: Chris Wellhausen
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Ben: The time spent working at shop was very valuable. I was just an amped grom—scraping boards and being a shop monkey. I worked there all through high school and a little college and learned all the ins and outs of a skate and snowboard shop—from selling gear and tuning boards, to putting on demos, planning and ordering a season’s worth of inventory, and more. That job taught me a lot about snowboarding, how to run a successful business and the industry in general. And the Inferno crew is awesome, the epitome of a core shop. (Greg Miller, the owner, actually bought it from [Tim] Windell back in the day.) I was passionate about snowboarding, and working there allowed me to further immerse myself in it and quench that passion. Snowboarding a ton really helped, too because you meet people and learn from the act itself. Going to college in Reno of all places, actually ruled. I went there more so to shred the Tahoe zones, than to go to school. I ran into a lot more pros and crews than little ‘ol Durango. Being able to work on a degree and shred 3-5 days a week really kept me in touch with snowboarding. My studies there were all over the place: Spanish, Italian, digital media, geography, but I got a degree in International Business and Economics and was working on another in geography before the TWS gig popped up. I didn’t study writing or journalism, it’s just a knack I guess. The last couple years have been a giant learning experience backed by a lot of snowboarding knowledge.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Transworld Snowboarding and a description of the work you do?
Ben: As an editor for TWS I’m responsible for a handful of columns and features in the magazine as well as creating web content and helping to put on events. I plan, write, edit and work with our photo and art crew to create them. I catch up with riders, and simply follow all things snowboarding year round. I’m kind of a gear dork so I’ve been deemed ‘product guy’ here. I take a role in managing most of our product-oriented content. It gets pretty diverse though—one day I’ll be packing and shipping product, the next day I’ll be creating one of our ‘How To’ scenes.
Photo: Chris Wellhausen
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Ben: It really depends on the time of year. Right now, we’re producing the magazine volume for this upcoming winter, so it’s a lot of time in the office with the rest of the TWS crew emailing, editing, planning, designing, writing, and lining up a bunch of product shoots. I could sit all day and write emails and work on stories or I could be working on a product photoshoot in the studio or interviewing a rider as they swing through the office. If I’m lucky, I might be able to sneak in a summer shred/work trip. But when the season is going, it’s all of the above, plus anything from covering a contest on the weekend to going on a feature trip.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Ben: Oh man, there have been a few, especially in the last couple years. Riding pow in Courmayeur, shredding Jackson Hole backcountry with Guch, exploring huts in the San Juans, going on a two week shred’n’rock binger with the Volcom crew. It’s crazy to have oozed over the all the videos and mags and spots for years…then to be there, riding it it with the riders you looked up to. I’m really looking forward to more…
Photo: Chris Wellhausen
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Ben: Hmmm, that’s a heavy one. Production issues, snowfall, real-estate focused resorts, big brands manipulating things. There’s a lot facing our industry on a micro and macro scale. But we’re also fortunate to have a lot of ingenuitive, progressive people working in the industry. The seasonal, cyclic production that companies and shops have to manage and turn into profit every year is pretty heavy. Every year can be a gamble for a lot of brands and core shops, especially with online retailers increasing competition. Everything is so directly tied to weather, too. It’s fickle and volatile and affects the industry on a larger level. But snowboarding is growing, it’s gaining popularity and it continues to evolve. Slopestyle and the Olympics, the last five years of progression. It’s flashing in front of a lot of people’s eyes (even if it’s not what we want to portray) and hopefully drawing more people towards it. But it’s too costly and too distant in so many ways…this is where it faces (and will face) a lot of problems and where I’d like to see change.
It’s distant in the fact that the vast majority of the industry and supporting populations are so disconnected and far from mountains, from snow, from snowboarding culture—both geographically and financially. For one, our ‘sport’ is very transportation heavy—from manufacturing to getting to the liftline. It’s also distant in the fact that so many resorts are real-estate ventures with an amusement park facade. The exorbitant costs it takes to participate at them is a big deterrant for a lot of people. A lift ticket shouldn’t include the costs of all this excessive stuff. It should pay for access. I think we need to take a hard look at a lot of European models of resort and town integration. A resort and city can be one in the same, it can even create more allure. We need to build real economies and real communities within and around them—not just vacant vacation homes and hallow condos. We need to look at the basics of access and supporting the areas where we recreate. Snowboarding was conceived in the mountains and that’s where it needs to return because the more we and the industry distance ourselves from snowboarding’s home, the more it becomes misrepresented and the more it might just slip away.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Ben: That’s a hard one because this industry is so unique and niche and…for lack of a better word, ‘bro’. Both can really lead you to the same end goal if you’re motivated. You really must have a background or a passion in snowboarding. Maybe engineering is your thing, you could go into designing gear. There are a lot of careers you wouldn’t think of that are involved in the industry. But as a whole, we need more higher-level thinking, questioning and creative minds rather than the dull, complacent ones that so much of our secondary and post education system churns out. And the Internet is a giant ball of learning material if you’re motivated to take a scoop out of it, I mean you can get tons of free lectures from ivy league schools on iTunes U. The way information is spreading, there are more resources and ways to learn and advance yourself everyday. It’s overwhelming. I truly believe that, as KRS-ONE stated, ”Knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone.”
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Ben: Get involved anyway you can—work at a resort, work at a shop, volunteer at the terrain park. Learn photography, design, writing. Hit up companies about internships. Be open to meeting people, the industry is small and chances are you’ll see the same people down the road. Also, question what snowboarding means to you. If it’s your drug and your escape, then working in it can dilute and take that away, but it can also strengthen it. But above all, just get out there and pursue snowboarding.