A Visit to the Mervin Manufacturing Vortex

Tucked behind the lushest green curtain, surrounded by towering white peaks and fine lefthand barrels, lies an enchanted land of chill. Here, radical gnomes build the most technologically awesome, environmentally-friendly snowboards on the planet, and rip them on the nearby slopes. This magical scenario, it turns out, is the secret to Mervin Manufacturing.

We recently visited the Mervin vortex (its factory), having been invited in by the kind Barrett Christy-Cummins, whose surname basically means Mervin. Her office demonstrated the roots and radness of Lib Tech and Gnu. On a shelf sat the original black-and-white drawing for the Matt Cummins VW surf van graphic. On a bookcase rested Barrett’s First Place trophy for the Baker Banked Slalom. And against the wall stood a few stacks of boards from next year’s line-up, their non-twin-tipped shapes and artful graphics screaming with style, begging for shred. Relics of the old days of snowboarding lay everywhere in the little wooden office building, while the latest spawning of Mervin boards was underway across the parking lot.

Old-school Mervin employee Tim Stanford showed us around the snowboard factory, where they also make skateboards and other things. Skateboarding keeps Mervin going, in fact. The first Lib Tech was actually a skateboard, Tim told us. As we talked in the sun before entering the gnomes’ secret workshop, snowboard builders skated back and forth, en route somewhere, or carrying a garbage can full of recyclable scraps, or to session the curb and wavy skate feature. Yes, our own people make Mervin boards, far from industrial complexes where non-shredders pop out toxic snowboards.

The entire fabrication process takes place here. Lengths of quick-growing, domestic and sustainably-harvested (FSC) wood get pressed and cut into profiled snowboard cores, then laid up (sandwiched between top sheet and base), then waxed and sharpened, and finally approved for quality. Meanwhile, different work areas play the kind of hip hop and whatnot we’d listen to, and guys chat or do 360 flips. You could almost crack a beer or light a spliff and hang out.

Most impressive, though, is Mervin’s commitment to what provides us with snow and surf to enjoy in the first place, the Earth. Not only do they efficiently use wood and recycle the leftovers, they also choose soy-based plastics over petrochemicals, and print their graphics with water-based ink. Lib and Gnu boards have always been fashioned in a respectful way, Tim affirmed. Innovators in snowboard sustainability and performance, Mervin Manufacturing has done things right ever since they turned the doily bottom of grandma’s curtain into a flower-patterned topsheet. To learn more, check: http://www.mervin.com/enviromental/

Great snowboards can only come from a place like this, from stoked humans and enchanted forest gnomes who ride the sideways craft they create. Having raised names like Matt and Temple Cummins, Emma Peel, Barrett Christy, the Litigator, and Jamie Lynn, it’s good to know that Mervin Manufacturing has stayed hardcore.

Daniel O'Neil
Chris Brunkhart

DARKSTAR: The Photography of Chris Brunkhart

Snowboarding and art overlap naturally. Jamie Lynn floats methods and 540s with such flow and signature that it’s pleasing, not just rad, to watch. Especially against a backdrop like Mt Baker after a heavy February storm. Art lurks in style, expression, and culture when it comes to snowboarding. And nature provides the essence of beauty itself.

Add photography to the mix and the potential for fine art appears, art of the sort you can hang on museum or gallery walls, real art. Chris Brunkhart took what he saw in the aesthetic ripping of guys like Craig Kelly, then superimposed that onto the natural beauty he found in the mountains. The snowboard community has its cast of artists, including painters like Jamie, but no one has revealed art in snowboarding to the degree that Chris did with Leica and monochrome film.

Brunkhart’s career in snowboard photography spanned the late 80s and the 90s, and restarted in 2010, until his untimely death in January 2016. Many of Brunk’s photos have been published, and quite a few have become classics in the archives of snowboarding. But his talent exceeded the narrow boundaries of pros and tricks. When you fully explore Chris’ work as a photographer, the true artist emerges. His black-and-white portraits of people and architecture recall Cartier-Bresson; his landscapes and rider-less mountains echo those of Ansel Adams.

Issue 1 of Alpenglo Magazine will be dedicated to good friend Chris Brunkhart, whose old school shots deserve a trip back into the light of day. He may be gone, but his photographs will outlive us all and continue to set the standard for how snowboarding should be seen. Thanks for leading the way, Chris, and for inspiring projects like Alpenglo.