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Neon Riders

January 20, 2008|Melissa Magsaysay | Times Staff Writer

IT'S simple cause and effect. Winter storms create lots of snow. Lots of snow creates snowboarding frenzies. And snowboarding frenzies create a chance to catch the latest urban-infused stylings zipping down the slopes. And what better place to check it out than in our own backyard? Sure, Mammoth Mountain is a five-hour drive from L.A., but we figured that for snowboarders desperate to bounce off rails, cut through drifts and get vertical on half-pipes, five hours is nothing when you take into account 7 to 10 feet of fresh powder.

So we hopped in the car and headed north on Highway 395, and we weren't disappointed. Standing where the Panorama and Broadway Express chairlifts meet, all we could see were the colorful neon, graphically charged and graffiti-scrawled blurs that mark today's snow gear. As soon as the action stopped, it was clear: This year's look is decidedly bold. Whereas the cross-pollination of styles between streetwise skater culture and snowboarders was once something of an underground thing, today it's all out in the open. Influenced by music, art and hip-hop, snowboarders approach their look as they do the mountain -- with a style uniquely their own.

"Snowboarding is such an individual sport, and it's all about individual style," says Greg Dacyshyn, senior vice president of creative design for Burton Snowboards. "Riders are constantly pushing ways to express themselves, and strong prints have come back in the past few years, with riders demanding even more personality and expression in their outerwear."

Powerful prints -- from the bottom of the lift to the Mammoth Mountain Inn -- were the most conspicuous. Tumbling dice on a one-piece snowsuit by Ronin had an airbrushed effect that looked as if the blacks and whites had been spray-painted directly onto the suit. Plaids, in particular one red and yellow tartan crisscross on a jacket by Burton, were so bright that they probably could have been seen from atop the mountain -- during a whiteout.

We saw a crossover of graphic print patterns to non-outerwear pieces. One snowboarder wore a Lakai hoodie that featured a black-and-white script so pronounced it seemed to glow with a spooky iridescence.

When the sun came out, the neon brights (ever present, it seemed) popped from the glaringly bright-white surroundings. A Quiksilver jacket featured a jumble of Tetris-style pink, green and turquoise interlocking lines, and a DC outerwear jacket and pants looked like Jackson Pollock had worked on them with brushes of fluorescent paint.

The winning look from our vantage, however, belonged to Danny Palmer, whose well-coordinated Avirex sweat shirt and Grenade pants reminded us of bursts of colored confetti. Palmer's piece de resistance was a pair of Oakley goggles that had been customized with tiny dots painted on them with white-out. The 3-D effect of the white against the black complemented the in-your-face pop of the colorful and cartoonish sweat shirt and pants. Talk about a cure for snow blindness.


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