Sometimes you automatically know that a certain thing in life is going to become one of those “instant classics,” whether it is a look, idea, event or person that will stand the test of time. Jordan Mendenhall is definitely an instant classic. He is a multitalented person who makes his way through life doing what he does without looking for recognition or praise. Jordan has been making snowboarding look interesting and cool from an early age. As a kid, he would enter contests thinking it was a fun thing to do with his friends and he ended up becoming the Jr. World Halfpipe Champion, not to mention doing that coming from an area that wasn’t well known for its halfpipes, but rather its powder. Since then, Jordan has put out multiple video parts that blow minds in a very unique way: Not like some crazed stuntman, but more like an artist who adds perspective to a painting. So, if you ever get a chance to meet Jordan, you will see why he has become a classic in an age of repetitive ideas, strip malls and competitive stuntmen. –Tonino
SLUG: Where did you grow up?
Jordan Mendenhall: Highland, Utah. God’s country.
SLUG: God’s country? Where is Highland compared to Salt Lake?
Mendenhall: Highland is about a half hour south of Salt Lake. It’s right past the point of the mountain by Lehi, Alpine and American Fork. You know, God’s country.
SLUG: Ahh yes, God’s country. Does that mean you were raised a child of God? Mormon?
Mendenhall: Yes I was. You kind of have to live that way there or you are labeled an outcast. Shunned. That’s what Jesus would do.
SLUG: Then the apple fell far from the tree, so to speak.
Mendenhall: Not really. I didn’t start drinking until after high school. I did that for a few years then went back to “the church.” I did that for about three years then made my escape around 25 or 26.
SLUG: Your first drink was after high school. That’s pretty impressive. What made you decide to go to the dark side?
Mendenhall: I’m not sure. Boredom, I guess. I think I just wanted to see what it was like. There was no catastrophic event or anything. Turns out it was really fun.
SLUG: Growing up in Highland, if you weren’t drinking, what were you doing?
Mendenhall: Almost all of my free time was spent skating or snowboarding. Other than that, I went camping, went to lakes and whatnot. I did the normal Utah summertime stuff.
SLUG: Did skating come before snowboarding?
Mendenhall: Yeah. I feel like I have been skateboarding my entire life. My brother skated, so I naturally wanted to be like him and skate too. I think I really got into it when I was about thirteen.
SLUG: So you fell in love with skating and then came snowboarding?
Mendenhall: Yeah. I think it was more like—there is a foot of snow on the ground, sledding sucks, skiing is boring—what in the hell am I supposed to do all winter?
SLUG: Would your brother take you out skating with him?
Mendenhall: Not really. He is about seven years older than me, so I’m sure he didn’t want his 8- or 9-year-old brother around. He had moved out by the time I really got into skating. We did have a mini-ramp for a few years and we would skate that together. There are some amazing home videos.
SLUG: Sick. Not homie-cam but brother-cam footage?
Mendenhall: We would take turns filming each other. Occasionally we would talk my sister into manning the camera, but that never lasted too long. The commentary is incredible. It’s mostly her yelling at us and my brother saying, “Watch this.”
SLUG: That’s amazing. Would you guys film each other then watch it right after?
Mendenhall: It was a VHS recorder so after filming we could go throw that thing in the VCR and watch the hammers.
SLUG: Do you remember the first trick you got on film that you were hyped on?
Mendenhall: Not really. Oh shit, we did have a launch ramp. I would set that up so I could land in the grass. I would send it off that thing and tuck and roll in the landing. My sister would film it, and I was so excited about it. Huge air.
SLUG: So you were “trained” at a young age to hit jumps?
Mendenhall: Haha, I guess so. I liked that sort of thing when I was a kid. I liked to jump off cliffs into water and be crazy. Now it’s totally forced. I’m old.
SLUG: Shit, you’re not old. So the summer would end and the snow would fall, and you decided to try snowboarding.
Mendenhall: Yeah. I got a snowboard for Christmas when I was 13, and I guess I’ve never stopped.
SLUG: Did you know the first time you went snowboarding that you were going to love it like skating?
Mendenhall: Like most people, the first time was miserable. I think I started to love it as soon as I could make it down the hill without falling. Then I wanted to learn everything. I started watching videos and buying magazines. I wanted to learn how to do all of the hot moves the pros were doing.
SLUG: Who in particular influenced you at a young age?
Mendenhall: Peter Line, Daniel Franck and Ingemar Backman were my favorites. That was probably when I was 15 or so. I don’t remember who it was before that.
SLUG: What in particular was it about those guys that you thought was sweet?
Mendenhall: I liked their style. I thought they had some totally radical moves bro! Just kidding. But seriously, they had awesome style. I hate the word style as of right now.
SLUG: What does the word style mean? Is it an “industry” word?
Mendenhall: I don’t know. I just re-read that answer and I hate that word. It just makes me think of those girls who are so into snowboarding they have transformed into 16 year old boys. I just picture them saying “Sick style, bro!” Gross.
SLUG: Don’t you have “skate style”?
Mendenhall: Yes, I skateboard on the snow. Oh wait, it’s hooked to my feet. I wakeboard on the snow.
SLUG: When you started snowboarding, did you look at the mountain like it was a huge skate park?
Mendenhall: I definitely looked at it differently than I do now. It was more like a skate park, because there were no good snowboard parks, so you had to be creative and find stuff to jump off and slide and what not.
SLUG: Where were you doing your snowboarding?
Mendenhall: I would go to Brighton as much as I could. I’ve had a pass there since I was 14. If I couldn’t get a ride to the bus stop, I would find a hill to build a jump on. This was before rails were cool.
SLUG: You would take a bus from Highland to Brighton?
Mendenhall: Until I could drive, my parents or my friends’ parents would give us a ride to Sandy. Then we would take the bus to Brighton.
SLUG: What was that like being a little kid riding the bus to Brighton?
Mendenhall: Thinking back, it seems a little crazy. We were only 14 and our parents would drop us off at the McDonalds on 7200 S. and pick us up 10 hours later. We had almost no money, no helmets, no license. It was amazing.
SLUG: Ultimate freedom.
SLUG: FUCK YEAH.
SLUG: So you weren’t hitting rails yet ‘cause it wasn’t cool. Is this around the time you won a halfpipe contest?
Mendenhall: There were no rails. That was the time before the rebirth of rails via JP Walker and Jeremy Jones. I was 16 when I won the halfpipe contest. Rails were still out of the picture.
SLUG: When you entered the contest were you thinking you wanted to be a pro snowboarder?
Mendenhall: Not really. I thought it would be cool to get free snowboards, but that’s it.
SLUG: Did anything come your way from winning that contest as far as sponsorship?
Mendenhall: Not at all. I kept getting hand-me-down boards for the next year or so.
SLUG: Who was giving you the hand me downs?
Mendenhall: JP gave me a couple boards and I remember Jeremy giving me one. It’s pretty funny to think about. I’m sure I was so annoying.
SLUG: Did you look up to those guys at the time? Is that who you were going to Brighton with?
Mendenhall: I definitely looked up to those guys. I think anyone who was into snowboarding in Utah around that time looked up to those guys. I would snowboard with those guys once in a while. I usually went up with Nate Bozung and a couple other friends from Highland.
SLUG: Bozung and Jordan, a couple of nice mellow kids. Ha.
Mendenhall: Haha. I don’t think Nate was ever mellow. That kid was hyper as shit. It was great.
SLUG: I bet. Was this when you started thinking you wanted to be a pro snowboarder?
Mendenhall: It kind of just happened. I just wanted to learn tricks and get better. I never planned on getting paid. I started getting free boards. Then the next year I went out with some photographers. Then I started filming, and after my first video part, I started getting paid. Then I was like, okay, I guess I’ll do this for a while then go to school.
SLUG: Which video was your first part in?
Mendenhall: Destroyer. It has been 10 years. Wow. If I get another video part it’ll be number 10.
SLUG: First part in your first part?
SLUG: So sick. Bozung is in there too. Did you guys get to film together?
Mendenhall: A little bit, but not much. As soon as he was on Forum he had to do those movies.
SLUG: Do you remember what it was like filming that first part?
Mendenhall: I was just snowboarding. I didn’t really care if I landed anything. I didn’t really know if I was going to have a video part. It just came together. It was one of best years ever. No pressure at all.
SLUG: So it wasn’t like your sponsor paid for your video part then?
Mendenhall: I think they must have or I wouldn’t have had the first part. I had no idea that someone had to pay for you to be in a video. I thought if you were a friend of a friend and semitalented, you were in.
SLUG: Did you know you had first part or did you find out at the premier?
Mendenhall: I found out at the premier. I didn’t know that was a good thing until somebody told me.
SLUG: That’s amazing. Who told you that first part was good?
Mendenhall: I don’t remember, but I had no idea. I didn’t really care though. I was hyped not to have a real job.
SLUG: After Destroyer, did life change for you?
Mendenhall: Definitely. I was 20 and making a pretty ridiculous amount of money for someone who only had to pay for a cell phone. It was crazy.
SLUG: So you were making a bunch of money at 20. Were you smart with the money or was it ball till you fall?
Mendenhall: I saved and saved. I lived off of peanut butter and jelly, cereal and water. I just bought my house with cash. Just kidding. I spent it all. On the dumbest shit.
SLUG: Ha, but I bet you were hyped. What’s the most ridiculous thing you bought?
Mendenhall: I bought a new car, which is the worst investment. I have no idea what else I spent it on. I gave some to my friends, which is kind of awesome. By give I mean I would pay for their rent and food and not really expect to get it back. I have no idea what I spent it on.
SLUG: It’s always cool to help the homies out. What kind of car was it?
Mendenhall: A Subaru. I don’t remember the model, but I thought it was the cat’s pajamas.
SLUG: Cat’s pajamas or the family sedan?
Mendenhall: Haha. It was the fake WRX before they had the WRX. So cool ...
SLUG: You were the fastest up the canyon fo sho!
Mendenhall: I wish. If I remember correctly, it was surprisingly slow. It’s no ‘98 Dodge.
SLUG: Is that what you’re running these days?
Mendenhall: I will drive that thing until it dies. I’ve had it for five years now, and it has never had a major problem. I’m down for shitty cars. I can run into things and laugh. It’s the best.
SLUG: You mentioned earlier you are working on your tenth video part. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Mendenhall: I didn’t realize it until today. It’s crazy, I had no idea I would still be doing it after all these years. It’s really great. I want to do it for as long as my body will let me. Which might not be too much longer.
SLUG: I think that’s amazing. How has filming your part changed from Destroyer to your latest part in Video Grass’ Bon Voyage?
Mendenhall: Back then it was more about having fun and snowboarding constantly. Now it seems like a job. It snows in November and we hike some rails and learn some tricks. Then as soon as it snows somewhere we’ll go there and not stop until May. The downside is there is not much time to actually go snowboarding. You go from riding 20 feet into a rail to riding 100 feet into a jump and then it’s over. I think I can calculate the distance I have snowboarded in a year.
SLUG: I think thats something that the general “industry” doesn’t understand. The lack of just plain snowboarding during a season to film a part.
Mendenhall: Yeah it really is non-existent. I got hurt the first day filming this year and as soon as I’m better then it’s straight to filming. I’m going to try to actually snowboard as much as possible, because I feel like I get worse every year.
SLUG: Worse every year? I think better. Do you set goals each year for your footage. Do you say, “I want to get this trick?”
Mendenhall: Not really. I’ll learn something pre-season and try to get those tricks on something, but in the backcountry I just go with the tricks I know because it is always so rushed.
SLUG: That is one thing that has always made you stand out in my mind is your versatility. You’re not the “rail” guy or backcountry guy. Your part has it all.
Mendenhall: Thanks man! I wish I could ride more backcountry though. Getting kicked out of spots, dealing with the police, and falling on concrete and metal gets old.
SLUG: Do you prefer the backcountry to the city?
Mendenhall: They are pretty equal. Sometimes one is better than the other. I think I just like the thought of powder, because I picture everything being soft and nothing hurts, but there is so much work involved when you go into the backcountry that it’s almost more painful.
SLUG: Plus it’s not like the jumps these days are small.
Mendenhall: They are definitely not.
SLUG: On that note, it seems that people that snowboard in the streets vs. the backcountry are looked down upon a little. What’s your opinion on this? Is snowboarding snowboarding, regardless of terrain?
Mendenhall: I think that is ridiculous. Snowboarding at the mountain is expensive and not accessible to everyone. I think kids can relate to snowboarding in the street so much more. Also, there are a lot of pro snowboarders who only ride backcountry that don’t do anything new or creative, and those people are so much more respected than anyone who rides only in the city. It’s all snowboarding. Who cares?
SLUG: Is filming a full part in the city equal to a full part in the backcountry?
Mendenhall: I think so. Let’s say that Laurant, Jed, Jake OE, Jonas or any of those guys lived in Whistler and only rode backcountry. I think they would be just as good or better than any of the “backcountry guys”. All of the “rail kids” are insanely talented, but I think they aren’t interested or don’t have the means to get into the backcountry.
SLUG: The city is more accessible to the average joe than the Whistler backcountry.
SLUG: Maybe what the “dream” is now, to a young snowboarder, is a walk to the local park in the city rather than a snowmobile drive to the backcountry.
Mendenhall: Yeah it’s like the mountains in Minnesota, they are more or less downtown.
SLUG: You have a son. What’s his name and how old is he?
Mendenhall: His name is Rohen and he’s four.
SLUG: Has being a dad helped to keep you driven during the season?
Mendenhall: Definitely. It’s motivating when you have someone depending on you like that.
SLUG: Has he gone up to the mountain or to the skate park with you yet?
Mendenhall: I took him snowboarding this year. He kind of liked it, but he’s too little to get really excited about it. I think I’ll take him more this spring.
SLUG: That’s sweet. Get that kid trained for the Olympics.
Mendenhall: Yeah it is, I’m going to force him to live my dream so I can make money off him. Awesome.
SLUG: Haha, OK, almost done. Random question: What do you look to for inspiration for your riding—skating or snowboarding?
Mendenhall: A little of both. Sometimes I’ll like a trick someone does on a snowboard and want to learn it. Most the time I’ll only do rail tricks that can be done on a skateboard. No combos and flips onto rails and shit like that.
SLUG: You got snow shuvs on lock?
Mendenhall: Yeah, front and back foot!
SLUG: Shout-outs or last words?
Mendenhall: Thank you family and friends. Thank you Bobby and SLUG.
Mendenhall: Sure. K2, L1, Ashbury, Coal, Krew, Mica, Milo.