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Jeff Fulton Interview: founding member of the MBHC

We speak to Mount Baker legend, OG of the Mount Baker Hardcore, founder of the legendary Banked Slalom race, perennial shredder and Moonchild Snowboards collaborator: Jeff Fulton.

In the late 1980s, a time when snowboarding was regarded as a fad and banned from many resorts, the Mount Baker Hardcore – a motley crew of snowboarders – was forming in a corner of Washington State.

From their ranks would emerge some of the biggest names in the sport, the late Craig Kelly, Mike Ranquet and Jamie Lynn. We caught up with one of the founding members of the MBHC and now Moonchild Collaborator: Jeff Fulton.

What were those early days snowboarding on Mount Baker like?

I think we were lucky because we had a mountain that had really difficult and interesting terrain. And they allowed us to ride that. Back then, a lot of other ski areas in the US weren't even letting snowboarders on the lifts.

We owe a lot to the mountain manager of the time, Duncan Howat. He was open to the idea of snowboarding and supported it in those early days, when most other resorts were banning snowboarders.

In those days Mount Baker was only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So there was almost unlimited untracked powder. This was also before powder skis so most skiers couldn’t ride the powder anyway. It was a golden era for snowboarders.


How has Mount Baker changed over the years?

The snowboarding culture is still here. The next generation are carrying it on but I think it’s harder to be a ski bum and work a season now. Mount Baker is only a small town and there aren’t a lot of jobs. Back in the early days, you could find a cheap house to rent and pile it high with your buddies, but accommodation is really expensive now.

So I think it’s harder for people to live that hardcore snowboarding lifestyle now. And the mountain has gotten much busier so gets tracked out faster.

Saying that, Mount Baker is still an amazing, beautiful place and the management has done well to preserve the feeling of a local ski hill. I still love it.

You introduced Craig Kelly to snowboarding. What did he think of it?

I was getting into snowboarding but all my friends were skiers. I wanted to have some friends to go snowboarding with so I convinced my parents, who ran a bike shop, to buy a few snowboards that people could rent out. I then used those boards to convince my friends to try it.

Craig was a natural. He was a very gifted sportsman and he picked it up instantly. People say I taught Craig to snowboard, but that’s not true; I just introduced him. The talent was already there.

How did you hear about Moonchild Snowboards and what was it that caught your eye?

A friend of mine - Jerry Wesley - who deals with Moonchild’s US and Canada arm contacted me and was like “You gotta check out these boards!”.

They had really unusual shapes. I tried out the Malibu and I was impressed. I also liked the fact that the guys behind Moonchild were really passionate about snowboards and would come up with all these crazy shapes, then actually make a prototype and test it out.

It reminded me of the early days of snowboarding, when people were constantly innovating with designs. I think that’s been a little lost as the sport grew, so it’s great to see that spirit again.


Where do you think the design of snowboards, bindings and boots can go next?

Moonchild and other companies are doing really interesting things with board shapes and there are still some unexplored ideas out there.

I also think bindings could improve; in the early days there was a lot of duct-tapping going on but after they figured out the highback, bindings have changed very little. So I think there is still some innovation to come there, probably with step-in systems.

Do you think that the classic twin-tip snowboard will be forever as the default shape, or will a new shape become the mainstream board?

I actually think that's already happening. I see a lot more snowboards these days with a bit of taper, for example with the Moonchild Malibu. That shape is such a blast in the powder but it also really rips on the groomers and rails. And so you have a board that can do almost everything.

Twin tips are great if you’re pulling tricks in a 22-foot half pipe but most people are more likely to be ripping around the mountain; on piste, off piste, maybe a little park, bit of side-pow. And these new directional shapes make that sort of riding really fun.

Moonchild Malibu snowboard

How did your collaboration with Moonchild on the ‘Live wire’ - a custom Mount Baker Hardcore snowboard - come about?

I was already loving my Malibu when Jure and Marcus (Moonchild Co-owners) approached me about doing a collaboration.

They designed a custom ‘Space Racer’ snowboard, and then introduced the Live Wire MBHC edition; I think it’s the best all round board for Mt Baker. Norm Roque was the artist who designed the graphic for the board; he grew up in Mt Vernon and had already done quite a bit of art for us.

The Mount Baker Banked Slalom – the race you helped start – is now on its 36th season. What’s the vibe like almost four decades after it began?

The MB Banked Slalom is so much more than just a race. For a lot of people, it has become an annual gathering. It’s like a big family, many people come just to join in the fun, meet up with old friends, watch the action and have a good time.

The competitive spirit is there but it’s just great to be part of something that’s been running for so long.

Apart from Mount Baker, where are your favourite places to ride or places that you have ridden that stand out in the past?

Valdez in Alaska stands out. I got lucky with the weather and it was an amazing trip. And then of course, Japan. Amazing country, amazing snow, and I loved to experience the different culture over there.

In fact I always enjoy exploring other countries – I’ve been to Europe, I was impressed with all the trains and trams and tunnels. The transportation over there really gives everyone the ability to get all over the place.

What’s your favourite powder board right now?

I have a few boards in my quiver but I really love Moonchild’s Live Wire and Malibu – they are my favourite all-mountain boards. Live Wire is an all-mountain charger.

The faster you go, the more stable you feel so you can charge through all conditions. The Malibu is a super fun, surfy board that feels effortless to ride. 

Jeff Fulton with a full quiver of Moonchild Live Wire Mount Baker Edition Snowboards

What advice would you give to any aspiring snowboard company?

Don’t give up when it gets tough. Every small company will reach a time when they start questioning themselves: ‘Is this right? Is this worth it?’ Push through those times.

Follow your heart, stick at your dreams. Maybe it takes a little longer, but if you're passionate about it, and don't give up, you’ll get there.

What do you still want to achieve in snowboarding?

I want to be an ambassador of the sport and travel to new places. I’d like to continue to test product. And I also want to spread the word of MBHC and tell the history.

The story hasn’t really been told on a big scale, although that’s starting to change; a new book, ‘The Darkest White’, is coming out which is about Craig Kelly’s life, my part in it, and the MBHC. Most importantly, I want to connect with people and share the joy of snowboarding. 

book cover for The Darkest White by Eric Blehm

Interview by Sam Baldwin, Moonchild Mag editor and author of two travel-memoir books: 'For Fukui's Sake; Two years in rural Japan', and 'Dormice & Moonshine; Falling for Slovenia'.

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