NOT-A-PRO FILE

The con­sum­mate snow­board bum

Transworld Snowboarding - - CONTENTS - NOT-A-PRO FILE // WORDS JESSE HUFF­MAN

How do you mea­sure some­one’s legacy in the snow­board world? Tricks in­vented? First de­scents or podi­ums claimed? Or is it some­thing out­side of clichéd su­perla­tives? If we’re talk­ing about some­one who didn’t chase the pro rider dream or a ca­reer in the in­dus­try, it’s noth­ing more than com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to snow­board­ing, pure and sim­ple. And by that def­i­ni­tion, a Ver­mont char­ac­ter stands out as an icon—a guy I knew by nick­name only, since I learned to ride at Su­gar­bush three decades ago: “Wolfie.”

From that first sea­son in 1991, Wolfie was one of the crusty lo­cals we looked up to as ob­nox­ious teenagers, and his sta­tus as a Su­gar­bush fix­ture has since ce­mented into the stuff of leg­end. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school in 1996, I spent the next 12 years in the Pa­cific North­west and then Brook­lyn. When I re­turned to Ver­mont in 2010, I saw Wolfie out there still. His stocky build and tight turn­ing style was easy to dis­cern un­der the chair­lift—farm­ing trail­side pow­der or duck­ing into a se­cret woods line.

I ran into him in the lift­line a few years back, wait­ing to load up with my then11-year-old step­son Galen. Typ­i­cal Wolfie, his face was cov­ered in a short stub­bly beard and split ear to ear with a grin. We laughed at the math; I was Galen’s age when I learned to ride and heard about Wolfie. The statis­tics were clear; he’d been rid­ing years be­fore I even learned and was rid­ing more than me thirty years later. And I still had no idea what his real name was. Who the hell was Wolfie?

Richard Grozengier de­cided his given name sounded “dull” and thus nick­named him­self Wolfie in ho­mage to his Ger­man her­itage. Born in a bl­iz­zard in Snow Vil­lage, Ohio, Woflie was the son of a well-off fam­ily, and the end of his grade school days came with an ex­pec­ta­tion of col­lege and a proper ca­reer. Wolfie ended up in Bos­ton, where he found him­self deep into the punk scene, in lieu of higher ed­u­ca­tion. Then a trip to visit a friend in Ver­mont changed his life.

“I skied my first day, and that was it,” re­mem­bers Wolfie. “The moun­tains, the peo­ple… I knew this was where I wanted to be.” Things hap­pened fast: he got a job, a pass, and a place to live. “I went back to Bos­ton, got my stuff, and moved up.” That was 1980, the year Wolfie be­came a ski bum.

Eight years later, he heard about snow­board­ing and learned to ride at Mad River Glenn, be­fore the re­sort be­came one of the long­est stand­ing ski-only hold­outs. But it wasn’t un­til he spot­ted the Ver­mont Slope Posse—Su­gar­bush’s orig­i­nal crew of soon-to-be pros in­clud­ing Jeff Brushie and Noah Bran­don— con­nect­ing ac­tual turns that things clicked.

“My buddy loaned me a Sims Switch­blade,” says Wolfie. “I learned to make some de­cent turns. I was so hooked. It was the feel­ing I had been search­ing for—carv­ing bend­ing, float­ing. I stopped ski­ing and be­came a snow surfer.” Wolfie joined the first crew of Su­gar­bush snow­board in­struc­tors, along­side for­mer pros Seth Neary and Seth Miller. He’d al­ready found the rhythm of a lo­cal, tak­ing a job as a tile set­ter in the sum­mer, not work­ing in the win­ter to free up time to ride. Snow­board­ing be­came his thing, and he never looked back.

“It’s a lame tagline, but he is the con­sum­mate snow­board bum,” ex­plains Dan Sul­li­van, a fel­low Su­gar­bush in­struc­tor alumni that went on to work for Orig­i­nal Sin and Rome Snow­boards. “I know with 100% cer­tainty that if there’s pow­der at Su­gar­bush, Wolfie is there rid­ing. I’ll see his text­book tight tracks on the goofy side of the trail, and I’ll wait in line to join him. And then the ad­ven­ture be­gins with end­less stashes of pow­der, and no doubt I’ll be shown new ter­rain—even though I’ve rid­den the moun­tain for close to 30 years.”

In 1992, Wolfie was in­tro­duced to John “JG” Gernt, Bur­ton’s now-leg­endary board shaper, open­ing a new chap­ter pro­vid­ing feed­back on new pro­to­type mod­els. “The first deck was a Twin 153 black­top with a mar­tini base. That was the start of me test­ing for Bur­ton,” says Wolfie. “My dreams were com­ing true! One lucky fuckin’ dude for sure.”

It was also the start of a de­tailed log he’s kept—of boards, con­di­tions, and days he’s rid­den. First scratched out on pa­per, and now on a web­site, Wolfie has av­er­aged over 100 days a sea­son since the 1980s, and his rum­pled Bur­ton test sheets show plenty of trips out west, from Utah to deep Bri­tish Co­lum­bia. Yet he kept com­ing back to Ver­mont, to the Mad River Val­ley and Su­gar­bush. Year af­ter year, he’s re­mained com­mit­ted, or­ga­niz­ing his life around ev­ery­thing the moun­tain has to of­fer. He could have taken a job in the in­dus­try, but his pri­or­i­ties are sim­ple and clear.

“He earns just enough money in the lo­cal econ­omy,” ex­plains Sul­li­van. “He lives in the town, with the op­por­tu­nity to be ac­ces­si­ble any­time. He’s his own boss, so he never misses a pow­der a day.”

Four years ago, Wolfie was di­ag­nosed with Lyme, a dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease that cre­ates chronic fa­tigue, among other rugged symp­toms. He could barely put his socks on, let alone ride hard or lay tile. The money he’d saved up to build his own house was all spent by the time he started to re­cover. Wolfie says if some­one had of­fered him a job else­where with the right price he might have left it all be­hind. But he stayed true to his dreams, and now he’s back on the moun­tains, in­struct­ing again, stoked to ex­plain the ba­sics, or bring more ad­ven­tur­ous rid­ers on a trip they’ll likely be re­count­ing for sea­sons to come.

“If I died to­mor­row, I’d be go­ing out a win­ner,” says Wolfie. “What keeps me go­ing is the feel­ing I get when I strap in and glide away, that sense of free­dom. It’s up to you how you slide, ex­press your­self and your per­sonal style. It’s like I tell my stu­dents: ev­ery move you make af­fects your rid­ing. It starts with your eyes and goes right to your toes—when you’re rid­ing it’s all con­nected, so just let it flow.”

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