Davey Baird, who grew up in Homer, is preparing for a snowboarding season different from any one in previous years. After qualifying for a spot on the Freeride World Tour, Baird will set off in January to Chamonix, France, to compete against top snowboarders from around the world.
A fundraiser at Alice’s Champagne Palace Saturday, Nov. 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. aims to help him raise money to cover his travel expenses, which include flights to and from Europe, food and lodging in between competitions.
The Freeride World Tour attracts top snowboarders from around the world, however it does not receive the same amount of media attention as competitions like the X-Games or the Olympics, partly because the areas the competitions are held in are not as audience-friendly, Baird said.
“It is less gymnast-like and out there in nature, it’s not this groomed run you can practice on 200 times a day, or like a half pipe,” Baird said. “The downfall is it’s very hard to establish and audience for it. It’s a different venue for the public to see, though they do have live webcasts, but in person it’s more difficult.”
Baird hoped this year’s commercial fishing season would help him earn most of the $8,000 he estimates the trip will cost; however, the disappointing season seen by many fishermen in Alaska affected his main source of income, he said. As a result of weak fisheries in Alaska he journeyed down to California to fish for squid instead, but the season was still a bust, Baird said. Now, just two months before he leaves, he is working to find other sources of funding.
The tour covers costs such as lodging while competing, but flights and other travel expenses between stops on the tour are Baird’s responsibility. After the first stop in France, Baird will compete in Andorra, and Austria. If he makes the final roster cuts he will be heli-boarding on his home turf of Alaska, as well as in the FWT finals in Switzerland.
He also is still trying to gain sponsorships, which often help snowboarders with costs like gear. Baird has one sponsorship pending with a base layer company and is reaching out to a few other local brand representatives.
“It’s a work in progress,” Baird said.
The fundraiser and a Go Fund Me account were the brainchildren of his mother and sister.
“I’m a modest person. It’s hard for me to ask for things from people,” Baird said.
The fundraiser will feature live music from The Blue Trollers and Uplift, carnival-style games and a silent and live auction where attendees can purchase donated items as well as wooden benches that Baird himself is currently crafting. There also will be a way for guests to donate directly to Baird.
Qualifying for the FWT was a lengthy process in which Baird travelled more than 10,000 miles in his ’98 4Runner and stayed on at least 15 different couches of new friends who kept him from sleeping in his car during the winter.
On Jan. 11, he headed north for his first freeride competition, the two-star FWQ in Revelstoke, British Columbia. Just before the competition Davey kneed himself in the face after a pillow line — riding a stack of “snow pillows” in rapid succession — in nearby Rogers Pass, resulting in a black eye for the rest of the competition.
He was the first men’s snowboarder to drop into his run and ended up placing second. This started a long season of driving around North America, chasing the overall top spot to land him on the coveted FWT. He headed south to Red Mountain, BC for the next competition, where he placed third and then continued south to Grand Targhee, Wyoming and scooped up second in his last two-star qualifier for the season.
“The two-star events are kind of the prerequisite for the four-stars. Those are really what get you the most points, and how one would actually qualify for the World Tour,” Baird said.
Later in the season, he competed in four-star contests. He placed third in Crested Butte. He took the podium again in Taos, New Mexico with a third place finish. He drove back to Washington for the next competition in Crystal Mountain, where he swept up the top spot for his first time.
”Crystal Mountain, those were hands down the two juiciest, most fun competition runs of my entire season,” Baird said.
The last event of the season was in Kicking Horse, British Columbia. Baird botched his first run, just barely making it into the finals in 12th position. But during the finals, Baird posted the highest score of the day, which bounced him into 4th place, just missing the podium, but jumping up eight spots in the overall ranking. A month later, he received a confirmation email that he had won the tie-breaker for first place overall in the FWQ.
“I never really expected to go anywhere with snowboarding, going pro has always been a pipe dream, I just wanted to travel and meet like minded people that love snowboarding, that’s what really got me into the competition scene, I guess.”
That pipe dream is now becoming a reality for Baird, who placed first overall in his first year of Swatch Freeride World Qualifiers. With the win in qualifiers, he gained an invitation to one of snowboarding’s biggest stages.
After graduating a semester early from Homer High in December 2010, Baird moved to Girdwood to pursue snowboarding and found himself working at the Bake Shop until the end of the winter, followed by a summer of commercial fishing in Bristol Bay.
In the middle of the 2011-12 season, he flew to Haines to fulfill his long-time dream of attending Alaska Heliskiing’s15-day guide school course. It had been his goal to become a heli-boarding guide since he was 12 or 13. Tragedy put that idea on hold after the guide that taught him died a week after the completion of Davey’s training. He had witnessed the developing weak snow layer that took his instructor’s and a client’s lives.
Baird spent the next three years of his life working construction, commercial fishing and exploring the world, going to places like Switzerland, Chile and Thailand.
In 2014, after traveling the world, he decided to head south to Salt Lake City, Utah to explore terrain and immerse himself in the city’s massive ski and snowboard community.
“I was seriously in SLC for like, 5 or 10 minutes, and the first guy I meet is Thayne Rich,” Baird said. Rich is a well-known skier and ski builder.
“Welcomed in the front door like a long time friend, I explained how I was living in my 4Runner looking for a spot, and he said ‘Hell yeah, just crash here, bud!’ I started watching his skiing video parts and was immediately blown away by whom I’d just met.”
Baird found himself fresh into town and house sitting for a professional skier starting what he now calls his first big season. He hooked up with Kyle Wisner, a childhood friend from Homer, and began to call Snowbird Resort home. Over that winter he snowboarded more than ever and came back home in the spring knowing that he would be ready to do it again the next year.
The following season, he lined up a job at Alyeska Resort as a snow maker and endured one of the worst snow winters in Alaska’s history until February, when he was finally fed up with the lack of snow, he left and moved back to Salt Lake.
In November 2015, Baird headed to Bellingham, Wash., to kick off the season. Baird said this was one of the most memorable stretches of his snowboarding career. He met riders he idolizes — legends of the sport like Jake Blauvelt, Pat McCarthy and Eric Jackson.
Baird was elated when, while driving up to Mt. Baker, he realized a group of riders were building the legendary “Mt. Baker Road Gap,” one of the most iconic snowboarding jumps in recent history. The Gap is like “falling over a two lane highway off a 40-foot building,” said Washington skier Dean Collins.
“I could tell that the first guy I talked to wasn’t too stoked that I was kinda pushing myself into the build, but I just started shoveling, and after a little bit they all warmed up and everybody was awesome,” Baird said.
He ended up landing a tail grab 360 and backflip over the gap that day.
Anna Frost is a reporter for the Homer News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roan Rediske is a friend of Davey Baird’s and an aspiring sports writer.