The star of TGR’s new film Mountain Revelations, discusses race, conservation, and the pure joy of snowboarding big mountains.
Ryan Hudson wants us to step lightly in the mountains. As a professional snowboarder leaning on his reverence for nature, joy for riding “as fast as possible,” and gratitude for friends and mentors to balance out the harsher realities of sponsored sports, Hudson wants for the mountains the same thing he wants for the athletes who spend their lives falling in love with them—an opportunity to exist while being respected, cared for, and not exploited. Mountain Revelations, Teton Gravity Research’s latest film featuring Hudson, Jeremy Jones, and Rafael Pease as they embark on a human-powered mission in Alaska’s Chugach Mountain Range, will begin its worldwide tour this month (tetongravity.com/films/mountain-revelations/tour).
Tell me about your relationship with nature and the mountains?
The mountains have provided me a life I never thought I would have—and a perspective on life I never thought I could have. The energy is so different in the mountains. They are these gigantic, massive, moving, living, ever-changing entities over which we have little to no control. But we believe that we do, and we blow them up and dig in them. I feel that the mountains and nature get walked on, and stepped on, and abused, and exploited—just like I felt that I did when I was growing up. Growing up in and out of shelters, and coming from that place of desperation and despair—where there was very little to be happy about—being out in nature and the mountains gave me the complete opposite: all the reasons to be happy and grateful.
You are one of a small handful of professional Black snowboarders. Do you ever get to go on all-Black or all-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) expeditions? What would be possible if this could happen?
Wow—no! In terms of expeditions, [linking up with] the 2013 Black Denali expedition was the most diverse. I would love more opportunities to do that. I dream of putting a rad film together—either all Black people or all people of color. There are so many beautiful humans, and such a range of talent. You could produce such a fun, active, film showing people going out and doing what they love. There are endless possibilities for things like that.
What would need to change in the outdoors industry to enable more BIPOC kids, and kids without money, to thrive as snowboarders—financially, mentally, and emotionally?
It will take people who have money being willing to spend it without wanting a return on their investment. It will take people being willing to put more funding into grassroots programs. It will take companies being more connected to neighborhoods than brands.
The reality is that it’s really hard to build financial stability [as a professional athlete]. Last year was a disaster. So many people lost money and jobs. At the same time, so many [ski] companies made more money than they ever had, but then turned around and said they didn’t have resources to support athletes. There are other companies who would rather just deal with athletes through Instagram.
But I don’t think people really think about the mental health of people who are tied to Instagram for their careers. And mental health is a massive topic in our day and age. I have anxiety; I suffer from depression. There are times where I want to shut down from the world around me, and I’d rather spend time at home with my dog. But when I do that [and stop posting], I get messages from sponsors, like: “Where are you? What are you doing?” We could do much better as an industry as a whole.
Mountain Revelations is being released this fall. What was it like going into the mountains with Jeremy Jones and Rafael Pease?
That was one of those rare opportunities where you get to spend time with an idol. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe Jeremy. It’s like the rookie who gets to go hang out with Jordan all day. And I had known of Rafa before, but we had never formally met. It is really awesome when there are tons of experience and knowledge you can absorb from these people when you’re out in the mountains. That to me is everything.
What do you want people to take away from this movie?
I would love for people to see the joy and camaraderie and energy that’s shared in the mountains between people from all walks of life. I want people to know that no matter where you come from, you belong out in nature. There are people of color who love the mountains, and love exploring, and love being out in nature, and we all belong. And [I want people to see] what it feels like to always be in love with nature.
Cover photo: Hudson, Jeremey Jones, and Rafael Pease seek wild snow in TGr’s Mountain Revelations. Photo Courtesy TGR