A Cool Breeze and Some Tasty Clear-Cut

Two skaters from Seattle strive to perfect a trick new winter ride

Feb 1, 2000
Outside Magazine

The urge to slide on snow—what the french call glisser—cuts across continents and species. Otters are notorious schussers, black bears occasionally enjoy a skid down the hill, and humans have evolved from sled to ski to snowboard in their quest to better glide across a snowy expanse. Now two old-school skateboarders from Seattle have developed the latest tool for snow conveyance: a shrunken surfboard with teensy tail fins that floats on fresh powder like a Jeff Clark gun on the swells at Santa Cruz. Inventors Curt Buchberger and Steve Dukich have christened their product the SnoDad (http://snodad.com). "It's from the old surfer's term 'ho-dad,'" explains Buchberger, 31, "which is what they called the greaser who hung out in the parking lot and didn't surf." It's a fitting name, since they promote their design as a step backward in snowplay evolution—an anti-snowboard that won't work on the packed snow of ski resorts. "Grooming," intones Dukich, 31, "is the enemy of the SnoDad."

The SnoDad was born four years ago when Buchberger and Dukich, who often spend their summers riding Washington State's frigid coastal waves, passed a glassy surf day goofing around the slopes of Mount Hood with an old wooden Snurfer, the 1960s-era banana sled. The Snurfer, with its bindingless hop-on-and-ride operation, felt more like snow-surfing than snowboarding. Inspired, they crafted their own Snurfer-skateboard hybrid, with kicktail and all. "That was a complete disaster," recalls Buchberger. "It was like trying to stand and ride an aluminum saucer," adds Dukich. After a few more trips to the drawing board they hit upon their master design: a five-foot-long, seven-ply maple deck with a rubber footpad, three fins arranged in a thruster pattern, no bindings, and no metal edges. "It's not an extreme sport, but in powder you can duck down, come up, and get these nice airs," says Dukich. "It feels like you're planing on top of the snow instead of cutting through it."

Since the fins can't slice through packed snow, SnoDadders must either poach freshies before the chairlifts open or find their own corniced backcountry waves. A board that won't work on the groomers likely won't turn its inventors into the next Jake Burtons, but that's fine with Buchberger and Dukich. The idea, they say, is to have fun messing around in the snow without a lot of expensive gear. Indeed, the board may float best on the trashiest terrain. (Logging clear-cuts are ideal.) Dukich, who moonlights as the bassist for the Seattle-based blue-collar punk band Steel Wool, discovered a dreamy run last winter during a low-budget Alaskan tour. "We were playing Chilkoot Charlie's in Anchorage," he says, "and found these hills outside the club right next to the freeway. For two nights, between sets we took the board out there and completely rode out the hillside. That's the point—just put on your Sorels or Doc Martens and ride."