ANDREW BURNS INTERVIEW | AGAINST ALL ODDS
By Rob Lemay | Photos [o] Ben Girardi Andrew Burns. That name goes hand in hand within Canadian snowboarding. It’s one that...
Australians know beach. Eighty-five per cent of the population lives on the coast and Charles Beckinsale was no exception. He grew up playing in the sand. Instinct led him to surf. Then, in 1998, life changed. His parents divorced and his mum decided to revisit a past life as a ski instructor. She moved Charles and his sister inland, hours from the waves to the lakeside community and snowy mountains of Jindabyne.
With surfing roots skiing didn’t take for Charles. He saw snowboarding and was set straight.
Aussie winters in “Jindy” have little going on. Snowboarding is the best (read: only) thing going. So Charles got good. He worked park crew at Thredbo Resort and feeding off the strength of the Aussie shred scene, Charles stacked a few sponsors and was able to travel the globe riding in front of cameras. Life was sweet.
Then one day his depth perception failed. He misjudged the speed on a big air kicker and set sail into the far off flats. Lying there, KO’d with blow hinges, and a snapped nerve in his right shoulder. He assumed his high-level riding days were done. Surgeries followed and after a summer off he decided the mountain town lifestyle was too much to give up. He moved to Lake Tahoe, got behind a snowcat, and started learning the craft of grooming and building. He also started to ride again.
Today he’s one of the most sought-after park builders on the planet. The world’s best snowboarders will fly anywhere to hit his jumps. He’s that good. Snowboarding and serving snowboarders, Charles lives in an endless winter to serve people the jumps they want, and the parks they deserve.
“There are only a handful of people in the world who can do what Charles does with a snow cat and even fewer who can pair it with the ability to hit what they create. To a lot of people jump building just looks like pushing snow around, but to do it well requires not only a lot of skill but so much passion and creativity. Charles is one of the very best in the world and I feel lucky to get to hit so many of the features he builds. Usually with him showing me the speed and chucking a nice Frontside 3.” – Spencer O’Brien
We all know what a good jump looks and rides like. What’s the learning curve to getting in a cat and building one?
It’s pretty steep. You know what you’re trying to achieve but if you don’t have a great feel for the machine or how to go about shaping, it’s impossible to build what you see in your head. That takes time. I thought it would be easy, I used to ride along with groomers a lot before I tried driving. I was a shitty free-groomer in the beginning.When I moved to Tahoe, I befriended the head park builder and groomer at Squaw Valley, Brandon Dodds. What he told me back then stuck, “You can learn from 15 years of someone else’s mistakes or make 15 years of your own.” So I rolled with him as much as I could to learn.
Why do you think riders value and trust your work so much?
Probably my riding background and the fact I still ride what I’m working on. I try to stay open minded and up on the current riding trends, even if it doesn’t appeal to my riding style. I think that’s key so you don’t get stuck in one lane.
What are some of the parks, pieces, or places you’ve built that you’re most hyped on?
Perisher park in Australia for sure. Blackcomb grey and black parks, the butter pad transfers I built for Matchstick Productions last year on Blackcomb, the whale tail for Level 1 Productions the year before that on Whistler, and the spine with QP to flat bank sides for Shredbots at Perisher. There are so many I’m stoked on over the years but these come to mind because they were not just another jump.
Where does the inspiration come from?
I have always watched the movies closely each year and I draw a lot of inspiration from what people’s riding is pointing to; you end up having a lot of time to think about new feature ideas while you’re sitting in a cat at night. I’m always motivated to work with other snowboard nerds to come up with different ideas, things get boring if nothing evolves.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
Probably from Gjermund Braaten after the Nike movie shoot. After landing one of the first Triple Corks, he told me it was the best jump he had ever hit. Then asked me to tear the jump down once the session was over. Saying anyone who hits this will surely learn new tricks. But I think the best compliment for me is when you’re in the liftline hearing riders talk amongst themselves about how stoked they are on the jumps and the tricks they are landing. It’s completely genuine, unprovoked, and cheesy as fuck, I know.
Why are proper parks and well-built jumps important?
Badly built parks cause injuries and sometimes one more injury is all it takes for an older snowboarder to throw in the towel. A well-built park keeps injuries down, encourages new snowboarders into the sport, and gets them hooked as well as keeping the intermediate and advanced riders stimulated and engaged with the sport. A good park program attracts riders from all around the world and it’s a marketing teams wet dream on the social media side of things.
Where do people need to go to ride your work?
Unfortunately, not at Whistler Blackcomb anymore as I’m not eligible for a visa. I’m told my line of work isn’t a recognized skill, like ski instructing.
So your mum could come work at Whistler right now but you can’t?
Exactly. I’m still running the park at Perisher in Australia, and I recently started my own private park session called “The Stomping Grounds” in Saas fee Switzerland each October. This winter I’m sticking with contract work around Europe.
CHARLES’ TOP 5 | PARK RIDERS
He’s just been so good for so long and can ride anything with one of the best styles out there. He has broken his back twice now and is still at the top of the game. I have never seen mental strength and dedication like his.
When you see him ride in person, it’s mind blowing. He can do pretty much any trick with consistency and is shredding the backcountry, too.
Looks good on a snowboard, amazing edge control and transition skills coupled with the different grabs and tweaks he puts on his spins to separate himself from the rest.
For his technical prowess and consistency, I’ve seen him do pretty much every rail tick in the book at Perisher and even some NBD’s. His jump game is always on point; I feel he is really underrated for how good he is.
I just find him really exciting to watch; so much energy and always looks like he is having fun with it. The way I have seen him ride in the last few months, I think he is going to fuck shit up this contest season.
TOP 5 PARKS
Quick laps, lots of sun, an enormous rail fleet with lots of creative setups, good park infrastructure. A fun shreddable 18-foot pipe and consistently good jump lines for every ability.
For the scale of its parks program and the commitment to it from the beginning. It’s one of the only places in the world to have all three pipe sizes, a massive rail fleet, lots of variety, quick laps and California weather.
For the quick lap and innovative rail setup. They always try new ideas, which sets them apart in my mind. The jumps always look good and the snow is that cold, consistent Colorado goodness.
It seems to make the most noise in Europe with the scale of its park program. It has full size jump lines, the best 22 foot pipe in Europe and quite possibly the world. Lots of jibs with a fairly North American style about the way they set them up.
Two big park programs within one resort. Lots of resources, there are not many places in the world outside of competitions you can consistently ride big jumps like you can in Blackcomb’s Black Park. Lots of jib options and they’re always forced change it up because it’s always getting buried in snow.