Somewhere far north of the Arctic Circle – Coal Headwear

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Somewhere far north of the Arctic Circle

Last May, Naima Antolin spearheaded a trip to Riksgränsen, Sweden along with Darrah Reid-McLean and Phil Hansen. Riksgränsen is an iconic destination full of snowboard history, yet it is so far removed from the North American snowboard scene that a lot of riders here haven’t even heard of it. Filmer Kevin Nolan caught up with Naima to get the inside scoop on the trip of a lifetime.

Kevin Nolan OK, so let's start from the beginning. How did you get the idea in your head for this trip? How did it come about originally?

Naima Antolin: OK, so if you want the long story, it all started when I first met Ylfa [Rúnarsdóttir] in 2020. I had never met her before- I just found out about her through Instagram because Jess Kimura was like “you and Ylfa need to follow each other, you're both filming for The Uninvited II and I think you guys would like each other”. So she told both of us that, and then we reached out to each other on Instagram. I told her, oh you seem really cool, if you want to come to America you have a place to stay, and she said the same thing about Sweden. She ended up coming out to America, and within the first day or two she was just like “You need to come to Riksgränsen and that’s what planted the seed. And then fast forward to earlier last winter. You and I were talking up at the Brain Bowl [event at Snoqualmie] and I was just like, I have a crazy idea.

KN: Yeah, I mean it seemed pretty outlandish at the time when we were standing in the rain at Snoqualmie. And I'm like, yeah, that would be crazy, but there's no way we're actually going to go. And then we actually went.

NA: You have no idea how many crazy ideas I've had that worked out so much better than things that I plan out.

KN: Before you met Ylfa had you ever heard of Riksgränsen?

NA: No. Like maybe I had seen videos that were filmed there. But snowboard movies can be filmed all over the world and you have no idea.

Not quite the end of the road, but pretty close. Riksgränsen.

KN: This video is meant to be a little different then a lot of snowboard edits, and that was mostly your creative direction. Where did the whole concept of the video come from?

NA: Well, the first thing that comes to my head is a thing that Ylfa says whenever she tries to get someone to try something new- she just comes up to you with a random bag of chips or licorice or something, it's a weird flavor, and she's just like “Eat it. It's culture. It's just culture”. And then for some reason, that was stuck in my head. As snowboarders we have this opportunity to travel all around the world, yet the culture [we experience] is not always highlighted. I just wanted to figure out a way to give some appreciation and respect to that.

Our local guide Ylfa showing us how it’s done.

KN: Why did you want to bring Darrah and Phil?

NA: When I think of their snowboarding I just think of really good all mountain riding. Their riding adapts, and they both can thrive in any conditions. Just throw them anywhere and they can snowboard- all-around borders. And then, I might sound stupid, but I just had a good feeling, so I just trusted my instinct on it. And I would say that it worked out really well. It not only worked out, but it was so cool to see Darrah and Phil just vibe off each other. And then in turn they're learning new tricks! Like, we created this environment for people to actually get better at snowboarding. How many film trips have you gone on where you just die, you get hurt- this was the opposite. So it was really cool to see how all that played out. Like, none of us had really snowboarded together that much or had ever been on a trip together, but sometimes you just know things are going to work out perfectly.

Phil and Darrah, ATVs.

KN: What was it like to travel over 4000 miles to what felt like the end of the Earth?

NA: Ok, so just starting off with leaving the Seattle airport, we ran into our first, uh, roadblock- which is that not all of us had the correct COVID vaccination cards up to date in order to fly through Amsterdam. They changed the rules like a week before we left and none of us noticed, so they wouldn’t let Darrah, Phil, and I on the original flight. [Kevin] had all his stuff up to date so he was able to go on the original flight but they changed the rest of our flights to go through Paris. That made it so we had a 7 hour layover in Paris. So what do you do when you have that type of layover? You try and see the Eiffel Tower. I forgot who said it, but they were like, we have five hours to get lost, two hours to get back to the airport. That's what we did.  But yeah, it all worked out and our board bags showed up somehow.

The gang in Paris. Kevin may or may not be photoshopped into this photo.

KN: For someone that's never been to Riksgränsen before, like how would you describe it?

NA: The first thing to know is that it's above the Arctic Circle, which means that during the winter time the sun never rises, and then come summer time the sun never sets. So in the spring time, we're at that point where the sun just never set, so it's just constant daylight all the time. That kind of just sets the tone and the vibe of the trip on its own. It’s not really a big mountain, it's more like a bunch of hills, and there's some zones where there's rocks, some zones where there's a little bit of trees, but it's just giant hills with natural hips and jumps everywhere. Oh, and there's the golden chair, of course.

Naima, FS360 over one of many natural terrain features Riks has to offer.

KN: Tell me about the golden chair.

NA: So there's two golden chairs, one on each of the chairlifts, and if you get on the golden chair, obviously it's going to be the best day ever. There's a train track that runs through the bottom of the resort, and the main export of [the area] is iron, and so these trains are carrying these giant wagons full of iron pellets- and one of these wagons is spray painted gold. I don't know why it’s spray painted gold, but there's one golden wagon and if you're snowboarding and you see it, people say you’ll get lucky. I could also be making all of this up, so I apologize if I'm wrong.

KN: I think that's what we told ourselves was going on, so I'm going to just stick with that.

NA: That's what Ylfa told us.

Naima, always the artist.

KN: What's the significance of Riksgränsen in the Scandinavian snowboard scene?

NA: It really felt like a parallel to Mount Hood. Come springtime when all the other resorts close, everyone just naturally migrates to this place. This is another lawless town [like Government Camp], anything goes. There's just no rules- people were camping everywhere. There are so many cars and so many people just like, living on the snow in these giant tents that have been there for weeks.

We made friends.

KN: Any key takeaways from the trip?

NA: It was definitely a group...what’s the word? Effort, there we go. Sorry, when you're in Israel, you just start thinking in Hebrew.

KN: Where are you right now?

NA: I'm in Tel Aviv, Israel, and it's great. I love it. Technology is amazing. I can't believe we're across the world from each other right now. But anyways, [my key takeaway] was that no matter where you are in the world, snowboarding is still snowboarding and it's a language we can all understand. That's a very powerful message.

As close to night time as it ever got North of the Arctic Circle.