Knuckle Draggers and Switch Nollie present ‘All Aboard’ at the Wheeler
Aspen-based snowboarders and skateboarders debut their tricks, talents on the big screen on Saturday at the Wheeler Opera House
After two years in the making, hundreds of hours of hard work and dedication, and pulling off death defying feats in sketchy places all over the valley and in the backcountry, a group of local snowboarders and skateboarders will showcase their street-riding skills in a film that debuts on Saturday at the Wheeler Opera House.
In partnership with Radio Boardshop, All Aboard is presented by Switch Nollie and Knuckle Draggers. The show combines Switch Nollie’s WILLIE, a skateboarding video, and the self-titled movie, Knuckle Draggers, made by a tight-knit crew of snowboarders who collectively carry the love and passion for the sport and one another.
Behind the scary scenes
The film is a series of clips of local riders who scouted and then rode manmade spots, like handrails and ledges, all over town that seem unimaginable to the average person to be ridden at all.
The locales are riddled with obstacles, whether light posts, cars, utility boxes, or property managers, to name a few.
“It was a decade of looking around and then the next step of following through with it,” said Connor Marx, a local snowboarder featured in the film and a member of the Knuckle Draggers crew. “Usually, one person finds something that speaks to them, and it works for their skill sets.”
Following through with it means roughly five guys who spend hours prepping a particular site, which entails hours of shoveling and using a bungee rope or winch to propel the rider onto the feature, completing the trick unscathed, and capturing it on camera.
“Prep work and speed are the biggest issues with riding street, and getting enough speed is the most dangerous element of this; and, safety always is a factor,” Marx said. “Teamwork is the main theme in helping make sure you are saving your friend’s life.”
Cody Kosinski, a snowboarder featured in backcountry scenes in the film and a member of the Knuckle Draggers, recalled the work that went into a spot Marx wanted to nail.
“I think we spent an hour and a half pulling the bungee like 60 times,” he said. “Connor is super committed, and it’s so fun to see him, and we love to watch each other, and we love snowboarding with each other.”
The skateboard video and snowboarding film pay homage to the street-riding origins (and surfing, too, in the case of snowboarding) of both sports and turns them into an art form.
“We find interesting and creative spots that are fun and look good on film,” said Mark Pinter, the main filmmaker for WILLIE and the second-angle cameraman for Knuckle Draggers. “You have to use your creative eye. … None of us are professionals, so it’s for the love of skateboarding and a unique group of homies, and I just think it’s a cool twist on skateboarding in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
Keeping it real and local
Many of the features the riders hit in the video and movie are replicated in skateboard parks and terrain parks at ski-area resorts, but the crew wanted to showcase the raw elements of street riding and snowboarding.
“It’s cool counter-culture, especially because Aspen is such a ski town,” said Pinter, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where street snowboarding was his jam before moving here a decade ago.
It’s a passion project with no budget but serious commitment and cojones from a crew of non-pro riders who were inspired by each other, said Zach Hooper — producer of Knuckle Draggers, a professional photographer and cinematographer, as well as the eldest member of the Knuckle Draggers snowboarder club.
“These guys are a brand’s wet dream,” he said of the riders who are talented enough to be pro but are doing life and participating in the sport in their own way. “This movie is a documentation of the last two winters with people you love and keeping everyone safe in dangerous conditions and truly living in the moment and focused on this one thing that you love and finding that Zen moment.”
Rooted in passion
The film project began during the pandemic, when many of the riders found themselves with more time on their hands than usual.
“The first clip was on Dec. 12, 2020, and I decided to do a video regardless; and, through the process of that, we accumulated more clips, and it took shape,” Marx said. “Zach said we are going to make a movie, and, by January, we knew it would work.”
Coincidentally, Pinter was wrapping up his skateboarding video when Hooper and the Knuckle Draggers were putting the final touches on their film, so they billed the two-part presentation as All Aboard.
“It worked out well that the two came together, and it’s a natural fit to combine the two,” Pinter said. “We have an awesome community that supports locals.”
Everyone involved individually thought their work would appear on a YouTube video and played at a local bar or in someone’s living room. But, with Kosinski’s role as a theater technician at the Wheeler Opera House, an open date in the prime of the ski season, and the financial support of Travis McClain, owner of Radio Boardshop, All Aboard found its way to the big screen.
The venue has traditionally been the home for ski films and rarely features snowboarding, especially non-brand and locally-produced.
A project like Knuckle Draggers is unlikely to get airtime at Aspen Skiing Co.’s The Meeting conference where big brands, pro athletes, and content curators gather or at the NESPA photo contest and video awards show, Hooper noted.
“Outside of this valley, no one knows these guys,” he said. “These kids deserve to shine and get out to the masses.
“I like how obscure we’ve been, and I’ve enjoyed working with these guys. They are my family, and it’s been a special time, a real learning experience, and really spiritual,” Hooper continued. “I feel like if anyone has had aspirations to make a project like the pros, don’t think you can’t do it because we are doing it with zero budget and zero pros. We are not trying to break the mold. We are showing that we can do it, too.”
He and the crew said it couldn’t have happened without the support of McClain.
“Travis came through for us huge. He cares so much about the community. Even now, when I watch it, I get choked up,” Hooper said. “We took these kids, and they put their necks on the line to entertain you.”
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://www.aspenshowtix.com. Four snowboards will be given away. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the ride on screen begins at 8:30 p.m.
Hooper said the low ticket price is just to cover their costs.
“We are just trying to break even,” he said. “If you want to see a movie made almost entirely in Aspen from entirely Aspen loc’s, we’d love for you to join us.”