Longtime 50-year-old snowboarder Luke Edgar believes everyone's life is shaped by three to five big decisions.
For Edgar, those were joining the army in his 20s, marrying his wife and buying his first snowboard - a 1984 Burton Woody.
Edgar, who developed his love for riding while carving up Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, Mount Baker, Mount Spokane, which didn't allow snowboarding at the time, and just about any snowy surface he could find in the mid '80s, has enjoyed 20-plus successful years working in the snowboard industry.
After a 14-year hiatus, Edgar is returning to the scene where he got his start. He is competing in the 28th annual Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom Friday, Feb. 8, through Sunday, Feb. 10.
"This is my 50th birthday present to myself," Edgar said in a phone interview. "Being in the snowboarding industry for 20-plus years, this is the most sought-out race in the world. People from all over come to compete. It's not even comparable to the X Games or the Olympics, because that is so much about the competition element. The biggest part about (the slalom) is the camaraderie and being a part of a family who loves snowboarding."
Edgar grew up in Spokane and decided to join the Army as a way to get out of his hometown. Once he left the military, he instantly gravitated toward snowboarding. Edgar began teaching snowboarding classes in Spokane, entering competitions and squeezing as much time on the mountain out of the winter as he could.
Edgar started meeting other Northwest snowboarding pros and business people in the industry while traveling to contests in the late '80s. He soon realized he wanted to work in the snowboarding business.
One lead led to another, and Edgar eventually received a four-month internship working for upstart K2 Snowboarding. It was his dream job at the time.
He turned his temporary work into a full-time position by putting in 90-hour work weeks.
"I was lucky enough to get into K2 Snowboarding when it was in the ground floor," Edgar said. "Snowboarding was still pretty young, and we were able to bring innovation by developing the variable board theory and backcountry gear. We really were ahead of our time. To see what's trending now, it's all about the backcountry gear and how to go out of bounds with a snowboard."
Getting out of bounds has always intrigued Edgar.
In fact, he is regarded by some as a pioneer of backcountry riding and still remembers summiting before riding down Stoneman Chute in Baker's backcountry during the late '80s and early '90s.
"I hiked and got back (to Mount Baker) at around 10 (a.m.)," Edgar said. "(Mt. Baker Ski Area manager) Duncan Howat saw me and said, 'Edgar, where have you been?' I said, 'I just did Stoneman.' He looked at me, grunted and walked off."
Edgar's backcountry excursions haven't always been pleasant.
During the winter of 2001-02, Edgar and his friend Gorio Bustamante decided to hike to Camp Muir, which rests 10,000 feet up along the south side of Mount Rainier.
Nearing the end of Edgar and Bustamante's run down the mountain, about 500 vertical feet from the parking lot where their car was, Bustamante suddenly yelled, "Slide!" Edgar tried to avoid an avalanche of snow rushing toward him but was soon engulfed and buried.
After several minutes, Bustamante spotted a small piece of Edgar's backpack and was able to save his buried friend.
Surviving an avalanche still hasn't deterred Edgar from doing what he loves, though.
"Backcountry snowboarding is my ideal day," Edgar said.
Edgar parted ways with K2 after 10-plus years working for the company. He now works as the Canadian Brand Director for headphone maker Skullcandy, but said he hopes to get back into the snowboarding industry someday.
"I think one day my heart will bring me back to my passion," Edgar said.
He'll certainly be living out his passion this weekend.
"Every time I think about (the slalom) I get an adrenaline rush, just being in that starting gate and reading the course," Edgar said. "I'm also excited to see Duncan and Amy (Howat) and Gwyn (Howat) and all those old faces I haven't seen in forever."
Edgar said despite his 14 year absence from the race, he's wanted to compete every year. His work schedule has never allowed him to.
He has a bit of advice for novices trying to conquer the minute-and-a-half-long wild ride.
"Stay low and be powerful," he said.
Edgar advanced to the Sunday final in the grand masters division with a 1 minute, 52.085 second run during qualifying Friday, Feb. 8.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.