Mark Landvik likes to cut his own path with a snowboard.
When the 1998 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School was growing up, there wasn't much advice out there for snowboarders looking to turn pro.
Fellow Juneau snowboarder Ryan Collard said Landvik is at the top of the profession. "He's in the major leagues," Collard said. He compared the level Landvik has reached to those attained in basketball and baseball by two 1999 JDHS graduates - Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer and Chad Bentz, who pitched last season for the Montreal Expos.
"This has been pretty much my best year," Landvik, 25, said. He will be leaving for Washington state this week for his season on the slopes. He has been working as a carpenter with De Smet Construction. He said he had a chance to go to New Zealand, but had just started the job.
He didn't want to let his boss down, he said. "Carpentry is a good trade."
Landvik said snowboarding as a sport isn't a matter of games. "I don't compete too much any more."
He has eight sponsors who combine to pay him travel expenses and a salary. He goes out not to shut down other snowboarders, but to show what he can do, in pictures and video.
"I'm focusing on video parts and getting my photographs in magazines. That's the best way to get your name out." His sponsors also give him photography and video incentives as he promotes their products.
Boarderline in the Nugget Mall, one of his sponsors, sells three DVDs featuring Landvik - "Lost in Transition," "Thunk" and "5 to 9."
"Everyone has their own section (on the videos)," he said.
Landvik said he also will be on the cover of the upcoming issue of TransWorld Snowboarding magazine.
Collard laughed at the question of whether Landvik is good on the slopes as well as being photogenic. "Super good," he said.
Landvik said he likes to think his style "is pretty smooth. And I go big. I catch a lot of air - big jumps, big cliffs."
He said he has been snowboarding since he was 10. He can't remember being too young to ski. One of the friends he skied with got a snowboard that he tried out. "I got hooked on Eaglecrest. The next year I was snowboarding."
He said snowboarding incorporates more personal style than skiing. He said freestyle skiing is just spinning around.
"I like to do crazy stuff," he said. But he added that he isn't out of control. When he jumps, he knows where he will land, he said.
"I'm in my own element," he said. "Ninety percent of it's mental."
This year, he spent two weeks in Canada, on slopes he didn't know. "I scared myself quite a few times," he said. "One back turn and you end up going somewhere you don't want to be."
Landvik said he likes the wild nature of snowboarding. Some people are taking it smaller, to the level of skateboarding - "which is cool if that's your thing," he said.
He has done some skateboarding, but prefers the slopes.
"People should get out and ride snow instead of concrete," he said.
Getting established isn't easy from Alaska, he said. While it's easy for him in Alaska to find snow and mountains, it can be hard to find the photographers who can get his pictures in the right place. He has gone down to Washington every year since he's graduated from high school.
While there was practice and hard work involved in becoming good enough to snowboard for a living, being able to turn pro "is all about who you know," he said.
He explained that his grandmother had a lot to do with his major contract with Lib Technologies. "Your board is your biggest contract."
One of the company's founders bought a home from his grandmother, who sells real estate in Port Angeles, Wash.
"You know how grandmothers are," Landvik said. "She started blabbing about me."
Today the Lib Technologies Web site lists Landvik as one of their "rippers" and has a section displaying pictures of him in action.
Landvik also is sponsored by Vans, which sells shoes and boots; Drop, which sells gloves and backpacks; Spacecraft, which sells headgear and accessories; Scott, which sells goggles; Volcom, which sells outdoor clothing; and One Ball Jay, which sells wax.
Most of his contracts are for one year, he said. It pushes him. How long it will last is up to his sponsors, he said. "I think I've got quite a bit left in me, five to seven years at least."
Collard, who was a couple of grades ahead of Landvik in school, said he has known him for at least 12 years. He remembers when his friend was challenging the older snowboarders at Eaglecrest.
"He has the perfect physique for it," he said. He also has talent and the drive to get the most out of it. Landvik has the determination to be the best, his friend added. "He's not going to give up. He's not going to take no for an answer."
At the same time, he is the same person he was when he was in high school, where he had a wide range of friends. Despite his success, Landvik is still the same "kind-hearted and funny guy."
Now part of Landvik's snowboarding job means making personal appearances. He said a recent trade show in San Diego was exciting.
Did he think back in high school that people would be waiting in line for his autograph?
"I hoped they would," he said. After a moment, he said he never really thought about it. "I just wanted to snowboard."
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.