FAIRBANKS, Alaska – When he wants to go snowboarding, Josh Martinez walks out his back door and climbs onto two tires mounted on his porch railing.
After a minute to step into his binding and make sure he has music playing through his headphones, he drops down a 45-degree ramp into his backyard, using the speed he picks up to jump onto the obstacles of his homemade terrain park.
Martinez, 34, has been a snowboarder for most of his life. He sees the sport as an adrenaline fix and an important creative outlet. That’s why he’s made a point of always having the equipment to build a terrain park at a hill near or, in this case, at his home.
“It opens up a whole new world to riding. You start to learn to do these fun little tricks. It’s artistic,” he said.
“You have a lot of snowboarders nowadays who do lots of flips and spins, very aggressive, almost like gymnasts. Then there’s another side that doesn’t get seen this much, really good snowboarders who may not be hitting the biggest things, but they’re riding it really creatively. Maybe they have their back foot out and they’re doing a stall. Or they’re grabbing the board a different way.”
At his rental house, Martinez has built a snowboard park for the past four years in the perfectly flat terrain of his backyard.
The fun comes at a cost. Martinez said he’s lost count of the number of concussions and bone fractures he’s suffered. Now that he’s married and has a daughter, he’s slowed down a bit on the harder tricks.
Martinez grew up snowboarding in Ninilchik, a small town on the Kenai Peninsula. He started snowboarding in gravel pits, riding with his friend Travis Kennedy, who would grow up to be a professional snowboarder.
Martinez is used to making do with flat terrain. But in 2004, he moved to the Chugach Range outside Girdwood, where he worked as a snowmaker, lift worker and terrain park builder for the Alyeska Ski Resort.
He likes all styles of snowboarding, from backcountry powder to groomed resorts. But his favorite style is jibbing, doing skateboard-type tricks on man-made obstacles like rails and half pipes. On Instagram, his handle is @akjibber.
“Jibbings is just something that I can do anywhere,” he said. “It’s like street skating, but it’s a little more work because I’ve got to set up whatever I’m going to ride.”
In 2011, Martinez moved to Fairbanks where his wife was in school. He found places to snowboard around Fairbanks and started building temporary terrain parks on Ester Dome.
In 2015, Martinez got an opportunity to build a terrain park for a living. That year he was hired to work as assistant manager and later manager of the Hulbert Nanook Terrain Park on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The park opened the year before as part of the same wave of outdoor recreation developments at the university that included the outdoor rock climbing and ice climbing wall.
The UAF terrain park had a loyal following, but it was a small one, Martinez said. Only the most hardcore snowboarders and skiers were willing to walk up the hill repeatedly to use the terrain park and the university didn’t have the money to instal a rope tow, Martinez said.
In 2016, the campus gave the terrain park equipment to Ski Land on the Steese Highway as part of a deal that will give full-time students Ski Land passes for five years.
Today, Martinez works three jobs: salesman for at home physical therapy company; pizza deliveryman; and teacher and rental counter worker at Moose Mountain, the Interior’s other main downhill ski area.
He has ambitions to build another large-scale community terrain park. But for now, he’s busy maintaining his backyard park, a job that takes hours of snow shoveling. At least one evening a week, he steps out his backdoor to play.
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