'Twas a white winter in Washington, circa 2008. Mount Baker was blanketed with packed powder, but only up near the resort’s 5,089-foot peak — a surprising discovery for Brian Paupaw, an East Coast snowboarder who hadn’t yet experienced such heights. But his mind had already been expanded.
Hitchhiking to the mountain along Highway 542, he’d found catching a ride with his thumb to be easier than hailing taxis in Times Square as a Black man. “That was so cool — to be a person of color and have people treat me [with open arms] because of snowboarding,” he says.
The cofounder of Hoods to Woods, a nonprofit that introduces inner-city kids to the sport, grew up in Brooklyn in the ’80s. He recalls park parties and breakdancing amid the birth of hip-hop. He also recalls a crack epidemic sweeping the streets, leaving bodies in its wake.