by Zach Aller

Patrick Trottier is the King of Rimouski and founder of the holy grail of East Coast snowboard events: SNOWMISSION. Situated deep in the lower Saint-Lawrence region of Quebec, Trottier has been receiving the province’s “crème de la crème” snowboarders and industry reps at his local mountain, Mont-Comi, since the event’s inception 12 years ago. The event features both competitive elements and participation drivers, such as splitboard clinics, Riglet parks, and product demos, and puts industry professionals in the same venue as new and returning consumers.

It seems like only yesterday, Quebec snowboarders had rail competitions nearly every weekend from October to April. A season in Quebec meant ample opportunities for the community to gather and riders to win cash. Every year we had a string of incredible events, culminating with the almighty Shakedown (rest in peace). Front of mind are the infamous SMF tours, the Empire Backyard Party and City Troopers, and of course Playa del Jibo in beautiful Magog. This intense and diverse cycle of contests churned out an incredibly technical and hungry wave of Quebecois shredders, with guys like Jason Dubois, Jeremy Cloutier, Frank April, Anto Chamberland and Frank Bourgeois claiming podiums all winter long. For what some of us lacked in sponsor dollars we made up in contest prizes, sometimes earning ski-doos, motocross bikes, or a few thousand bucks. Oh, the Glory Days!

Today we are slowly witnessing the extinction of locally produced snowboard contests– east coast snowboarders (and snowboard scenes) are living the reality of predominantly inaccessible and increasingly sparse contests. One can’t help but ask, what does the future hold for young rippers who want to make it big in snowboarding? The Snowmission weekend is one we all look forward to, and represents a unique combination of pure fun, legit competition, product showcasing, and partying of the highest quality. I caught up with Patrick Trottier, the founder of Snowmission, to chat about his approach to encouraging participation, competition, and general stoke for snowboarding in his home.
Describe your background and where you operate– what makes this region so special to you and your team?
I’ve been a snowboarder since 1987. I’ve owned the Alternative Sports shop since its creation in 1995. I was born in Rimouski, the snowboarding Mecca of Quebec.

What is Snowmission and what does it represent for you?
The Snowmission is the yearly snowboard event that we created 12 years ago. In its early stage, I outlined the general framework of its fundamental purpose, which was to popularize and promote all aspects of snowboarding as a sport and prompt riders to participate in competitions and activities, even if we are located 500km away from Montreal. Another goal was to create a fun entertaining hype around our local mountain that would last for a 3-day weekend. It requires lots of efforts and planning, but the results are undeniably positive as the event helps portraying a positive image of the sport across the province.

Describe the different components of Snowmission– what makes a successful snowboard event?
At first, it was a competition. We were awarding prizes– for a couple of years, we handed a $15, 000 snowmobile to the winner as well as some $15, 000 grants! Given our industry’s tribulations and fluctuations over the past few years, the question arose as to whether the event should just no longer exist. This option was inconceivable to me, so we had to cut down on grants, increase the participatory activities, and leverage the quality of the trail with our friends at Today’s Parks & Creations. This is why the Snowmission is now a more familial event where everyone can participate. A Women’s component was added last year, along with a broomball competition while all of the most popular activities were maintained, like the products demos and free introduction to snowboarding for small kids. It has become a 3-day-long snowboard festival!

What makes Snowmission so damn fun?
The atmosphere is quite special; it’s an industry gathering happening in a very welcoming small place. The first step is to plan your weekend and get there, as soon as you reach the spot, you will feel like you landed in a Club Med resort! You just can’t help being happy all the time and making the most of everything that is happening! Most of the activities are free and to top everything up, thanks to the microclimate that blesses us, for the last couple of years the Snowmission storm drops 50cm of fresh snow on us, right before the event!

As a Montreal-based rider who has attended the last 6 or 7 Snowmissions, I can attest that it has always been an epic weekend of riding and partying with awesome people and wrapping up the season on a high-note. But you have always kept it legit from every angle, including innovating the competition setup year after year. How important is it for shops to continually innovate in the projects they are involved in?
Zach, it is an epic weekend indeed! Do you remember the year the after-party ended 15 minutes earlier because of you? Hehehe! Innovation is my main motivation in life. New concepts and novelties are what drive me, and this applies to several areas. The snowboard industry needs to renew itself because the customers are on the lookout for something new, not only new products, but also new events that are truly important and generate a convening power among all of us.

Although it’s difficult to measure, there is an important distinction between passionate shops that find ways to give back to their communities, and those who don’t. Do you see added value to your business since organizing the Snowmission every year?
There is no doubt in my mind that giving back to the community is essential for a shop. The idea is to really put your heart into it and not to focus on the customers it might bring to your shop. This way, you do things for the right reasons. If you manage to increase your clients’ loyalty in the process, that’s even better. A detail worth mentioning is that the Snowmission’s organization is led by a non-profit; that speaks volumes about the real reasons surrounding and driving the production of the event.

How important is this event for your local scene?
It is just as important as operating a specialized shop that can innovate and take care of its customers!

Over the last year or two, riders in Quebec have seen the number of competitions held during winter drop drastically. I remember a time when as soon as there was snow, there were competitions every weekend. Bad winters, a slow down in the industry and the rise of more inclusive formats like the Banked Slaloms may be to blame — the SMF tours, Empire Backyard Party, City Troopers and Shakedown are a thing of the past. This year, Snowmission is one of the only major events. How does that make you guys feel about the future of competitive snowboarding in Quebec?
It’s very difficult to play that guessing game– who would have thought that the Shakedown would disappear? For the moment, I concentrate on finding the perfect balance between too much and not enough and maintaining the contribution and interest of our precious partners. This can be quite challenging.

Pat, it’s been a pleasure, thank you for fighting the good fight and putting on amazing events year after year. We’ll see you in March. Shout-outs?

I would like to invite every snowboarder to live the Snowmission experience at Parc du Mont-Comi at least once, our reward is to see those smiles and so many people coming! I would like to thank our partners like Burton, Vans, Oakley, Today’s Park & Creations, Dakine, Beaver Wax, Alternative113, inStance, Sandbox, Radio Énergie 98.7 and of course the host site, the Parc du Mont-Comi.

Snowmission 2017 runs March 17-19 at Parc du Mont-Comi, Bas-St-Laurent, QC.