Ralph looking comfortable under the looming Mt Rainier. Photo: Hunter Murphy
Words: Mike Yoshida
Having been born and bred in the great state of Vermont, the launch pad for so many next level riders, it’s no surprise that Ralph Kucharek is as talented as they come. Although the last couple of years have had it’s ups and downs with injuries, Ralph diversified his bonds and enrolled in the University of Vermont. Fast forward to 2019, Ralph is healthy, has a college degree under his belt, and is ready to show the world his talents in his new self produced film. We caught up with the friendliest east coast tall guy to see what he was up to this winter, and his plans for the future.
Where do you live, and what is your home resort.
I’ve been living in Burlington, Vermont for a few years, but I recently moved 20 minutes closer to the mountains and reside in Richmond now. I don’t have a definite home resort, but I tend to float between Stowe, Sugarbush, or Bolton Valley depending on the day.
Growing up in Vermont, who did you look up to within your local shred scene?
Although they had already made moves to the west coast by the time I was fully aware of the scene, I really looked up to guys like Jake Blauvelt, Colin Langlois, Kyle Clancy, Lucas Magoon, and both Jesse and Lukas Huffman. They had cut their teeth in Vermont and it was definite inspiration that you didn’t need fancy resorts or conditions to become a better rider. Riders I got to share the mountains with and inspired me were Hans and Nils Mindnich, Tucker Speer, Riley Nickerson, Luke Haddock, and John Murphy.
Have your ever played that game Boulder Dash?
Rumor has it that the East Coast had an amazing season this year. Where did you mostly ride and film this winter?
I confirm that rumor is correct. I ended up spending almost my entire season at home here in Vermont and filmed practically everything in Northern Vermont from Sugarbush up to Stowe and everywhere in between. To put our season into perspective, Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s tallest peak and home of Stowe) has a snow-stake situated high on the mountain, which on average since 1954 has recorded a maximum depth of around 75 inches. This season it hit over 125 inches and a few times I saw snow around it reading over 10 feet in depth. That’s a good season for Vermont and hopefully it continues to trend deeper in the coming years.
What project did you work on this season, and whom did you mostly film with?
I worked on my first-ever personal project this season called 100 North. It’s a short-film based around the ever-changing season here in Vermont. The name stems from Route 100, which runs from the top to the bottom of the state, which is a convenient gateway to take locals, visitors, and enthusiasts to the majority of resorts and mountains in the state. Riders in the crew consisted of Parker Szumowski, Tomas Ruprecht, Nathanael Asaro, John Murphy, Luke Haddock, and there are a few clips of Shayne Pospisil and Jake Blauvelt as well. As for the media team we had an all-star crew consisting of Ian Post, Scott Barber, Shem Roose, Peter Cirilli, and Nathanael Asaro. I don’t want to say too much yet, but my hope is that people will be pleasantly surprised and Vermont will have another chapter to add to its snowboarding books.
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Le Dumpster Diving....I started playing around with all of this footage about a year ago and wasn’t sure what to do with it. This is a compilation of riding in Vermont two years ago with the first invert shot being at Hood and shot by @patfenelon. The sunny spring day footage at @sugarbushparks, woods laps with @tomas802 @mysonstan and @nathanaelasaro, and shot of @zacharynigro doing the 100 inch chute was shot by @brandon.sauer. Lastly, @shemispheres and I got to spend many days together that year roaming around the Stowe sidecunch working on a @bonfireouterwear video and we even lucked out with a bluebird day on top of the ole mountain. Thanks to all of y’all for taking the moments to point a camera this guys way, I sincerely appreciate it.
We heard that you are fluent in German. What were some of the first words that you learned?
I’ve got these really good coaches from Germany. Ethan Morgan aka Dj Morgan Freemanson and Maxi Pressinger decided to train me exclusively at a remote cabin in Washington this past May. It was a tough class, actually the hardest I’ve ever had because you know the German education system, but my favorite first words they taught me were Arsch Fichen. Once I mastered the language and phrase, the meaning of it hit me like an epiphany and I truly cannot thank those guys enough for passing their culture onto me.
Who are some of your favorite people to ride with on Bonfire?
Honestly, everyone on the team, but this past season I got to ride with Aspen, Maxi, Ryan, and Blake (Moller) who were all so much fun to be around. I’m long over due to get back out there with Johnny Brady and Beau Bishop though.
Frontside inverts in the Whistler backountry, check!
What outerwear pieces do you wear, and what are some of the features you enjoy most about them?
I wear the Aspect 3L jacket and the Master Stretch Bib pants for the most part. Winter in Vermont throw’s just about every condition you can imagine at you in a season, especially during Spring. The high waterproof rating, wind resistance, and durability of the Cordura fabric on these pieces has proven to carry my body comfortably through any condition. Features I enjoy the most are taped seams and vents, and I’ve really been enjoying the backpack straps in the jacket for hiking. My favorite and newest addition to the line is the Aspect Stretch jacket featuring PolarTec Neoshell. It’s lightweight, extremely comfortable, and the fit in my opinion is perfect.
Who are some of your favorite up and coming East Coast riders?
My favorite up and coming East Coast riders are locals like John Twombly, Zeb Powell, or Ezra Racine, although Ezra arrived long ago. Although they mostly ride out west now, Cooper Wittier, Robby Meehan, and Luke Winkelmann are all really sick to watch. Dylan Oaktree also grew up at Sugarbush before moving to Colorado and after watching him ride a few times this season he is truly one to keep your eyes on.
There are sooo many tweakers on the south side of Mt Rainier. Photo: Mike Yoshida
Who are some of Bonfire’s past riders that you looked up to?
It all started with David Benedek and Josh Dirksen due to Robot Food. Not only were those guys good, but also they looked like they were having fun. As things progressed Bode Merrill, Louif Paradis, and Harrison Gordon were really influential and exciting to watch.
You recently graduated from college, congrats! What did you study, and how did you balance a snowboard career, while going to school?
Thank you! I graduated in May 2019 and I studied Community and International Development at the University of Vermont. It truly felt like a balancing act, but I was lucky to have options to take some summer and night courses, which helped spread out my schedule. Most people don’t know this, but I really had to discipline myself and pick and choose my days to go ride a bit more wisely. I never wanted snowboarding to get in the way of school and vise versa, so it was in some senses a game of patience. I was used to riding 100 plus days a year prior to going to school full-time and I had to shed that pride in order to do well and get my homework done. I still rode on average 4 days a week, but I found myself studying a lot of the time in the early morning or late night hours. I think my biggest key to success was setting a schedule and sticking to it as well and treating my time on campus like a 9-5 job where I would get as much work as I could get done during that time. I’m stoked you asked this question, because in hindsight the balance seemed daunting when I started but it was truly possible and I hope this inspires future generations to be able to balance both school and their passions. In all honesty too, I found myself riding a bit less, but enjoying the moments I had on my board even more.
Ralph is never afraid to lay it down.
What do you plan on doing with your degree in the future?
In the short-term I’d like to see how I can incorporate my education into a snowboarding career, like helping my sponsors come up with initiatives to give back to local snowboarding communities or try to reduce their impact however that may be. In the long run, I really like economic development and would like to try and work for the state or small and large businesses that are trying to help expand economic opportunities within communities.
Do you have any cool summer plans, now that the winter is officially over?
No big summer plans aside from a lot of fishing, swimming, boating, and grilling here in Vermont. I’ve also been just trying to stay active and healthy, let me body rest, and enjoy these longer days. I’ll also be helping Ian edit 100 North and plan on taking a trip or two in the next few months to visit family and friends.