In a quaint and cozy A-frame home a stone’s throw from the base of Stevens Pass Mountain Resort in Skykomish, Washington, Mary Rand, her frisbee-obsessed pup Otis and her long-term boyfriend Derrek Lever are busy spending the last days of summer repairing their newly-purchased home. The previous day, Lever had to literally cut himself out of their bathroom when a pocket door fell off its track, trapping him in the powder room. Rand came to the rescue with a Sawzall, assisting Lever in freeing himself from what was sure to be his demise
Potted tomato plants weigh heavy with barely-ripe fruit, and we catch Lever anchoring the tomato varietals down as the wind coming off the Cascade Mountain range keeps toppling them over. Ochre cucumber blossoms spill from the vines in the background while Rand sits casually on her porch, sharing the trials and tribulations of first-time homeownership. Forest fires in Canada exhale thick smoke over large portions of the Pacific Northwest, and looking up, Rand points to a sliver of blue sky, making note that it’s the first time she has seen through the smoke in a couple of weeks. Walking a trail down to the Foss River, Rand’s baby pink SK8-Hi Vans®sink into the late summer foliage, and Otis follows closely behind with his most prized possession — a dusty red frisbee.
From Humble Beginnings
At a young age of Rand began taking the three-plus hour trek from her home in Rhode Island to New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain with her father and brother, who she credits for building her fascination with riding, skiing and the great outdoors. “We had a little poor-man ski cabin up in New Hampshire and we would drive [up there] every weekend, about three and a half hours, and ride Loon,” Rand recollects. Rand’s folks worked at the Loon Mountain resort in exchange for season passes for the family.
Eventually Rand joined a recreational weekend team, where she found mentorship in her coaches and built relationships with her peers. This led to rail jamcompetitions, and eventually Rand caught the eye of a few sponsors — much to her surprise. Her senior year of high school, Rand and her dad moved up to Loon, where the budding athlete was able to hone her riding skills with a coach. From there Rand would make her way to Mt. Hood, tackling the ins and outs of sponsorship opportunities. After that, everything “snowballed,” Rand states, giggling.
At 26 years young, Mary Rand now proudly calls the Pacific Northwest her home. Having traded corduroy for powder and back country riding, so to speak, Rand has found new challenges living at the base of Steven’s Pass. Rand’s transition from the Atlantic to the Pacific has been nothing short of an awakening experience full of opportunities for mentorship and new challenges.
“Moving from the East Coast to here [PNW] was definitely a leap of faith, both snowboarding and life-wise, and probably one of the greatest decisions I have made so far,” Rand testifies. She points to the differences in snow conditions, mentioning that, on the East Coast, the conditions would change on the daily, from bullet-proof ice in the rail park to slush — much of which is man-made snow. “I grew up surfing, so riding powder has always interested me. You can’t go out in the backcountry alone, so I definitely owe everything that I have learned in the backcountry to a wide array of people … everyone here at Stevens is so awesome, and an inclusive crew including Matt Wainhouse, Brian Schafer and Travis Clotton, who know Stevens like no other,” Rand states appreciatively. “This past season I got out with Hana Beamon, Leanne Pelosi and Jake Pricefor a Vans®movie, and that was pretty much the ultimate crew!” Rand assures us that she couldn’t have made the transition without the guidance, patience and inclusiveness of her mentors here in the PNW.
What the Hell Really Goes Into Producing a Snowboarding Film?
From travel, injuries and battling to get the trick, it’s hard to fathom the perseverance, endurance and mental bandwidth required to be part of the cast and crew of a snowboarding production. “Filming is definitely a shit-ton of work, and extremely deceiving to the general public. The amount of work that can go into one shot is insane,” Rand reiterated throughout our interview. From building the spot, trying to get the trick right while sessioning, hitting a little pillow or backcountry booter or hiking to the prime spot, the effort is substantial. Mary laughs, “I pretty much never land anything [on the] first try. It can be anywhere from one to 100 tries, and over the span of a couple of days. The amount of effort that it takes from everyone in the crew is really something pretty special, and also kinda crazy.”
Rand goes on to elaborate on the tenacity required of the cast and crew: “Getting one shot could feel like the greatest achievement of your life, and to think about people making movies, you’re like, ‘Holy shit, that’s a lot of work.’” And you can’t forget about the production efforts required. Filming, editing, pre- and post-production requires a doggedness often overlooked when viewers sit down to enjoy a 90-minute film. Simply keeping up on avalanche reports while filming in the backcountry is a feat in and of itself.
The Female of the Wolf Pack
I prod Rand to tell me more about what it means to be a woman in the industry. She has been the only woman to ride for films like chickenmeat unlimited’s “Rendered Useless” and 686’s backcountry snowboarding film, “Rabbit Hole.” “It feels normal for me to be the only lady out there … I’m mostly used to it,” Rand shares. “It feels different when I am with my girls than with a mixed group, where the dynamics can change.”
Overall, Rand’s feelings on the teams she films videos alongside are ones of gratitude, and often have nothing to do with gender boundaries or norms. “The whole 686 crew was super supportive, and [at the time Rabbit Hole was filmed] it was my first year ever snowmobiling,” Rand recalls. She doesn’t deny that she brings an extra homey and hospitable touch to the filming endeavors, noting that she provides her cooking skills while on the mountain, which I am sure the entire crew is thankful for — nothing stirs up an appetite like spending a day on snow. Of her many talents, Rand points to cooking and gardening as ways that she likes to wind down at home with Otis and Lever. Mentally, socially and physically, Rand realizes there are different demands put on men and women, but her experience has been one of complete respect, and emphasizes that whether she is riding alongside men or women, she feels encouraged and empowered.
Rand has also made it a point to spearhead community ride days at her local mountain, which are open to all levels and genders. After partnering with 686, Rand has been at the forefront of the 686 community ride days, which include the community getting together, BBQing as a group and getting to know one another. “At first it was advertised as a women’s ride day, but I preferred to have it be open to everyone. I got where I am alongside a band of people, and I wanted it to be a community ride day,” Rand shares. In this age of female empowerment, Rand is proud to create an inclusive atmosphere for all who are interested in snowboarding, gender aside.
On Dating A Professional Rider
Derrek Lever and Mary Rand have been a unit for seven years. Like Rand, Lever is also a professional snowboarder and can be found globetrotting, as is often required by his demanding career. Relationships are a ton of work, and sharing both your personal and public space with your partner as creatives and professionals can be challenging. “It’s extremely hard for Derrek and I to keep a stable relationship, although [throughout the years] it has gotten easier. We have come up with a system that works for us,” Rand acknowledges. In the winter months Rand and Lever are often away from home, and opportunities pop up out of the blue — which is how things work in the professional snowboarding industry. Working around one another’s schedules and making time for their relationship between trips has beckoned challenges, but has also kept the pair strong and allowed them to maintain a healthy relationship status. “People like to joke, and I am sure that Derrek used to get some flak for dating a snowboard chick for some stupid reason … that’s probably just someone else’s insecurity,” Rand says with a smile, shrugging her shoulders.
The two don’t get very many opportunities to ride alone together, and it appears that they like it that way. “We like to snowboard together with our friends at Stevens … a powder day riding with the homies when it’s not too crowded is the best.” When spending that much-needed quality time together, the two can be found cooking and relaxing in the comfort and solitude of their humble abode.
The last chapter of our day involves a basket of fried chicken and jojos from the Whistling Post Saloon, crisped to perfection via pressure cooker. On occasion, Rand fills in shifts working behind the counter. She and Lever give our crew a brief history of the saloon, including the fire that the local hangout endured in the spring of 2012 and its rebirth from the ashes. With full bellies we step outside under blue skies, a sight none of us have seen in weeks, and meander our way down under the Skykomish River Bridge. The entire crew takes turns skipping rocks across the river, which is so low at this point you could wade across it without getting your knees wet. A small island of river rocks has emerged, and everyone takes bets to see who’ll be the first to skip their rock over the island and onto the adjacent shore. Rand’s got a good arm, but she shouldn’t trade in snowboarding for rock skipping anytime soon. There is still much to be done for Ms. Rand in the world of snowboarding, and we can’t wait to see what her next chapter has in store.