You may have seen a yellow school bus riding around Mammoth with the “S” and “H” scratched off of the label. This “_C_OOL BUS” belongs to Benson Schirner, a professional snowboarder and snowskater who’s come to Mammoth for some late spring powder.
Schirner bought the bus from the Anaheim school district and renovated it himself. It’s got a wooden door with a knocker replacing the original swing doors, a bed, a shower, a kitchenette, insulation and wood paneling on the inside. Schirner drove it up from Big Bear to follow the snow.
He bought the bus out of frustration that he couldn’t afford his own place in Big Bear. Living in a house with 8 19-22 year-old roommates became too much, he said. “It got too savage and I was like, ‘I need to get out of this house.’” Schirner couldn’t afford his own place but he could afford a retired short bus.
Originally a pro skateboarder, Schirner switched to snowboarding when he moved to California from Philadelphia and realized that it’s easier to get a sponsorship in snow sports.
“It took years to just get a free skateboard,” Schirner said. “With snowboarding, a couple videos and people were like, ‘Hey you want a snowboard?’”
At the point where snowboarding and skateboarding intersect exists the little appreciated sport of snowskating. It is snowboarding without bindings. High quality snowskates have two boards, one that the rider stands on and a lower board attached by trucks that touches the snow. The bi-level board allows the rider to ollie easier.
Schirner said that a person can do anything on a snow skate that can be done on a skateboard, “Kick flip, hand rail, varial, heel flip.”
“It just might take you all day to land it,” he said.
Mammoth Mountain is not friendly to snowskating. and Schirner said that he has not been able to bring his snowskate on the hill, though he is attached to it by a leash that ensures it won’t ride off without him.
“Like how snowboarding was when it began where all the skiers were like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ same thing with snowskates,” Schirner said.
He thinks that if Mammoth did allow snowskates then there would be a big snowskating scene.
“Out of all the places that should be chill with snowskates, Mammoth should be one of them.”
Mammoth is actually behind the ball on snowskating. Most of the large Colorado and Tahoe resorts – Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Kirkwood, among many others- allow snowskates on the lifts.
Until Mammoth follows suit, Schirner will just continue to ride his snowskate on backyard jibs, or take his bus to one of the mountains that has freed itself from the prison of bindings.