Learning to ski or snowboard like a local is about so much more than committing a map of Baldy to memory or buying a full season’s pass. Like any other resort, there are many nuances to hitting the slopes in Sun Valley that are sure to make you stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t know or—god forbid—choose to ignore them. And though there are a plethora of professional skiers and snowboarders in Sun Valley, many of whom grew up here, we reached out to homegrown snowboarder Charles Gordon Knight, known by many aliases but most often referred to as C Gordon, C, and Gordo. A Sun Valley Resort ambassador and new D team snowboard coach for the Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), Knight also works at the Boardbin, has been on the mountain for 28 seasons (since he was 2 years old), had three perfect seasons, and received six 100-day pins. And he’s not shy about explaining how to avoid being a jerry.
What’s your routine on a regular ski day?
C Gordon: “I’ll have days on the mountain where I’m jibbing all over the place and hitting jumps, really trying to work on stuff, and then I’ll crash a ton and wake up the next day and be super sore. Then I go into reserve mode where I show up around 1 in the afternoon and ski until 2 or 3, even just crush an hour, but I won’t leave the ground. So I’m just practicing my carving instead of trying to do the jump thing every day. I like doing park and freestyle stuff, but it takes a toll on you, especially getting older I’ve noticed. Ain’t no spring chicken.”
Warm Springs Side or River Run?
C Gordon: “Warm Springs has got the sun and that’s clutch as far as hanging out in the afternoon.”
What’s your routine on a powder day? First chair?
C Gordon: “Wake up panic, disoriented, then take a dump. Throw everything on and go. I try to get to the lift about 8:30. If you’re there at 8, you might be the first person there. I normally show up at 8:30 and get like, tenth chair, but it’s whatever. I don’t even care. The first chair thing…I don’t care. I think that’s a lot of my mentality up here, I don’t care, be happy. Really, that’s about it. First chair is overrated. You can be that kook and go and stand in line forever. You can have it. I’m gonna sleep in a bit, show up a little later, and probably have a way better time.”
Best way to get to the mountain?
C Gordon: “Depending on how hungover I am, I’ll catch the bus on Warm Springs side—I live out Warm Springs so that’s the most convenient for me. But with COVID, I’m probably going to be driving so I can tailgate out of my car and have my car be my locker room.”
What are you thoughts on 3:30 club?
C Gordon: “I don’t care. You can be a kook and go hang out up there.”
Favorite run on the mountain?
C Gordon: “Plaza or Limelight.”
Most underrated run on the mountain?
C Gordon: “I-80, every time. If you’re snowboarding, I-80 is the surfer’s endless left; it’s an endless right-breaking wave. You can take I-80 around the world. Put on Daft Punk’s “Around the World” and go around the world. That’s one of my favorite things to do for sure.”
C Gordon: “Lookout because it’s not fancy; it’s the most local I think.”
Best spot for a drink? What drink?
C Gordon: “Go to the Warm Springs bar and get a Rainier or a shot of tequila. You can get some Fernet, I’m a big Fernet guy, but probably a Rainier.”
Best spot to grab lunch?
C Gordon: “Irving’s, duh. I get the works or train wreck, chili cheese dog, C.C.O.P. [chili cheese dog with onions and peppers]. The best is when you go up and order it in Jill’s [owner Jill Ruben] lingo, like a C.C.O.P. and a Coke.”
What’s some Baldy/skiing etiquette that you think is important for people to know?
C Gordon: “Look up hill. Take your time. This hill is huge and everyone flies down it. Taking your time going down Baldy is pretty damn fun. We have the most vert so people are trying to go fast. I feel like there’s a huge skigo this year, like “ski ego”, and people are being d*cks up there, going fast, they don’t care. Everyone should be taking their time, looking around. Look up hill. Go slow. Pick your lane. And if you see people that are taking up the whole run, wait. It’s pretty easy. It bothers me just as much as the next guy, but I enjoy doing a full run carving and using the whole run to your advantage. You’re kind of hogging it but dude, it’s fun. Just chill out.”
What are some tips to avoid being a jerry?
C Gordon: “Avoid the whole “I think I’m a better skier than you” mentality. It’s pretty lame. You see some jerry stuff but I think if you haven’t grown up here, you haven’t grown up in the winter doing the winter sports, you’re inherently going to be a jerry. I work at a snowboard shop and people come in and ask me some pretty stupid questions, but I’m not going to bash on them for it. It’s just like, dude, you obviously haven’t been here very long. You’ll figure it out at some point, I guess.”
“Avoid the buffalo, that’s pretty jerry. Buffalo’s when your helmet gets above your goggle line so you have your full forehead showing. Or it’s called the “skier gap.” Also, keep your rental skis off my f***ing snowboard.”
Perfect season: perfect attendance! Riding every day that the mountain was open for a season!
100-day pin: a commemorative pin from Sun Valley Resort for riding 100 days in a season!
Jerry: within the ski industry, also known as a “gaper”, someone exhibiting a lack of true understanding of how to ski or snowboard or the proper etiquette for either.
Kook: a Jerry in the surfing world, slightly crazier.
3:30 Club: heading to Lookout Lodge at the top at 3:30 to enjoy beers and be the last ones on the mountain until the ski patrol kicks you out.
Around the world: Taking I-80 from Grandma’s House at the top of Warm Springs all the way around the mountain until it spits you out of Olympic on Lower River Run.