COMFORT AND CHAOS: BEN POECHMAN, SNOWBOARDING, ART, AND SMARTWOOL
How did you get into snowboarding?
When I was very young, I saw a photo of a snowboarder flying through the air doing a “Method” grab, and was enthralled by this ability to soar over the snow! My first time snowboarding came when I was 8, a school trip to the nearest ski resort. I fell continuously, but never gave up. Two years later I got my first board for Christmas and it was on!
Living on a farm over an hour from the nearest resort, I had to create my own mountains. I collected scraps from the yard all summer to build terrain parks in the cow pastures.
Ever since I saw that first image, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. After high school I made the move to Whistler, with big dreams and lots to learn! Ten years later, I’m still living in Whistler, deepening my connection to the mountains and the people of this beautiful landscape that I used to daydream about as a kid.
What’s it like working with Smartwool?
I really enjoy working with Smartwool, it feels very genuine. There’s a sense of authenticity in the way they operate and create their products. Art is as much a part of Smartwool’s identity as it is my own. I just began working with Smartwool this year, and look forward to getting more involved with the brand and the people.
Can you share an epic snowboarding story?
It was opening week at Whistler Blackcomb, with fresh snow falling daily. I set out with good friend and videographer Alex Bielawski, and in the woods saw a snow-covered bike trail winding through a grove of Douglas firs. At the end of the trail, there was a small tree out in the open. The tree had a certain curve and shape that made me wonder if I could jump over it. It lined up perfectly: I raced through the woods above, winding around berms, and popped off the lip, flipping over the tree to land gracefully in fresh, fluffy snow. The season was officially underway!
What drove you to fine art?
I discovered art in the spring of 2017 after getting fed up with the hamster wheel of seasonal employment in Whistler. I was looking for a better balance and a deeper purpose beyond snowboarding, and found an apprenticeship at a stone carving studio here in Whistler.
I spent three months learning to hand-carve small “inukshuk” sculptures for an art gallery. After the apprenticeship, the gallery owner offered me a studio spot, to continue working and create my own work.
I began to push my artistic barriers, painting with watercolours to pass the time. Now, just four years later I am more passionate than ever, and devote proceeds from my work towards a better future through non-profit organizations (POW, CTT, BLM & more).
What do Smartwool clothes do for you that other clothes don’t?
It’s the difference between comfort and chaos. Having warm, dry feet on the peak of a mountain in any condition is not easy. It can be the deciding factor between one more run or just sitting this one out. The socks keep my feet warm and dry when I need it most. Their base layers provide the same for my body, while being odour-resistant - a game-changer in the wet winter conditions of our coastal climate.
Give us your essential layers before heading out to snowboard.
My go-to Smartwool snow sock for ultimate comfort is the Performance Snow with Targeted Cushion. Not only for keeping my feet happy, but the odour resistance is a huge plus for those long days trapped in a boot!
The Merino 250 baselayers always keep me dry and so warm no matter the weather. I recently tried a piece from the Intraknit baselayer collection, which is a totally new level of comfort and performance.
“There’s so many layers to it, literally and figuratively.” - How does this relate to your artistic process?
This quote hints at the bridge between two worlds: my art is a tangible, visual depiction of a deeper meaning that exists in my mind and heart. You have to peel back the layers of not only the painting but my own personal beliefs and understandings. There are depths to the meaning behind every aspect of a piece: the subject, the colours, the composition...from simple appreciation of natural beauty to the energetic aura of an entire story being told.
Everything I do, both in snowboarding and art, is inspired by nature. The human race is moving towards a mechanized future, further removed from the symbiotic relationship we once had with the natural world. My work is devoted to helping a number of nonprofits work towards a future more in-line with nature and equality. Sustainability is one step in the right direction, but regeneration and growth are the goals.
Where do snowboarding and art converge for you?
They were never apart to begin with. There is a cohesion that holds these two acts together, in the form of a cycle. Through the seasons, my focus and activities change, yet the fundamental intentions remain the same: to experience nature and share that energy.
When I’m snowboarding, I’m inspired by landscapes and sunsets, colours and feelings. I then project this energy onto a canvas. Through the stillness of painting, I build up the excitement to get back outside, have another experience. Without snowboarding I would not have art to share, and without art I would not be able to share these experiences from the wilderness.
How are snowboarding and art different?
Snowboarding is thrilling, it’s become a cosmic dance for me, access to an elevated state of being. You’re using your entire body to maneuver through terrain at velocity, but with a certain grace - like a back-and-forth conversation with gravity amidst wintery landscapes that otherwise you’d have no business being in. Snowboarding is an immersive experience, both of exertion and conversing with nature.
Painting is intimate. There are a lot of emotions arising and introspection that happens in the process. It’s like a wave, slow to start, but once I get going it’s exciting and hard to stop, until I reach halfway. That's when perseverance and dedication come into play as I lose that initial spark, and have to find the strength to push through my own doubts and fears. Once the piece is complete there’s a sense of closure, as if the war is over and there are flowers growing in the field. The painting is like this flower: never perfect, but it exists, something that now holds space and tells stories.