Briant Wiles graduated high school a semester early, and by the following Monday morning he was living in Arapahoe Basin ski area’s parking lot — a testament to the no-questions-asked, nose-to-the-grindstone ethic that has defined his snowboarding career. Styley, fluid and aggressive. That’s how Briant rides.
Born and raised in Lander, Wyo., Briant started snowboarding at the age of 10 at Jackson Hole. But since the nearest lift-served slopes were hours away his home in Lander, Briant and friends began looking to South and Togwotee passes for turns.
“I just find something so fascinating about traveling in a winter environment,” he says. “There’s something so stimulating about being out there and knowing there are all these inherent risks and you’re in control of your own destiny. Couple that with getting to carve a line down a mountainside, which is an art form in itself.”
Living in Summit County, Colo., after high school, Briant began competing in United States of America Snowboarding Association boarder cross and slopestyle events. Not long after, he was picked up by Kubi Snowboards and a handful of local sponsors, going on to film with Full Room Productions from 2004-2007. In 2004, Briant acquired use of a splitboard for the first time that belonged to his then-girlfriend. “I lost it with the girlfriend, but good God, it was a revolution going from snowshoes to that,” he says.
Living in the midst of a dedicated backcountry community in Summit County, Briant and friends frequently headed to Loveland Pass for backcountry turns. The backcountry in Summit County sparked a passion for spring snowboard mountaineering descents, which meant exploration of the nearby Ten Mile and Gore ranges. To date, Briant has boarded from the summit of nine 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, but he admits that the draw of 14ers is somewhat over-hyped. “I think there are a lot of peaks just below 14,000 that are equal to the challenge,” he says.
By 2009, Briant began competing in the North Face Masters series — racking up two top-10 finishes in just three events. The same year, he moved to Colorado’s Gunnison Valley, where he now makes his home as a graduate student in Western State Colorado University’s Master’s in Environmental Studies program.
When his nose isn’t buried in a book, Briant can be found on steep lines in the Elk, Sawatch and San Juan ranges, or hunting and fishing in nearby mountains when there’s not enough snow to ride. After completing an avalanche Level 2 class, Briant plans to begin teaching Level 1 classes this season through the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education.
For Briant, spring conditions still spell the perfect recipe for the best days on the slopes. “The perfect day is probably about mid-April, when we’ve gone through an extended melt freeze phase and a storm rolls in really warm and heavy and leaves really cold,” he says. “Then it clears up the next morning. That and I get to go ski a big couloir.”