By Taylor Barrett
Riding for almost 15 years, Melissa Riitano is now sponsored by several notable companies, including K2 Snowboards and O’Neill. Her snowboarding career shows us that opportunities are limitless, whether you’re coming from a small mountain like Great Divide, or a large resort like Brighton.
As someone who also grew up in Helena, riding at Great Divide always provided an opportunity to experience every different type of terrain, from trees to powder days to the various park riding that the mountain has to offer. The local small-mountain feel makes it a great place for anyone to take their passion to any level, in whatever fashion they desire. With the support of her hometown mountain, and the friends she made along the way, Melissa now finds her home at Brighton Resort. I was able to catch up with her to see how she’s been doing and what she’s been up to this winter!
First off, where are you from/what was it like growing up there? I am from Helena, Montana. Actually East Helena. I think as a kid I kind of didn’t like it too much, it just felt like there was never enough to do (pre-car phase). But it really was great growing up there looking back, all of the mountains were so close to get out and play in, I’m so happy I grew up where I did.
What/who inspired you? My friends, all inspire me so much! Everybody outside of boarding are just great people with so many different talents.
How/when did you get started? I got started at age 14 or 15, I can’t quite remember my exact age. I was very influenced by my older cousin. I always thought she was so cool and wanted to do all of the cool things her and her friends were doing, and thankfully, that was snowboarding.
Did you find inspiration from living in Montana? I think growing up in Montana has always kept me being a down to earth person.
Did you enjoy your hometown mountain? What’s your favorite mountain now? Great Divide was the best!! It was a locally ran “ma and pa” kind of resort, sometimes it felt like the wild west in a way haha. They would have contests over the weekends that would kind of just turn into a big party and everybody would end up sleeping in the lodges and locker rooms. I can’t really sum up how incredible that place was. But now I live in Utah and my home mountain, Brighton, really has it all. The parks are amazing and the terrain is so unreal, you can have a great time lapping or get out into the side country and ride powder all day.
How did growing up in Montana set you up for your career in snowboarding? I think growing up in Montana, I was exposed to a variety of terrain. I learned how to ride the whole mountain and not just a park.
What are your favorite styles of riding and why? I like seeing any kind of riding that has smooth style; park, street, powder, anything, I love it all.
Who was your first sponsor? Oh way back when I was in High School, a local shop, Big Sky Board Sports, they were the first ones who believed in me. They would give me discounts at the shop and free gear sometimes.
Who are you sponsored by now? My sponsors right now are K2 Snowboards, O’Neill, Dang Shades, Crab Grab, and BCA.
What edits/films have you been in recently? The most recent project I was involved in was a Snowboarder Magazine project called Veer. It was a collection of friends making a short video of snowboarding.
Favorite snowboard set up? (board/length, bindings/angles, boots) Favorite board is the K2 Spell Caster in a 147 with the Meridian binding, and Estate Boots. Angles are 12 and -9. The Spell Caster is a new park board coming out in 2021
Outerwear? (coat, pants, goggles, etc.) O’Neill for everything outerwear, it’s all so functional and comfortable. And Dang goggles! They are the best at the best price.
What got you to where you are now? Who helped along the way? I can’t even explain how many people have helped me along this journey. I’d say working my butt off and taking every opportunity that came my way.
Describe the snowboarding culture now that you’ve been riding professionally for awhile? Woo thats a little bit of a hard one to answer. There are many different sides to snowboarding, like contest, backcountry, street, just to name a few. We are all in this amazing community together and it’s not like you always just stay in your own niche of it. The best way I can describe the part of the culture that I’m in, which is the filming and street boarding, is, that there are so many deeply passionate people involved. You couldn’t just keep throwing yourself down stairs and crazy concrete things if you didn’t care. Everybody is willing to help out whether it be a place to stay, helping film, helping shovel, or helping when somebody gets hurt.
Do you have anything exciting coming up? And, where do you see your career going next? I kind of signed myself up for a lot this winter. K2 and O’Neill are both doing projects. And doing a couple of other projects that I’ll have a smaller part in as well.
Favorite music to ride to? And favorite trick? I actually haven’t been listening to music too much while riding recently, but I was riding the other day to Black Sabbath and that was pretty great haha. And favorite trick, backside 180s, that trick can never get old.
Photos by Amanda Hankison, Kelsey Boyer, Chris Beresford, Chris Grenier, and Nirvana Ortanez.
Melissa Riitano – Full Part
VEER – Full Movie