Decked out in pink Vans and checkered socks, Greg “G-Money” Barrow exudes a quiet rebellion; a pioneer of snowboarding, decades of stories lay behind his fervid yet humble demeanour.
Inside his shop, Edge of the World, scattered among neon walls and electric guitars sits a museum of vintage snowboards dating back to the early 1980’s.
“Snowboarding’s always gonna have that rebel attitude,” said Barrow, an understated counter-culturalist who grew up enthralled by skateboarding and surfing.
“You still get snide remarks in the lift line; it’s kind of like you’re a second class citizen, and I like that aspect of it.”
It all began in 1981, when Barrow opened a whitewater rafting store in Banner Elk, North Carolina. That autumn, Dimitrije Milovich, founder of one of the first snowboarding companies, Winterstick Snowboards, visited his shop with a station wagon full of boards.
“I had never even heard of a snowboard before,” said Barrow. “When I saw the snowboards, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ But I didn’t buy one because I didn’t have any money.”
That winter, a revolution began to unfold on the slopes, when a group of local youth bought snowboards out of a surf magazine. While the resorts initially allowed the snowboarders to ride, the teens were soon banned from the mountain.
“They were just crazy,” said Barrow. “We got 15 year old kids just ripping up the slopes, scaring the skiers, and doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
Though Barrow spent that winter bailing the boarders out of trouble, lurking within the shadows of that struggle was the grit of an uprising, and the birth of snowboarding.
“My daughter started talking to me about it,” said Barrow. “She goes, ‘Dad, snowboarding is the future. It’s the coolest thing ever, you need to get into snowboarding.”
With his children and staff begging for boards, Barrow visited a ski show in Las Vegas. Sitting outside were four men Barrow refers to as the inventors of snowboarding: the late Jake Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards, the late Tom Sims, founder of SIMS Snowboards, Chuck Barfoot, founder of Barfoot snowboards, and Milovich.
“They weren’t allowed in the show because the ski industry was trying to keep snowboarding from becoming popular, so they were all outside in the parking lot in their vans, selling snowboards.”
Barrow bought his first snowboard that day, and a few months later, his shop began selling Burton, SIMS and Barfoot boards.
“The first day I got on a snowboard was maybe the longest day of my life, but the second day it started to click, and at that point I was like, ‘There is no way anything is more fun than this.”
Snowboarding soon became more than just a sport for Barrow; it became a medium for self expression, for exploration, and for zesty disobedience.
“I love the rebel-ness of it. We would go to resorts that would not allow it, and sneak on just to get kicked off. We did that for years and years.”
A few years later, Barrow visited British Columbia on a snowboarding trip.
“I just fell in love with British Columbia; I loved the people, I loved the terrain, and at that point I said that at some point in my life I was going to live in B.C.”
Following recommendation from the late Craig Kelly, the ‘Godfather of Freeriding’, and Jason Ford, a professional Burton rider, Barrow booked another trip to Fernie in 1999.
“I got off the Whitepass chair and I hiked to Knot Chutes,” said Barrow, remembering his first time riding at Fernie Alpine Resort.
“I got up there, it was a beautiful day, and I looked around and I go, ‘Wow, this is it. This is it.’ I get chills thinking about it. ‘This is where I’m moving.”
A few laps later, Barrow met up with his wife in town, who reflected the same sentiments.
“So I called Burton from a payphone. I called Clark, who was the national sales manager, and I said, ‘Clark, I’m in Fernie B.C. Can I sell Burton in Fernie?’ He goes, ‘Yes,’ and I go, ‘Alright, I’m gonna do it.”
“I didn’t have a business. I didn’t have a location. I’m not Canadian. I don’t have anything… But I go, ‘Well I’m just going.’ So we packed up a U-Haul and headed to Fernie,” and the rest is history.
Despite location changes, citizenship issues, and a pandemic, Edge of the World is celebrating its twenty-first birthday this December.