From the outside, Tyler Pynnonen looks like your everyday Local 49 member – except being a professional action sports athlete and the first person in the world to front flip a snowmobile.
Pynnonen grew up in Grand Rapids, MN, and first got experience in the construction industry during his time in the Army. He was deployed Kandahar, Afghanistan rebuilding entry control points and clearing bridges.
When he returned from his deployment, becoming a 49er was a natural fit. Like many other Local 49 members, being a heavy equipment operator is a family business.
“My grandpa was a union operator in Michigan and when he was in the Navy, and my oldest brother is as well, so I decided to go a similar route as a construction engineer in the Army,” he said.
Pynnonen first got his start as a Local 49 heavy equipment operator working on pipelines and mines.
“I helped build some of the Magnetation mines, a pipeline in Ohio and the natural gas Hess pipeline in North Dakota just to name a few,” he said.
Pynnonen has now been a member for six years and is currently on his way to obtaining his crane certification at the Local 49 Training Center.
“Everybody always says more of the responsibility is on the crane operator to get the work done right and safely, so that’s something that’s always interested me,” Pynnonen said.
While Pynnonen says he’s passionate about his work as a heavy equipment operator, his other great passion has led him to record-breaking heights traveling all over the country.
“I started BMX and motocross racing when I was eight years old, but I got my first job in snow-cross in 2009,” he explained. “I got the idea for front flipping a after I saw athletes do it on a dirt bike, and I wanted to push the sport to a new level.”
“I thought it should be easier to front flip on a snowmobile versus a dirt bike because it’s a different type of track and I could get more altitude…I was wrong,” Pynnonen said with a laugh.
Pynnonen landed his first front flip in 2010 in a practice setting, but it wasn’t until 2014 until he landed the move in a professional environment, which would eventually lead him to tour the country.
“I actually was deployed overseas in 2016 and 2017, but two weeks after I got back from deployment, I got a call from Nitro Circus and was on the road doing my first show with them,” he said.
Nitro Circus is an action sports tour that travels around the world featuring professional dirt bike riders, base jumpers, snowmobile riders, and BMX riders all performing stunts.
Pynnonen was invited to be on their roster and toured with them in 2018, and he is currently attempting to get on their tour for this year and has performed at more than 20 shows with Nitro Circus performing his snowmobile stunts.
This sport doesn’t come without some injuries. Pynnonen has shattered his right ankle, has three screws in his right foot, dislocated his left ankle, and broke his tibia/fibula, which he says comes with the game.
Despite the injuries, Pynnonen keeps going and says his favorite part about being an action sports athlete is inspiring kids all over the country.
“I love that I’m able to inspire younger kids to follow their dreams. I’m kind of a nobody kid from northern Minnesota, and I was able to become one of the top snowmobile athletes in the world,” Pynnonen said.
Pynnonen says he plans to keep being a member of Local 49 and expanding his career as a heavy equipment operator despite his action sports fame.
“I know I can’t keep competing forever, so I’m going to keep paying my dues, work as much as I can, and grow my skills.”
Reprinted by permission. For more stories like Tyler’s visit www.local49.org.