Winter 2017 / 2018
Issue Number Thirteen
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F E AT U R I N G
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C O SA N O ST R A VI D EO s up p o rt e d by
Issue Number Thirteen
The battle to ‘stay wild’ WORDS: ROBYN VINCENT P H OT O : B E N G AV E LDA
his year the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board delivered a message to visitors and locals unlike any it has before. A one minute and 32 second promotional video produced by Minnesota firm Colle McVoy begins rather predictably: an image of the Tetons glistening against azure skies, snowflakes kissing the aerial tram, eager snowboarders and skiers piling into the gondola. Then we hear an old-fangled voice—a sharp juxtaposition to scenes of gregarious people donned in techy outerwear. Our impassioned narrator is Charlie Chaplin, circa 1940, but his words, it seems, were written only yesterday. “The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way,” Chaplin says. “We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.” His most powerful thoughts come next, but first some context is important. Chaplin’s voiceover is from a speech he delivered at the end of The Great Dictator, his first speaking film. In the 1940 satire—what some considered a plea for isolationist America to enter WWII—Chaplin plays two characters who are mistaken for one another: a Jewish barber from the ghetto
Mark Carter blasting through trees in Jackson Hole.
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and a dictator resembling Adolf Hitler. The slapstick tone of the film abruptly shifts at the end when Chaplin steps out of his character roles to deliver this speech, a scathing commentary on fascism and Hitler. It was a brave stance; when Chaplin began making the film in 1938, the rest of Hollywood, fearful it would lose the German market, was keeping its mouth shut about the Nazis. In the Jackson Hole ad, Chaplin’s tenor rises: “Don’t give yourselves to brutes—men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men—machine men with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines. The power to create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.” If we are to consider the crisis of humanity that compelled Chaplin’s words and compare it to the deeply troubling times we find ourselves in today—that we have a president who is actively eroding our democratic institutions and sowing public distrust in the press much the same way fascist dictators of the past have, then it was indeed a bold move to use Chaplin’s speech, to politicize Jackson Hole and say: These are our values. To be sure, people will derive different messages from the ad. “I think it resonated so strongly [among board members] because it has so many meanings,” Kate Sollitt, executive director of the JH Travel and Tourism Board, told Adweek about the winning pitch. She distilled the message in this way: “We look at it as a little bit of a rallying cry. We want to keep this
place wild. We invite the tourists to visit and learn, and when they go back to their communities, we want them to advocate for it.” Indeed, the campaign’s slogan is “Stay Wild”—a call to preserve and protect the wild places that define the character of Jackson Hole. At its core, though, it is still a marketing campaign intended to drive millions of visitors and revenue to the valley. Other companies in the outdoor industry have been more forthright. Some, for instance, are using their clout and capital to fight President Donald Trump’s attack on public lands. For his part, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced he is suing the president for shrinking Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly two million acres. The words “The President Stole Your Land” were emblazoned on Patagonia’s homepage following Trump’s decision. People like Chouinard understand the stakes are too high to keep politics out of the conversation. That’s one reason this issue includes stories that speak not just to our experiences as outdoor enthusiasts, but also as people who can be agents of change, beginning with cover artist Corinne Weidmann. Her stunning work largely focuses on the effects of climate change—how imperiled natural places, like the Swiss Alps and the Tetons, are losing the characteristics that have long defined and sustained them. Meanwhile, pro-snowboarder Halina Boyd, we learn, is embarking on a mission to empower female mountain guides in Nepal, women who report they are often abused or discriminated against by their male counterparts. Individually and together we have agency. And that is among the messages to consider
when thumbing through the pages of this magazine. Because while much of it remains as it always has—a celebration of snow, of Jackson Hole—there are also notions weaved throughout that suggest we can no longer be a scrappy counterculture that rejects the mainstream. No, to change the system, we must find ways to work within it. That is precisely what a workingclass snowboarder born into a military family did. Mayor of Jackson Pete Muldoon planted his passion for people and his activism roots, that included political blogging and organizing “Occupy Jackson Hole” protests, and he ran for office. As a renter, a small business owner, a baggage handler—as someone who holds down several jobs to have a Jackson address, he represents the interests of regular people. After all, he began blogging about politics because he lost his home in the 2008 housing crisis. Muldoon may have entered the fray for personal reasons but that’s not why he stayed. He knew something championed by Chaplin and other brave souls throughout history: if he remained silent, he would be complicit in the ills he saw around him. So, as Chaplin declared in his cinematic screed, “Let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie. They do not fulfill that promise. They never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.” Seventy-eight years later, fighting these same oppressive forces is indeed our only hope to stay wild. See you in the snow... and on the streets.
Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine
the cre w
Scott Askins makinâ€™ turns in the Wyoming sunshine. Find more backcountry adventure on page 62. Photo: Mike McKelvey
Robyn Vincent firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Tillotson email@example.com
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Jenelle Linn firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenelle Linn MaryPat Walker PUBLISHER
Copperfield Publishing ADDRESS
ON THE WEB
PO Box 3249 Jackson, WY 83001
Corinne Weidmann CONTRIBUTORS
Halina Boyd Mikey Franco Ben Gavelda Rob Kingwill Elizabeth Koutrelakos Pete Muldoon Blake Paul Rachel Reich Shannon Sollitt Josi Stephens ILLUSTRATION
Scott Askins Aaron Blatt Kelly Collado / Night Skies Wade Dunstan Mikey Franco Ben Gavelda Tristan Greszko Ian Haney Pip Hunt Rob Kingwill Elizabeth Koutrelakos Morgan McGlashon Mike McKelvey Emmett McLaulin Andrew Miller Lance Pitman Rachel Reich Sargent Schutt Xtrail
Issue Number Thirteen
COVER ARTIST: CORINNE WEIDMANN
JHSM staff - P09 LIGHTS OUT
Ben Gavelda - P12 BLUE COLLAR ADVOCATE
Pete Muldoon - P16 DROPPING NEXT
Lance Pitman - P18
IN GOOD SHAPE
Mikey Franco - P21 THE GALLERY
Photographers - P26 CHINESE PUZZLE
Halina Boyd - P48 THE RESURRECTION
Josi Stephens - P56
FIRST DESCENT EMINENCE
Ben Gavelda - P62
Rob Kingwill - P68
WRITING ON THE WALL
Shannon Sollitt - P72 SHATTERED DOUBTS
Rachel Reich - P78
Elizabeth Koutrelakos - P82 SCREENSHOT
Josi Stephens - P86 MAIDEN VOYAGE
Blake Paul - P92
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corinne weidmann C O V E R A R T I S T:
“The Hunter / The Hunted”
‘Antarctica’ from Iuna Tinta’s Emergency Exhibit.
s riders of snow, water and dirt, we have a deep and unwavering connection to the earth. We who live outside understand this planet is in a state of emergency, that climate change is the most pressing global issue facing humanity. That is why the work of Asymbol artist Corinne Weidmann, a.k.a. Iuna Tinta, adorns the cover of this magazine.
where, in the summertime, desperate locals have begun covering shrinking glaciers with fleece blankets. Her art not only captures imperiled landscapes, it also spurs discussion about the fraught relationship we have with ourselves. In “The Hunter” cover image and its counterpart, “The Hunted,” Weidmann explores two aspects of humanity’s intuitive side.
Weidmann’s art is largely inspired by the radical shifts she has witnessed snowboarding, hiking and simply existing in her home mountains, the Swiss Alps,
“‘The Hunter’ represents instincts and emotions, the powerful and sometimes uncontrollable primeval forces that lie within all of us,” she said. “‘The Hunted,’
meanwhile, represents the calm, reflective part in us; the balance-seeking, wise and even a bit mystical self. It takes both of them to create the whole, to close the cycle—the instinct and the wisdom, the raw and the gentle, the hunter and the hunted.” Find more of Weidmann’s work, including pieces from her landmark Asymbol show spotlighting endangered natural places, Emergency Exhibit, at www.asymbol.co
NS FACTORY BUILT, COLORADO USA
Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine 14 Cam FitzPatrick and Travis Rice share a laugh in the heart of the storm.
lights out State of emergency snowboarding in Jackson Hole
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W O R D S & P H OT O S : B E N G AV E LDA
simple flick of a switch eliminates the matter of darkness. The press of a button macerates coffee beans into powder, raises the garage door. Power prolongs our cache of food, fuels the heater, phone, computer, stoplight, stereo, gas pump, turn signal, internet. Electricity runs the machines that printed the pages you’re holding and muscles the bullwheels that spin us on chairlifts. But in a wind’s wisp that can all come to a halt. This past season, during the snowiest winter in 40 years, storms bore down on the Tetons with fury. One February day pushed the limits when 90 mph winds snapped 17 giant steel electric transmission poles along Highway 390. The lights went out at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the Jackson Hole Airport and for roughly 3,500 residents in the area. Mayhem ensued—flooding, collapsed roofs and road-closing avalanches prompted Teton County to issue a state of emergency. Meanwhile, a few lucky souls: Travis Rice, Mark Carter, Cam FitzPatrick and a mountain and media entourage that included yours truly, found themselves midmountain at JHMR, peering into the white valley below. Although the outage had forced the mountain to shut down (it would become the resort’s first multi-day closure since 1986), the ebony night was alive with rumbles from a fleet of diesel snowcraft, sipping on fuel and belching into the
darkness. The generator-run spotlights burned into the dim hours as white flakes descended. Huddled around the scene was a crew fully clothed in winter armor. The power was out, but the supply of fuel was enough to carry on. The group was fortunate to be there given the mountain’s condition; the mood was tense with crews working to clear unstable snowloads in the darkness. We unloaded at the base of the Teton chair and milled about. Snow falling across the snowcat’s headlights whirled into a trance of speckled light. It was still too dark to ride so the group shrugged off the minutes in paces and jokes. The riders were pushing for the X Games Real Resort contest. ( JHMR would later claim a gold medal for their efforts.) The spot in question was a sizeable cat track gap at the bottom of the lift, a feature near impossible to hit when the mountain is open and the lift lines block the takeoff. The gap appeared feasible, leaping from where you normally load the Teton chair over the road below into a wide-open slope. But the riders were skeptical: speed, a flat lip and variable snow in the landing were among the wild cards. As day broke, power poles snapped like toothpicks emerged in the distance. The vacant mountain was blanketed in eeriness, yet it was a familiar feeling for the night groomers and mountain maintenance workers. Today was different, though. Nick Wilson’s would not brew coffee or pump out breakfast burritos, the lifts would not
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The riders size up the gap and assess the snow.
spin, the ticket scanners would not beep. Still, cars flooded into the parking lots full of hungry, oblivious riders. Soon there was enough luminous blue glow for the crew to size up the gap and feel out the landing. The slope had only a small cushion of fresh snow to cover the chunky and mogul-filled face. It did not afford the
riders much hope. A mix of tension about the mountain’s shut down, a sprinkle of guilt for being the few on-hill, and the questionable over-the-road launch led the group to bag the shoot for a later day. We savored a few short turns back down to the parking lot, then scattered to our homes to wait out the rest of the storm.
That week, road closures, storms and persistently high avalanche conditions kept the valley’s citizenry inside. Indeed, the elements pushed us to ponder things like roof snow load and a lifestyle that hinges on electricity and fuel. But the power was still pumping for most of the area, food was stocked, fuel was there; it wasn’t a dire scene beyond ground zero—a dim Teton Village
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In the distance, work crews are already converging and surveying the damage.
road lined with snapped electrical poles and a flurry of workers rushing to fix them. No, it was not like the islands of the Caribbean decimated by tropical storms or the ravaged Puerto Rico, its people left to fend for themselves in a cruel new water world. It was not like Houston or Florida, swallowed by floods, or like California,
where wildfires killed dozens of people and charred thousands of homes. Still, that week in Jackson Hole, like the more calamitous events in other parts of the country, was a potent reminder that Mother Nature, inflamed by climate change, rules the land. It was also a reminder that people have inflamed her, that they are accelerating her wrath. bg
Ben Gavelda is the 2017 National Hermit Crab Race Champion. @bengavelda
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advocate Snowboarding brought the mayor of Jackson here, but thatâ€™s not why he stayed WORDS: PETE MULDOON PHOT O: SARGEN T SCH U T T
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t’s 8:30 on Monday morning and people are piled into the tram line at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Fifteen years ago, I would have been standing there too. Instead, I’m sitting in an office catching up on the Monday morning email barrage before a 9 a.m. meeting on re-zoning, an 11 a.m. on parking, a lunch meeting on housing, a 1 p.m. with a county commissioner, an hour of phone calls at 2 p.m., a joint town/county meeting at 3 p.m., and then a Jackson Town Council meeting from 5 p.m. until whenever we get done. My version of an endless, bottomless backcountry powder run arrived that day during the town council meeting. That’s when a group of local workers and longtime community members made a desperate plea to the council. They needed our support for an affordable housing project in order to continue living in the town they’ve given so much to, a town facing a historic housing crisis. We voted unanimously to move ahead with the project. No, this is not why I moved to Jackson Hole, but it is why I stayed.
before I saw any big mountains again, but I never forgot them.
friend I moved to Jackson with still lives here, just a few blocks from me.
I’d spend the next 14 years in flatter places, before ending up, improbably, as the manager of a restaurant in Killington, Vermont. I’d never been to a ski resort, or even seriously thought about skiing. As a kid, I wasn’t encouraged to have those sorts of dreams. But a guy who worked at the restaurant with me knew how to snowboard, and he got me out on the hill and was patient enough to help me improve. And that’s all it took. Enamored with a taste of mountain life, we decided to move to big mountains, to Jackson Hole, the following winter.
It is true that Jackson has never been an easy place to live. You have to want it. To do that, like a lot of people, I’ve worked a mess of jobs—construction, guest services, bartending, special events, painting houses, and the list goes on. I still work at the airport loading bags and pushing planes for SkyWest Airlines and I help run a small music production company.
“Jackson has never been an easy place to live. You have to want it.”
Over the years, I discovered I wasn’t the only one juggling jobs and making sacrifices for a Jackson address. I began meeting people who motivated me to give back, to protect the most vulnerable members of our community—many who are packing up and moving away because they can no longer afford to live here. I ran for mayor because I wanted to give those residents a voice.
I grew up in the flatlands. My dad, an immigrant musician, wound up in the Air Force after moving to the United States from Ireland, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized why we never lived around mountains—you need flat land for runways.
I spent my first JH winter snowboarding six days a week between two jobs, and the next three winters living in Teton Village. It was still quiet back then; very few people were in the backcountry and the mountain remained untracked for days after a storm. But snowboarding became more than making turns; it stitched me into the community. I was a fish out of water in many other ways, but the mountains were a bond I shared with my neighbors.
Today, I don’t snowboard as much as I used to. I started a music career, got into paragliding and mountain biking, all which took a share of my time along with my mayoral duties. But I still love to get into the backcountry on a powder day. It’s like going back in time—the nooks and crannies I used to ride look the same. And when I do get out there, I am reminded of an important truth.
We’d driven through the mountains when I was a kid, moving from flat place to flat place like we did every couple years. I remember my family driving though Glenwood Canyon on I-70 when I was 13—my parents and all six kids were packed into an old Ford station wagon with my brother and I in the far back gaping at the Rocky Mountains. It would be years
Like so many Jackson Hole transplants, I’d planned to spend one winter here. That turned into two and then three. Soon I stopped thinking about leaving at all. After all, growing up and then serving in the military, I’d never lived in one place more than a few years, and I didn’t have anywhere to go back to. I wasn’t the only one whose roots became entrenched in Teton soil. The
I came to Jackson without a college degree and a manual labor resume. Snowboarding brought me here, but this community brought me to where I am today. And for that I owe it a great debt of gratitude.
Pete Muldoon moved to Jackson for the snow but he stuck around for you.
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Will Mercer sends a cliff at Grand Targhee during a freeride competition. Photo: Emmett McLaulin
dropping next The passion, vision and gratitude of Will Mercer WORDS: LANCE PITMAN PHOT OS: EMMET T MCLAULI N & LANCE P I T MAN
Issue Number Thirteen
“When I got my first powder turns, it was on from there.”
hen Will Mercer was eight years old, he strapped into a snowboard for the first time and a love affair began. But it was not until he was a freshman in high school that he would carve a deep and promising path into snowboarding. That’s when he moved from Riverton, Wyoming, to Jackson Hole. Mercer, 17, is a self-described romantic who sows seeds of passion into everything he does, snowboarding included.
the move to Jackson,” Mercer said. “It is a miracle to me, and my mom too, that we found a home here.” Mercer sets himself apart from his peers not only with his riding ability but also with a sense of gratitude. He is keenly aware of how snowboarding and
“When we took our family trips to Jackson, I would branch off from my brother and sister, who also snowboarded at the time. My 10-year-old self would go off alone in search of the terrain that I had fantasized about and seen in snowboard films,” he said. “When I got my first powder turns, it was on from there.” Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mercer fed his growing appetite for snowboarding when he moved to Riverton. The young dirt biker would wake up at 5 a.m. and he and his mom would embark on six-hour road trips to Jackson Hole for a day on the mountain. In Jackson, he found a mentor who taught him the fundamentals of riding. He also found a sense of freedom. “When I click in at the top of a run and have the ability to go wherever I want, it is liberating and therapeutic for me,” he said. After his brother went to college and his sister was in her last year of high school, his parents—aware that Mercer’s talent and riding obsession were swelling—found a way to do the unthinkable: move to a mountain town with a housing crisis. “My parents were scouring for ways to afford
Photo: Lance Pitman
the move to Jackson Hole changed his life. “From the Jackson Hole Freeride Program to my best riding partner Steven, all the individuals I have met have helped me and my mom make this a reality.” It was indeed the right decision and Mercer sensed that immediately. He said it felt like somebody hit the reset button on his life. He suddenly found himself surrounded by like-minded riders who pushed him to progress. Now Mercer is gunning for a national championship on the IFSA
Freeride Tour. He placed 5th at the North American Championships last year, after a season full of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes at the regional and national level. His experience freeriding in Jackson Hole is a tool in his competitive toolbox: “Freeriding and competing in freeride do not have a large difference,” he said. “When I freeride I don’t tend to visually inspect things before I ride them, which allows me to snowboard more impulsively; I’m less likely to overthink a feature that I’m nervous about.” In competition, however, Mercer said a lot of inspecting and planning goes into the run. This might not be as fun as freeriding, he said, but it helps him dial in a strong line. Now Mercer has big, seemingly attainable goals: “When I first started snowboarding I was really into the freeride aspect because of the freedom of line choice. As I have gotten older, though, I have transferred into a more freestyle type of riding. Whatever kind of spin I learn off a jump in the terrain park, I hope to also do off a mega cliff.” Here in Jackson Hole, that is music to our ears. Ride on, Will. lp Sponsors: SPY, Aion Boardshop and Mom
Lance Pitman is head snowboard coach and assistant program director for the Jackson Hole Freeride Program. He grew up riding Jackson Hole and now lives in Victor, Idaho. @lancepitman
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shape Snowboarding has returned to its soulful roots WORDS: MIKE Y FRANCO
urs is a rich legacy, young grasshopper. From the original crude, organic materials of the past to the aerospace materials of today, the act of hand-shaping snowboards is steeped in history, culture and imagination. It started with skis and surf boards more than 4,000 years ago. Relics found on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) depicting surfers date back to 2400 BC. Skis found in a peat bog in Sweden tell the tale of people thousands of years ago who used two wooden planks for everyday life, trade and warfare. The offspring of skiing, surfing and skateboarding, snowboarding’s handcrafted roots are soulful and scattered. The WRKSHRT film Foothills: The Unlinked Heritage of Snowboarding explains that roughly 300 years ago, the
PHOT OS: MI KE Y FRANCO & IAN HANE Y
people of the small village of Petran in Turkey’s Kaçar mountains invented petranboarding—one of the earliest forms of snowboarding, essentially plywood with a rope handle. It is still alive today in these remote Turkish peaks and villages. Although petranboarding did not evolve into snowboarding’s modern iteration, it is a reminder that the sport transcends country and culture. Now spin the globe to the United States: in 1965, Sherman Poppin inadvertently invented the Snurfer. Desperate to entertain his two daughters while his pregnant wife lay in bed, he nailed a pair of children’s skis together on a cold Christmas morning in Michigan. His creation—a surfboard for the snow, sans bindings—was popular with the Poppin kids and beyond. One
year after Poppin invented the Snurfer, he licensed the design to the Brunswick Corporation, which began mass producing the newfangled board. This is widely regarded as the true birth of snowboarding as we know it today. From 1972 to 1979, Winterstick, Sims, Gnu and Burton would progress the sport of snowsurfing to a new level, stitching the passion and design of surfing and skateboarding into snowboarding. During this time, most boards were pressed by hand in rudimentary shops with little production capacity. As manufacturers built snowboards en masse in the 1980s, the art of hand-shaping boards fizzled. By 1990, ski factories were producing boards for snow brands and the
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Photo: Ian Haney
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“The boards of the 70s and early 80s, we discovered, had it right all along.”
boom began in earnest. The small batch, hand-made snowboard disappeared as the skateboard-drenched 90s furthered snowboarding’s popularity. Today, the revival of hand-shaping boards is what some hail as a return to our roots. Others, meanwhile, say it’s a fad. But no matter how you see it, hand-shaping snowboards of all shapes and sizes gives the rider unfettered control over design. It also cuts out the middle man, building a relationship between the shaper and the snowboarder. From wooden, edgeless powder-specific boards to carbon, Titanal, urethane and Kevlar high-tech split-boards, makers are building any shape the mind can conceive. When we look at the world of surfboard shapers, we see boards shaped for the local break and its wave form. From beach break to point break, onshore winds to offshore winds, ground swell and wind swell, conditions are always changing. Because of this, surfers typically amass an arsenal of boards. Snowboarding, from the 90s until about 2010, was the complete opposite. All we needed (and could afford) was a twin tip, maybe even a directional twin. We didn’t have the money to do it any other way. As snowboarding and its riders matured,
got better jobs, made more money and, finally, could afford to have more than one board, we discovered the value in a quiver—that taper, long shovels, set-back stances and variations in camber allowed us to effortlessly float in pow and carve perfect lines. The boards of the 70s and early 80s,
we discovered, had it right all along. The only difference was that those boards were really meant for powder, as virtually no resorts allowed snowboarding. Today, we can ride everywhere in the world (except for three resorts not worth mentioning). By combining the effortless float of a 1975 Winterstick with a modern flex pattern and
the finest materials available to us today, we have entered a new phase of snowboard shaping. Because of this movement and the history that surfboard shaping has lent us, we now have permission to make these boards for our very own “breaks.” We can build boards shaped for the perfect day in Jackson Hole, Niseko, AK or Vermont. We don’t have to wait for the big brands to miss the mark, designing generic shapes for the masses. For me, this is what the shaper movement is about. It requires reading your home mountain, listening to the wind and snow. It’s about feeling the contours of your local hill and crafting a board for the perfect fit—knowing that perfect fit will change just as sure as the temperature will rise or drop, the snow will melt and freeze and the terrain will look completely different tomorrow. This also gives us the chance to really listen to the riders, to craft a board after their wishes, desires and skills. mf These photos are of steam-bent teak sidewalls with an ash center-piece cut from Mikey Franco’s brother’s backyard. (Now that’s a mouthful.)
Mikey Franco is the founder of Franco Snowshapes. @francosnowshapes
Urgent & Emergency Care Three convenient locations, treating everything from breaks and sprains to major health emergencies.
Clinic at Teton Village (open during ski season) Cody House, Teton Village, WY 307.739.7346 Family Health & Urgent Care 1415 S. Highway 89, Jackson, WY 307.739.8999 St. Johnâ€™s Emergency Department 625 E. Broadway, Jackson, WY 307.733.3636 Dial 911 in case of emergency tetonhospital.org/urgent
• • • • • • •
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gallery Spectacular snowboarding photos for your viewing pleasure P H O T O S : A A R O N B L A T T, S C O T T A S K I N S , B E N G A V E L D A , M I K E M C K E L V E Y , EMMET T MCLAULIN, ROB KINGWILL & ANDREW MILLER
Photo: Aaron Blatt Rider: Pat Moore Location: Wyoming
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Photo: Scott Askins Rider: Darcy Keller Location: British Columbia
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Photo: Mike McKelvey Rider: Scott Askins Location: Wind River Range
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Photo: Scott Askins Rider: Sage Kostenburg Location: Teton Pass
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Issue Number Thirteen 37 Photo: Ben Gavelda Rider: Cam FitzPatrick Location: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
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Photo: Emmett McLaulin Rider: Will Mercer Location: Grand Targhee Resort
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Photo: Mike McKelvey Rider: Jason Elms Location: Wyoming
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Photo: Ben Gavelda Rider: Travis Rice Location: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
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Photo: Rob Kingwill Rider: Seth Wescott Location: New Zealand
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Photo: Aaron Blatt Rider: Blake Paul Location: Wyoming
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Photo: Andrew Miller Rider: Bryan Fox Location: British Columbia
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Photo: Aaron Blatt Rider: Mark Carter Location: Wyoming
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Photo: Ben Gavelda Rider: Mark Carter Location: Jackson Hole
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Photo: Aaron Blatt Rider: Bryan Iguchi Location: Wyoming
Don’t be late for après...
Be prepared, practiced and present in the mountains. If you don’t know, don’t go.
Join us. Become an advocate for A project of Teton County Search and Rescue
backcountry safety at backcountryzero.com.
Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine 50
chinese puzzle While the U.S. politicizes climate change, even people in remote ancient villages are sounding the alarm
Halina Boyd searching for snow deep in the mountains of Northern China.
WORDS: HALINA BOYD PHOT OS: XT RAI L
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iding on a horse drawn toboggan, we weave through a birch and pine forest along a half-frozen river. A curious goat greets us when we arrive at the home of the village elder. His family has been carving skis out of birch wood for centuries. The elder looks slightly bewildered by our crew: 10 camera men and five westerners mulling about his property. He ushers us into his home where his wife, 30 years his junior, shyly serves us steaming hot salt tea with fresh goat milk. Xièxiè (thank you), I say to her. It is the only Mandarin I’ve managed to remember since landing in Beijing two days ago. She smiles but looks confused. While the cameras capture shots of the old man carving skis, the athletes gather around a table of pastries and hard salty cheese.
One of our translators speaks to the wife in a language I cannot decipher and then switches to Mandarin when addressing the Chinese snowboarders. The woman had no idea what I said, I realized, because she doesn’t speak Mandarin. She speaks the ancient language of this small village. It is one of the most inaccessible places on earth in the Altai Mountains of Northern China. Hemu Village sits in China’s northern Xinjiang region, hemmed in by the foothills of the Altai Mountain Range. It is surrounded by Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. Rolling hills lead to small mountains with thick wooded forests that carpet their northern slopes and the Altai’s soaring Alaska-like peaks to the north. A small ski resort was built here about 15 years ago and equipped with a Santa’s sleigh
rope tow, a tubing hill and 20 brand new Yamaha snowmobiles to transport guests around the sprawling snowy farmlands to the east. The local government had invited four athletes, including fellow Jones teammate Harry Kearney and myself, to create a ski and snowboard film that would showcase the area’s potential as an international ski and snowboard destination.
Climate Defenders The first morning when we woke in Hemu Village and stepped outside, I was surprised that I could actually make out blue sky above us. It was a far cry from what we experienced in Beijing upon our arrival. Though I knew about China’s
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Harry Kearney and Halina Boyd break bread in Hemu Village.
diminished air quality, the thick smog that engulfs Beijing was jarring. I could feel the particulates on my skin and in my throat. I envied the locals donned in facemasks scurrying through the choked streets of Beijing. But in the last 10 years, something incredible has happened in China, which makes it hard to imagine just how bad the air quality once was.
Fed up with the rapidly deteriorating state of their environment and the effect it was having on their health, the normally compliant citizens of China stood up to their government and protested. During 2012 alone, more than 50,000 environmental protests erupted in the country. The governmentâ€™s vision to become a world manufacturing mecca was a shortsighted plan that had largely ignored the potential environmental
impacts. Coupled with the highest population on earth at more than one billion people, China found itself in a seemingly impossible mess. Then another stunning occurrence transpired: the Chinese government began to listen to its people, acknowledging it had an environmental crisis on its hands. The government implemented an aggressive environmental policy. According to
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Halina begins some important international diplomacy.
chinadialogue.com, “Polluting companies will face fines without a ceiling; NGOs are welcome to initiate public interest lawsuits; and local governments will be held accountable for implementing environmental policies.” During the first eight months of the law’s implementation in 2015, there were 405 cases of accumulative fines, worth a total of 330 million yuan, according to data released by the Ministry of Environment Protection. “It
means on average each case involved more than 800,000 yuan [$120,840] in fines, already exceeding the highest 500,000-yuan [$75,525] fine limit in the previous version of the law.” A recent New York Times article discussed how the new anti-pollution law could negatively affect China’s economic growth. But even China’s president recognizes the importance of these environmental
measures. “President Xi Jinping endorsed the environmental effort in his work report last Wednesday at the start of the party congress,” the Times reported. “‘Clear waters and lush mountains are as valuable as gold and silver,’ he said. Beyond maximizing economic output, Mr. Xi said that his country needed to address a new dilemma, and one that implies greater attention to environmental protection, ‘between unbalanced and inadequate development
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and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.’”
Disappearing Winters Before I accepted the invitation to China, the producers had made it clear that this trip was centered on the unknown. They had no idea about the snow conditions because there is no weather station in Hemu Village. Even if they had someone who they could call for beta, there was a three-pronged language barrier. “You should only come if you don’t mind going with the flow. We might be sleeping on dirt floors, there might not even be any snow, you might be eating goat head. Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?” I replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!” (Except for the goat head part.) But as laid back as we all were, after two days of travel to the other side of the earth, finally arriving in Hemu Village at 3 a.m. one morning, we did have one question: “How’s the snow?” We would soon learn the disappointing truth. After we wrapped up the shoot at the village elder’s home, the director mobilized the crew for our first snowboarding destination for the afternoon. As we approached our zone, I could tell this would be a struggle. The snow was shiny under the afternoon sun and I could make out sun cups and runnels as we ascended the ridge. Our vague snow report that morning was bleak. It had snowed three times this winter in Hemu, all large storms, but we were working with a very low and old snow pack. Over the past decade, I have grown all too familiar with shrinking winters across the globe. Just before this trip I was in Valdez,
Alaska, an area that reported its lowest snowfall on record last winter. Making sub-par conditions look good had become a mandatory tool along my journey of professional snowboarding. But these conditions would be a challenge all their own. The directors counted us down as the drone buzzed overhead and we prepared to hold our edge down an ice-hard coral reef ridge. Kearney and I descended and chattered our way down the ridge and into the valley below. As the athletes regrouped on the valley floor, we huddled up and waited for the flock of Yamahas to find us. We joked around and reflected on the circumstances that unfolded to get us to this massive valley in the middle of Northern China and tried to ignore how awful our first run was. The fleet of snowmobiles arrived and we prayed for our lives as we tripled up on the sleds and mocked through barb-wire strewn pastures, catching air over deeply rutted horse trails. The crew reconvened at another old farmhouse in the middle of the valley. As I laughed off our death defying snowmobile ride, we were welcomed inside to a traditional dinner of slow roasted horse, beef, rice and stir-fried vegetables. Our local translator asked me how the snow was and I tried to conceal my disappointment. “It was OK,” I replied. He nodded, explaining how climate change has deeply impacted their winters in the past 20 years. “Less and less snow every year and the winter season now starts later and ends earlier,” he said. As an American, I was shocked to hear this person who lives in a remote village, seemingly cut off from the rest of the world and its endless chatter of issues, discuss the impacts of climate change through his own observation of winter weather trends. The effects of climate
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â€œBut then something even more incredible happened: the Chinese government began to listen to its people, acknowledging it had an environmental crisis on its hands.â€?
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change, he said, will ultimately kill the ski industry. Locals, then, would have to forget the economic gains this isolated mountain town had hoped for. Talking to the translator, I thought about the U.S. With all our resources and unfettered access to information and the science to back climate change, politicians continue to deny its cause. Our leaders are readily willing to sacrifice the health of the earth and its inhabitants for their own immediate monetary gain. I realized in that moment that I had learned something from the people of China. Despite living under a Communist regime, which uses intimidation and fear as a tactic to rule its people, the citizens took this issue into their own hands and stood up to their government. What exactly is stopping us here?
Halina Boyd enjoys using her snowboard as a tool for exploration of self, spirit, and the beautiful mountain ranges of this amazing world. @halinalaboyd
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J A NE B A L D WI N HIP REPLACEMENT
Jackson Hole resident Jane Baldwin is a hiker. But a few years ago, her hip made walking, not to mention hiking, painful. After considering her options, she came to our Peak Joint Replacement Center. Immediately after her hip replacement surgery, her hip felt better. Less than 3 months later, she put her new hip to the test on a trek across Nepal. How did she do? “My hiking partners had doubts about my ability to hike, but I knew I could do it. On day 2, we did 11 kilometers and 3,500 steps.” That’s about the height of the Grand Teton. To learn how joint replacement surgery could help you, call us at 307.739.6199 or visit tetonhospital.org/joints.
tetonhospital.org/stories . #ICanAgain
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Bryan Fox studies the peaks of British Columbia during the filming of Depth Perception.
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the resurrection Snowboarding is dead. Long live snowboarding.
WORDS: JOSI STEPHENS
efore the credits rolled on Travis Rice’s new film Depth Perception, I had a potent set of notions swirling through my mind. It was a moment of clarity where everything makes sense, even if just for one hour in a Jackson, Wyoming, theater. Below is what I scribbled on 17 bar napkins, written fast and furious before the muse left me. Snowboarding is dead. Like the blindly optimistic Icarus with his wax wings, snowboarding flew way too close to the sun. The trait that made it compelling to the suits with fat checkbooks, a reckless disregard for figurative and literal gravity, is the very thing that burned us down. Nobody is really getting paid these days and telling the ladies that you’re a pro won’t get you any closer to home base. On the
PHOT OS: ANDREW MI LLER
industry side, many of the titans have slowly began bowing to mainstream trend reports and bottom-line finger wagging. When the laywoman thinks of snowboarding she most likely thinks of “The Flying Tomato”—zillion dollar drone equipment, energy drink antics and jerky cork 5000s. This is the tabloid story; an explosive rise followed by a hollow, unceremonious thump. We made rock stars and millions, sold our souls and cultivated a generation of lost boys all before we turned 20. Yeah, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. And may we forever rest in peace. But (and there is always a “but” in these kinds of tales) if snowboarding is dead to so many, why do we still believe? Despite
it all (or perhaps because of it) we dedicate our hearts and bodies to this up-at-dawn, frozen extremity inducing, wallet draining, lung burning pursuit of powder. Why we do this is surprisingly simple. We stick around because it belongs to us. It always has, even during its bloated, rock-star days, it was deeply and unilaterally ours. These past years were strange and sometimes hard to watch, without a doubt. There is no mistaking how deeply it cut to watch something so raw and pure get bought and sold. We fought it when and where we could. We printed stickers telling the world “It was better when you hated us,” blew off sponsors with iPhone edits and calls to “Drink Water” instead of Monster. The soul of snowboarding waited patiently for the rest of the world to stop seeing our
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thing as a commodity, even when that day felt like it would never come. All because snowboarding is ours. And as it limps back home, hat in hand, to the community that never stopped caring, we welcome it back with open arms.
“The soul of snowboarding waited patiently for the rest of the world to stop seeing our thing as a commodity, even when that day felt like it would never come.”
There’s speculation about what caused the last gasp, the death rattle of an industry that had gotten too big for its britches. Perhaps it was massive budgets with too many chiefs and too few visionaries, or maybe it can be laid at the feet of our star players who cashed checks and said nothing. One thing is certain—snowboard culture lost its way as it slipped from the hands of those that conceived it. It was a beautiful and grand thing that became foreign and removed. And in this scope, it veered too far away for most to see the point at all. We will, eventually, look back on this time and be awed by what it endeavored to do, despite
Austen Sweetin bopping a pillow line in British Columbia filming for Depth Perception.
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the chatter. Nonetheless it made us weary and confused, how could so much money and manpower not produce something more substantial? So through that lens, it is no small revelation that the greatest love letter to snowboarding written in many years was crafted by one of the minds that has long played in the far off realm of big budget filmland: Travis Rice. Factor in that the ink had barely dried on The Fourth Phase release tour but one year ago, Rice and his core team may have damn near done the impossible. They have dusted off our weary, wax wings, fortified them with steel and given us a reason to fly high again. Depth Perception was intended to be a webisode series. A few minutes of buddy edits filmed in Galen, Canada, with a riding crew of four, it was a passion project. It was a vacation from too many cooks in the kitchen, something to sooth the soul and guide them back to the root of why they still chase snow with such joyful abandon. As the footage piled high and the moments in Canada linked together to create something impossible to contain, a “break” morphed into a story about nature and friendship that begged to be told. As with all things Travis Rice—convention, time constraints, norms, logic, all of it, nothing could have held sway on what was to become a full-length film. Depth Perception had to be born. It would have been a grave insult to the gods (a thing we can hardly afford) had it gone to rest on filmer/editor/ producer Justin Smith’s digital cutting room floor. Depth Perception is a timeless love song hidden in an action film package. Every frame is a humble bow to our planet’s bounty, a difficult thing to execute without coming off as self-congratulatory. But they pull it off with just the right amount of
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high fives and comedy. The soundtrack was dreamy and compelling, driving the film just as much as the actual riding. Jackson OG Willie McMillon narrates with a weathered tenor that suits the film like a leather glove, worn but stalwart, giving life to the ancient trees that stand impossibly tall throughout. Going against the standard of many riders and resorts, DP features an economical four snowboarders and one crazy, gorgeous locale. Rice, Austen Sweetin, Bryan Fox and Robin Van Gyn navigate each other and the Canadian wilderness with the same reverence and humor. The focus is on the pure essence of getting amongst it with your friends. Without preaching, they put Mama Nature in the marquee role, using her stoic perfection to tell a story of friendship and the pursuit of snow riding in its simplest, most gratifying form. Itâ€™s a quiet little ditty, the kind that one hears in the car going down an open, endless road. It is the song that transports you to a better time and place. Depth Perception opens the door to a more complete way of telling our story. It shows the whole truth with its lulls and quiet moments, all without losing the passion and thrills of riding a snowboard in powder, doing big tricks and advancing the sport. This film, or anything for that matter, wonâ€™t change our checkered past, nor will it predict our future. But one thing is clear: snowboarding is dead. Long live snowboarding.
Josi Stephens loves words, art, horses and naps. @Mustang_Josi
Bryan Fox charging new depths.
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descent eminence The sacred, unexplored lines of Jackson Holeâ€™s royal family
Bryan Iguchi drops into a line he has been eyeing for a long time.
W O R D S & P H OT O S : B E N G AV E LDA
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“For nearly a century and a half until its discovery in 1807, geographical isolation and the long, cold winters combined to preserve much of Jackson Hole’s wilderness character.” – Francois Leydet, National Geographic, December 1976
stumbled on the scuffed and worn pages of a vintage magazine in a doctor’s office— warm and grainy photos of landscapes, wildlife, ranching and skiing capture Jackson Hole’s wilderness, history, heritage, the winter bum lifestyle, the battle for public lands and the rising cost of housing. As the story relays the area’s past, it’s striking how long it stayed isolated from settlers and how little land has been surveyed. Today, Jackson’s wild character is as stunning as it was in 1976. Rugged terrain, bitter cold and the limit of human range still impact exploration. The Tetons are full of tight forests, pinched gullies and cascading ridgelines. In an area that’s seen
50 years of skiing and riding, the term “first descent” is a bold claim. But when someone like Bryan Iguchi, (a.k.a. Guch), says the lines ahead are likely a first descent, it’s hard to argue. After all, Guch has spent more than 20 years as a professional rider in Jackson Hole.
“You can’t come back here or show anyone this place unless Travis Rice or myself are with you.” After a full day of snowmobile exploration one day last season, I would hear the magic words. I met Guch, Mark Carter and filmer Dan Gibeau at a discrete pullout in the early morning to unload our snowmobiles.
Before heading out, Guch’s normally cheery tone shifted to a stern and serious one: “You can’t come back here or show anyone this place unless Travis [Rice] or myself are with you.” I solemnly nodded and we tore off into the forest and began bashing our bodies and fuel-blasting machines through a thick boulder field. The snow was firm and icy and Gibeau lost traction on a climb. In a matter of seconds, he and his 500-pound sled were on a downhill luge course, catching the track at the bottom, like catching an edge and taking a violent slam. Gibeau shook off the fall and we pushed up a few more challenging boulder-ridden
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hill climbs and a small gully rally before working into the alpine. The snow was soft but firm with pockets of powder on north aspects. We continued the tour into the unknown, peering across ridges and below into a sea of mountains few if any have ever visited via snowcraft. We snaked down a gully and found ourselves at a headwater of flats with numerous chutes, hips and tubes pouring into a white open expanse. There were no tracks, no landmarks, no signs of human presence. We were close to familiar territory
and yet far away. The rough snow conditions at low elevation offered little to ride, but plenty to immerse one’s eye and wonders in all around. It’s this feeling that all of us yearn for, peering at scenes of untouched snow and mountains. The sense of adventure is what brought Guch here from California more than 20 years ago, and Carter from rural Wyoming, and Gibeau and I from Colorado. We re-traced our tracks back up to a ridge and took a break. It was warm and hazy with a gray glow cast over the peaks. Smoke
from Guch’s cigarette blurred into the sky. Tension and calm tied together. Mediocre for riding, the snow was a perfect mix of soft and condensed “go-anywhere” snow to travel by two-stroke paddle track. It was the last day of sun and the last time we could all convene for a while. So we kept searching. We aimed for a higher ridge only a few hundred feet behind us. Guch was twothirds the way up when a sudden blast overtook the two-stroke engine. His snowmobile belt exploded and he came to a dead stop perched on the slope. Bucked but
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OK, Guch swapped the belt mid-mountain and returned to the bottom. We each rallied up the face, and came to a dead stop at the top of the knife ridge with just enough room to park our sleds and peer across at a face of fluted lines two ridges away. These were the lines Guch had seen before; he’d peered at them during the filming of Travis Rice’s The Fourth Phase. It’d be another hour of sledding, weaving hill climbs through trees, and trying to bust over to the basin below the lines before we were close enough to ride them. There was
no easy way in but there was a long hill climb pull up to a tight ridgeline that could put us in range. Soon all four of us were at the top and within walking distance of the face. Guch and Carter plunged boot after boot into the fresh snow as they made their way along the cathedral’s south ridge. As the sound of their steps faded away, Gibeau and I gazed along the horizon where serrated ridgelines cut the sky in all directions. Two bald eagles swooped and soared, vying for airspace high aloft the peaks. We watched
the afternoon burn away as Carter and Guch became two dots on a white floor with an ocean of pine forest behind them. Then they dropped. Each took a few hacks, swipes and slices down the face and in a matter of seconds they were sitting at the bottom of the basin, peering back up at the tiny marks they had made on a medium destined to melt away. bg Ben Gavelda is the 2017 National Hermit Crab Race Champion. @bengavelda
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Bryan Iguchi and Mark Carter forging a path into the vast trackless wastes of the Wyoming backcountry.
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ancient revalations Riding the line between life and death in New Zealand WORDS & PHOT OS: ROB KI NGWI LL
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he indigenous MÄ ori people of New Zealand believe the mountains are the link between the supernatural and natural worlds. For snowboarders, mountains are a place where we dance and play, connect with the spirit of nature, and ride that invisible line between the two worlds. But sometimes riding that line can get us a little too close to the other side, as I discovered one beautiful winter day last summer. Flying in a helicopter through the mountains of New Zealand is a surreal experience. The mountains are craggy with Teton sensibilitiesâ€”huge granite walls rise from the glacial plane below, ancient blue glaciers cascade out of the mountains and into the valleys, complex and beautiful in their slowly flowing forms. It is an aweinspiring place to snowboard. Seth Wescott and I traveled there to ride the fabled mountains of Aoraki/ Mt. Cook National Park and film with Warren Miller for L.L. Bean. We had lucked out with fresh snow and sunny days, a rarity in New Zealand. While our friends sat by the pool, we were chasing big lines down under. There is nothing like riding powder with one of your best friends in the middle of summer.
Seth Wescott at the base of Aoraki/ Mt. Cook in New Zealand.
One day Seth and I found ourselves standing in the sun at the top of a pristine peak looking down at one of the most beautiful lines of the trip. The conditions were perfect, the sun was shining with two feet of new snow and there was no wind. I lost the rock-scissors-paper battle for who
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“It was a beautiful sight, utterly mesmer izing, that moment when the avalanche sparkl ed to life underneath my feet.” initiating a I had stomped the cliff and was n it erupted. would drop in first and watched with jealously toe-side turn toward safety whe etic energy as Wescott rode down the steep couloir, carving kin I watched in wonder as pure racted huge arcs down the untracked snow, dodging dist so was shook from the snow. I oting sho towering spires of rock with fierce rapidity. the of r colo blue by the beautiful forgot ost alm I t tha e slop the ss cracks acro Then it was my turn. With a high five from the awe of much danger I was in. I was in cinematographer filming at the top, I dropped in how ain. power of the mount and began my descent, blasting perfect snow 20 the in New feet into the air with every turn until I spotted a “My Mom will kill me if I die out. cliff to drop about halfway down. ed call e voic er Zealand!” my inn w I had kne I ses, sen my to k bac Snapping e it mak to t to keep charging to the righ Wescott warned me on the radio that, after the re whe e zon r off the slab and to a safe landing if I went too far down the slope I .I cliff the off me l pul not avalanche would would fall off a large cliff or get raked through ing ryth re eve entered that timeless state whe rocks made of giant dragon teeth. I rode up ty. safe ard slows down and rocketed tow to the edge of the cliff and took a moment to e, I caught a Nearly to the edge of the slid center myself and mentally prepare. The line my tracks. It in cold me rock that stopped was doable, but I knew I had to land the cliff full tomahawk broke my board and sent me solidly or face the consequences. I also suspected into the moving snow. there was a slight chance some of the new snow might slide on me, but that if I had enough speed I could make it to a safe spot. I was in an For a moment, all was quiet. shadow as and t ligh te whi underworld of this it?” “Is me. r ove d ade casc the snow tide, I the I wondered. Fighting against riding t kep and The rider spirit in me could see the line and finally regained my feet to safety. path e slid the of e that gave me courage. I knew I could do it. beyond the edg After all, this is what I was born to do. With a “3-2-1 dropping,” I launched the cliff and rode like lightning out of the danger zone. But then myself it happened. It was a beautiful sight, utterly After taking a minute to pull to meet up mesmerizing, that moment when the avalanche tom together, I rode to the bot aftermath of sparkled to life underneath my feet. the erve obs with Wescott and
the slide. A deposition pile 15-feet deep sat at the bottom of the slope. The ancient Māori warriors—adept at fierce ambushes and stealthy escapes—had a chant they would recite before going into battle called the haka. You may have seen New Zealand’s famous rugby team, the All Blacks, performing it before games. Loosely translated the chant means, “I might die! I might die! I might live! I might live!” Drawn into deep reflection of how sacred life is, and how close I had come to losing it all, I was grateful to leave New Zealand still riding the line of the living.
Rob Kingwill is an OG Jackson Hole snowboarder, local entrepreneur and advocate for adventure. @robkingwill @avalon7
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Annapurna I looms in the distance with Anatoli Boukreeâ€™s memorial stretching across a boulder field at Annapurna Base Camp.
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writing on the
A Jackson pro-snowboarder connects with Nepalâ€™s first generation of female mountain guides WORDS: SHANNON SOLLIT T P H OT O S : K E LLY C O LL A D O O F T H E N I G H T S K I E S
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t started with a post-it note. Prosnowboarder Halina Boyd was at her Teton Village home contemplating her next move. She mapped out her goals and ideas on a series of post-it notes. Pasted to her wall, the little neon squares read “Snowboard in Nepal”; “Empower people” and “Create a film whose story could empower people.” “This whole idea has been evolving my entire life,” Boyd said. “I’ve always had this affinity for mountains. Snowboarding has become my favorite way of being a part of them.” Still, her post-it notes posited separate goals for different times. She did not expect to fulfill them all at once. But soon, she will. In the spring Boyd and her crew, which includes Jackson director Noah Waldron, will head to Nepal to film Bātō, slated to debut in late 2018. Bātō is the Nepali word for “women’s path,” but there are multiple trajectories at play here. The first is that of the female Nepali mountain guides who will guide Boyd through the Annapurna Sanctuary and Langtang region of the Himalaya. Her guides are employed by Three Sisters Adventure Trekking, among the first generation of professional female mountain guides in Nepal. They, perhaps more than Boyd, are the heart of this story. “We wanted to convey a larger humanitarian message,” Boyd said. “Some sort of social impact through this storytelling.” When Boyd landed at Three Sisters’s basecamp in April 2016 she knew she had found the story. Three Sisters was founded by, you guessed it, three sisters in 1994. Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri moved to Nepal from India in the early 1990s. Alongside their mountain guide training program and guide business, they also founded the NGO Empowering
Women of Nepal (EWN). The goals of each are ultimately the same: to offer options to women who, historically, have had none. Settled in Pokhara, the heart of Nepal’s adventure tourism, the Chhetri sisters noticed two phenomena: women often came to them with troubling stories of abuse or neglect at the hands of their male guides and Nepalese women who lived in the shadows of these breathtaking mountains had limited, if any, access to them. Mobility and autonomy for Nepalese women was, and often still is, out of reach. “The women who would come, they had nothing,” Lucky told REI in October. “They had a big social disadvantage. Most of them come from a low caste. They have a broken family, they have no education and they have lots of fears. They didn’t trust themselves.” Even if Three Sisters graduates do not pursue a career in mountain guiding, they leave with an education and proficiency in English, which will take them far in Nepal’s tourist-dominated economy. The hope, Boyd said, is that they leave knowing their strength, and their options. “It is very hard for women to get out from home in Nepali society,” said Three Sisters guide-in-training Sistri Dharma in a Kickstarter campaign video. (The campaign did not reach its goal on October 27, but the project marches on.) Dharma was one of two guides leading Boyd on her inaugural April trek. It was special, Boyd said, to see the two young guides mentoring and learning from each other. “She’s learning English, learning how to explain the route to us. It was so endearing.” So that’s Bātō’s poignant humanitarian story: Nepalese women gaining independence and mountain prowess in the
Halina Boyd meditates in a Buddhist temple in Chomrong, a tiny village along the ABC trek.
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The team descends the endless Himalayan stairs scattered across the Annapurna Basecamp Trek.
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“I was never taught that women were any less.” heart of the Himalaya. But it’s not the only component. Back to Boyd’s post-it wall: snowboarding in Nepal, she said, has been a goal of hers as long as she can remember. She grew up reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Frederick Lenz’s Surfing the Himalayas: A Spiritual Adventure. “All those different levels of experiencing that area are so intriguing,” Boyd said. For her, snowboarding has always been more than the physical mechanics. Being in the mountains, she said, is a spiritual moment. “[Mountains] are great teachers and bestow infinite wisdom.” It’s not insignificant that Boyd is a female athlete working alongside female mountain guides. Nepalese women face barriers that may feel foreign to women in the U.S., but professional female athletes around the world still struggle for equal footing. Social scientists largely agree on two things regarding women and snowboarding: it is still a relatively young sport, especially for women, and snowboarding is not immune to the ills that plague other professional sports cultures. Mountain sports are still largely regarded as “masculine,” and mountains themselves as masculine spaces, explained sport sociologists Mark Stoddart and Jason Laurendeu. Women who excel in mountains, then, are seen as exceptional rather than normal. Female-centric media, like Boyd’s film, has the power to challenge that. Boyd did consciously decide to invite one “token male” snowboarder to the team: Nick Russell. The question of whether to invite a man into this story about women was a heavy one, but Boyd decided his perspective was too important to exclude. After all, men play an important role in
empowering women, whether women (and men) like it or not. “This is a world we’re all living in together. If it’s just women talking to other women, it’s not as powerful as women and men coming together to tell this story.” Boyd considers herself lucky. She grew up with two older brothers who pushed her to keep up. “I was never taught that women were any less,” she said. But that doesn’t mean the playing field is equal. Boyd’s own abilities do not prevent people from projecting their sexist viewpoints on her. “There’s definitely this assumption of stigma in what you are capable of and not capable of,” Boyd said. “Recently, women in the U.S. have been breaking those molds. But I also think we have a long way to go as far as providing opportunities, providing those career paths.” And that, Boyd said, is what makes her work as a snowboarder so relevant to the work Nepalese women perform as mountain guides. Boyd plans to bring an extra snowboard to teach her guides how to use it, and teach them basic avalanche safety. After all, female empowerment is a global goal, and mountains are a universal tool. “The skills these women are learning will give them access to the mountains in an informed and educated way,” Boyd said. “From there, they can choose how they want to experience the mountains … there are many ways, but that love and drive that keeps us coming back is universal.”
Shannon Sollitt is a freelance writer from Jackson. She loves stories about snow and mountain living. @shan._.non
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Rachel Reich rappeling into the East Hourglass Couloir. Photo: Pip Hunt
shattered doubts When the men told her she couldnâ€™t, one woman refused to listen WORDS: RACH EL REICH P H O T O S : P I P H U N T, M O R G A N M C G L A S H O N & R A C H E L R E I C H
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“I wouldn’t be able to handle it, he said. I should consider backpacking instead.”
he sun is far from stirring and my alarm is chiding me with a message across the screen: “Stop being a slacker and get up.” Half asleep, I stumble downstairs to make coffee—the one thing that numbs me to the early hour and cold temps outside. My long-time ski partner Pip is in a similar zombie state as we throw our gear into the car and rendezvous with our third, Morgan. The mood is somber yet excited as we discuss the mission ahead: an ascent of one couloir into a double rappel to ski another. The rope is packed and I’m hoping we have enough extra pieces and cordelette to backup or improvise anchors if necessary. To an outsider, we appear an unlikely crew. We are three small women, hardly more than 5 feet tall, all obsessed with pushing our limits in the mountains. That it is improbable we would slog through snow, claw our way up ice, double rappel into a steep couloir, is exactly how I got here. Split-boarding and mountaineering were things I was constantly told I couldn’t do. In college, I elicited laughter from male friends when I said I was contemplating a NOLS mountaineering course in the Pacific Northwest. One friend, a climber I deeply respected who had just returned from a
similar course, told me to forget about it. I wouldn’t be able to handle it, he said. I should consider backpacking instead. I went anyway, suffering through every moment. Somehow, I made it to the end and something was different. In the mountains, where I had to work to survive, I had awoken to a different reality. It had been around me all along, this world, yet pushing myself to the brink and coming back from it was when I finally noticed the sharp details, appreciated the beauty around me. Years later, in Colorado I spent all the money I had on a Voile 154 split-board with metal plates that attached to resort board bindings so I could keep up with my then-boyfriend. On the days we went out-of-bounds I was terrified. Colorado’s snowpack is notoriously unpredictable and taking someone’s word that it was “fine” was hardly reassuring. I knew next to nothing about snow science and the first day we spent on Berthoud Pass I held my breath on every run. Often the sole woman with a group of five to eight men, I learned how to skin by sliding down the skin track backwards and into trees; how to not eat it with a board
that felt like I was driving a double decker bus and took most of my strength to turn; how to keep going a little bit farther when my entire body was screaming at me. Then I found mentors who taught me about snow, the importance of terrain evaluation and management and avalanche safety. They gave me confidence and after a while I learned how to skin uphill without sliding backwards. I stopped holding my breath on every run. My mountain obsession continued to grow and it seemed natural to combine climbing with split-boarding, especially after relocating to the Tetons—a place that swiftly humbled me. Sure, I was one of the only women I knew backcountry riding in Breckenridge, but in Jackson Hole the terrain is real and my lack of strength, fitness and technique quickly became apparent. Once again, there was no way I could do this, I thought, and yet I was strangely drawn to it. I began venturing into the backcountry as much as possible, enduring uncomfortable situations. I had partners who occasionally talked down to me, disregarded any of my observations or decision-making and were focused on an objective to the point where turning around meant failing. I was told I
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The team climbed up one couloir on Nez Perce Peak to access and ski another. Photo: Morgan McGlashon
was too slow, not proficient enough, that I should just stick to resort riding or easy pass laps. But I didn’t listen. I started training in the gym, going out on my own to study the snowpack, pushing my abilities in-bounds to ride steeper terrain in the backcountry, slowly (very slowly) venturing into bigger terrain. I took an Exum course on ski mountaineering and did everything I could to keep progressing. It’s been about 12 years since I was told
mountaineering was too hard for me and here I am, with a team of two other women on top of the Sliver Couloir on Nez Perce Peak setting up for a rappel. Standing in the notch at the top, we peer down into the powdery goodness that lay in the East Hourglass. The first rappel was more of a down-climb but because the chute looked loaded and we weren’t sure where we would find the next anchor (or what condition it was in) we clipped into the anchor and Morgan led the way down into the unknown.
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After navigating the hanging snowfield and locating the anchor for the mandatory rappel over a chockstone in the run, we set up the rope for the final technical part. We werenâ€™t entirely sure what we were going to findâ€”the winter had been leaner than in years past; we were hoping that a 60-meter rope would be long enough to get us past the crux rappel and into the top of the chute. A cry of triumph floated up moments later and we knew we were good to go. I clipped into the rope, unclipped from the anchor and began the precarious rap down to the beginning of the East
Hourglass. The rock was coated in a layer of ice making it impossible to keep my footing as I descended. It ended with a free hanging rappel before depositing me on the slope below where I saw Morgan waiting, skis ready. After a steep, variable ride out of the couloir and Garnet Canyon, our team of three hustled across the lake still donning our harnesses, chasing the setting sun. We made it to the parking lot as the sun dipped behind the Tetons, feeling quite comfortable in all our unlikeliness.
The unparalleled beauty of the Tetons is at its peak during early morning starts and sunset races back to the trailhead. Photo: Rachel Reich
Rachel Reich is a marketing strategist who finds her solace on her split-board during suffer-fests in the mountains. Her favorite color is aquamarine. @theracheden
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anxious adventure Trauma in the mountains is often cloaked in a culture of silence
Photo: Tristan Greszko
WORDS: ELIZABETH KOU TRELAKOS P H O T O S : T R I S TA N G R E S Z K O & E L I Z A B E T H K O U T R E L A K O S
Issue Number Thirteen
ne hundred and eighty seconds seems like a blip in time, but the impact of a mere three minutes can stick with you for a while. “I could tell I wasn’t fully buried. My legs were out, but I couldn’t move. I could see my arm and my hand and I knew I wasn’t choking or paralyzed. I was like, holy shit, I’m breathing fine and they will be here in a minute.” That’s the last thing Ryan Van Lanen remembers during an avalanche outside the boundary of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. He doesn’t remember losing consciousness, being dug out, or the fingers that cleared the snow from his airways. The next memory he has is watching the ski patroller who found him ski away and being in the care of 10 other
people. Van Lanen said he wasn’t sure if he was dying or dreaming. Although he survived the event unscathed, for Van Lanen, snowboarding changed. “I think about that all the time, not a day goes by. I was just lucky there was no physical trauma, but for me there’s definitely some PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] in there.” Today, when Van Lanen finds himself on avalanche terrain, “the whole fucking run I’m picturing it sliding. A lot of people get in these slides, then get out of them, and it gives them more confidence just to keep pushing it. I’ve lost confidence in the
mountain. It’s nerve racking.” Indeed, the experience of a single negative event can have lasting impacts. At some point in their lives, 8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD following traumas like the loss of a loved one, car accidents, assault, childhood abuse or natural disasters. Among the symptoms are nightmares, avoidance of situations that bring back the negative experience, heightened reactivity, anxiety or depression. Evaluation from a mental health professional is essential to know if and how an experience has impacted a person. According to the National Institute of
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“The only people that can get what I’ve been through are people that have experience dealing with this.” Mental Health, one out of five Americans is diagnosed with a mental illness each year. But the persistent stigma of mental illness and subsequent barriers to seeking treatment suggest the numbers are much higher. Van Lanen, for one, said he has not sought help. Negative experiences can impact sleep, eating habits, and general motivation to do the things we usually do. As a result, the brain gets deprived of what it needs to function. In addition to talking with a professional, it can be helpful for people who are struggling to do a quick check-in: How’s my sleep and eating? How’s my social life? Am I hydrated? Are little things that don’t normally piss me off getting to me? Am I drinking more alcohol than usual? A 2015 New York Times article suggests that people with mental illness are less likely to seek the treatment they need due to “mindset, born long ago of necessity, dictating that people solve their own problems.” In a small Western town like Jackson Hole that is steeped in values of rugged individualism it is not difficult to see how this notion takes deeper hold. The problem is compounded in a ski town where the emphasis is seemingly placed on physical health. There is no shortage of discussion about ski injuries—sprained ankles and broken bones, but how often do people discuss the ailments we cannot see? After losing three people to avalanches in one year, Starr Jameson, of Crested Butte,
Colorado, identified two major obstacles in processing loss. She noticed she no longer enjoyed the same activities and from that came a loss of community. “We form these communities and I felt like I lost my community because I didn’t want to ski. What’s happening is you are losing a good thing, like exercise, and then you are losing your day-to-day connections with people.” Jameson founded the nonprofit Survivors of Outdoor Adventure Recovery (Soar4life.org) to help people access resources after traumatic incidents. Soar4life’s website includes a communal blog, referrals for different types of therapy, safety information for outdoor activities and info on scholarships for outdoor safety education.
While Van Lanen has returned to his mountain environs, the three minutes he spent under the snow placed him in a certain category of skiers and snowboarders. “The only people that can get what I’ve been through are people that have experience dealing with this,” he said. “Before this happened to me, I didn’t get it. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.”
As for getting back out there, if that’s something you want to do, Jameson said “it’s important to have 100-percent headspace when in the backcountry.” Otherwise, your ability to make good decisions is likely compromised. In the outdoor sphere where survival hinges on decision-making, symptoms of PTSD, like, say, trouble sleeping or lack of appetite, hinder brain functions. A study by the National Institute of Health explained the critical link between sleep and brain function: when a person gets a good night’s rest, cerebrospinal fluid flows into the brain and helps wash away toxic proteins that build up during the day. Meanwhile, when glucose levels drop, the part of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control functions at a compromised level.
Now he understands why many “bad-ass old timers” stay in-bounds. “Riding in avalanche terrain is risky and ultimately selfish because if something happens to me, other people will have to deal with it.” Van Lanen, though, said he is not quite ready to hang up his backcountry gear. He said his out-of-bounds experiences, then, will remain both a source of release and anxiety.
P TSD RESO URCES I N JACK SON H OLE
St. John’s Hospital Mental Health Resource Line: 307-203-2880 Jackson Community Counseling Center 24/7 crisis line: 307-733-2046
Elizabeth Koutrelakos has woken up to Teton sunrises for the past 10 years. She enjoys all things winter, most things summer and works as a provisional clinical social worker in Jackson. @ekoutrelakos
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Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos
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screenshot Industry heavyweights sound off on the good, the bad and the ugly of a digitized existence WORDS: JOSI STEPHENS P H O T O S : A A R O N B L AT T & WA D E D U N S TA N
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ur global society exists in a virtual world where value is decided by followers, retweets and likes. In its most idyllic form, social media provides a limitless landscape where humans on opposite sides of the planet are divided only by bandwidth. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. But its gift of giving everyone a voice is also its greatest curse—every revolutionary act of humanity is subject to the now ubiquitous “troll.” Whether social media is used for good or not, it is getting used, a lot. According to a 2017 study by the marketing agency Mediakix, the average person will spend more than five years of their lives on social media. Today, our heroes and heroines are made not just by their physical prowess but by their ability to present themselves in a compelling light on Instagram. And if that sounds empty, remember that we are living in a time, for example, when women all over the world are #metoo’ing themselves into a force so powerful that more than a few grabby assholes are quaking in their loafers. Indeed, social media is a hammer that, when wielded by the just and the daring, can level the most uneven of classist, sexist, ageist and racist of playing fields. The opposite is also true—just look at the white supremacist goons a la Richard Spencer, who use the web and social media as a galvanizing force of hate. So how do we make this instrument work for us? I fired off some questions to a few of our industry’s most vibrant voices, all who use these platforms both socially and professionally: photographer Aaron Blatt, professional skier Michelle Parker and snowboard icons Hana Beaman, Travis Rice
and Alex Yoder. They all use social media differently, but their one common thread is that with so many eyes on their every post, they remain human and they remain kind. JOSI STEPHENS: What do you find appealing/compelling about social media as whole?
I think one of the most amazing elements is simply unfiltered communication. I remember years ago reading a quote that said, “The day when everyone can talk with everyone there will be no war.” I think it’s really interesting to see that come more and more into the truth. The beautiful side is everyone having the opportunity to have their voice. One of the things this country was founded on was freedom of speech. And that’s basically what social media upholds. It’s everyone’s own little microphone to the world. TRAVIS RICE:
As an athlete, it’s given me an opportunity to grow my personal brand and to create a brand that is a representation of things that I love, causes that I care about and issues that I think are important. Some of the conversations that I’ve had from posting a simple photo with a caption have been beautifully touching. I also love the feeling of having an outlet to create and spur positive change. Social media has given me a platform to use my voice and speak up about things that I am passionate about. MICHELLE PARKER:
I like the level playing field, so to speak, that you can produce your own content and put yourself out there without the support of a big brand. If people like it, they can follow, share, and interact with you. You have a direct line to your audience. It’s created so many more ways of sharing interests, connecting and expressing ourselves. HANA BEAMAN:
It has allowed individuals to write their own story so to speak. No longer does an athlete, photographer, etc., have to lean on a media outlet or a brand to show their experience to the world. This allows for full transparency (if desired) and heaps of creative freedom. Within our industry, it helps to level the playing field a little as far as media swaying towards certain riders, or brands pushing athletes into the spreads or on the cover of a magazine with ad dollars (but that never happens... right?). The audience gets to decide who they want to see, follow, and ultimately push their favorite rider’s career further with this choice. AARON BLATT:
It’s like curating our own MOMA [Museum of Modern Art] and keeping it in your pocket. The access to art of all kinds is my favorite part. Also, it’s fun to see the world how your friends, heroes, enemies or any other random people choose to share it. And the access to people is a completely ALEX YODER:
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“Who’s going to cure cancer if we’re all distracted by kittens chasing lasers?” new aspect of society. We essentially have a direct line of communication to anyone we want (even if it’s their staff in the case of famous people). If you find something appealing or feel compelled to reach out to someone, you can just do it. It makes the world feel very connected. If you have a message to send out, a story to tell, you can send/tell it to the world. More people have smartphones than have access to clean drinking water. I have a friend who fell in love with this girl just by watching videos of her surfing on Instagram. He reached out to her and they’ve been together for a few years now. Open communication with strangers. All our connections for the last couple of documentaries we’ve made have been made through either Instagram or Facebook. JS: What are the downsides as you see them?
Well now, those damn algorithms. It’s helpful when it’s showing you things you may be into based on what you already follow, but this whole change from an actual timeline and making it more curation of content makes me so pissed. I follow somebody because I want to see what they are doing. I don’t need something choosing what I see and what I don’t out of what I already follow. I don’t wanna see something from four days ago. I want to see it when it’s posted. It pisses me off. And now the whole paying for “boosts”—bullshit. It’s a fucked up sort of BEAMAN:
pay-to-play manipulation. If you don’t have boundaries, it will eat you. I think it’s tough because it takes away our core group of friends and family. Essentially none of us can have 12 to 14 meaningful relationships at the same time, it’s impossible for it to be authentic and real. When you all the sudden have thousands of “friends” that are all on the surface level, well, the skimming of effort and energy that goes out to these shallow little surfaces, it seems to me that the energy doesn’t transfer well. There’s too much lost in those interactions, it pulls away from more meaningful connections. RICE:
I’m curious to see what the long-term health effects of social media will be—primarily the time spent on your phone consuming and not producing. People are less engaged with the real world and more engaged with their phones than ever before. Totally stating the obvious here, but I think that aspect is unhealthy. Real conversations, real interactions, community, and engagements one-on-one should come first. Is this slipping away? I’ve noticed less conversation and more text, less real life interaction and more direct messaging, less shared meals with no phones at the table, and less overall community values. PARKER:
addiction. It’s like any experience that releases endorphins, it makes you feel something that you want more of at a cellular level so, given the opportunity, you feel compelled to reach for it. Your date gets up from the dinner table to use the restroom and you immediately reach into your pocket to check the feed instead of observing the world around you. Some people say it’s actually harmful to creativity because it’s not allowing people to ever be bored. Who’s going to cure cancer if we’re all distracted by kittens chasing lasers? A lot of people say it’s a glossed over highlight reel of people’s “lives.” Most people, myself included, choose to share things they find beautiful, funny, and/ or impressive, things that are positively compelling in some way that might have potential to inspire. I think that’s a good thing. They say “no news is good news” and all of the “news” that’s out there is generally bad news so I think it’s kind of great that the majority of social media is good news. Even if people are faking it, it’s what they want people to see so it’s probably a life they’re at least working toward. Every flower has a shadow. I try to look on the bright side. This whole thing is here to stay.
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Necessary evil? Empty platform? For me, it’s an effective tool. It’s how I share what I do. It’s an opportunity to share stories and images that mean something to me. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best way to share. I’m much more fulfilled by creating those images and then connecting with humans in the flesh than I am by getting likes. YODER:
It’s interesting because I find that, used correctly, it is an incredible tool, a place to speak about things that matter. There’s the personal side and the business side, where, used properly, it’s really helpful. But with any type of powerful technology, if it’s not used in a mindful way, it can become this evil thing. It’s rewriting the way our brains work. How many times in a moment of stillness has the gut reaction been to look at your phone? You just instantly open up Instagram. That’s where you need to be mindful. Things that happen when there’s not a human-tohuman connection, it’s like road rage; it’s the same thing with social media. People make comments to each other that they would never say face-to-face. It’s real, the social bullying, the trolls who talk shit all behind this anonymous tag. We need to bring a human factor to what you say and how you respond. Most importantly, not taking shit personally. RICE:
All of the above. To bring this back around to the benefits of social media, if all of the negatives, trolls, disconnectedness, etc., are reversed and we can stay in line with being good people and PARKER:
delegating our time towards that then I think the positives outweigh the negatives.
wants to be heard. Everyone has a different understanding of what they read.
It can be effective no doubt. But now it’s more effective the more money you throw at it. That takes away from what made it awesome. If you can play with the system and know how to use it, you can be very effective. But it’s become watered down and irrelevant. Look at Facebook. It’s just an advertising platform now and less of a social network.
I engage and see if I can make a positive change. If I can’t, then I move on. If you don’t like what I have to say then that is your choice to follow me or not. It’s nothing personal and never will be, but I will never not speak out about causes that are close to my heart. This is my voice and what good is a voice if it’s never heard? As far as the subject matter goes, on climate change, we need to act yesterday. We can’t sit idly and watch time pass by without being a part of this change. Of course I’m going to speak up about that cause. I want to look back and feel like I did my best in life at keeping our environment intact. I want to leave this place better than I found it and if I can make a positive difference through using my voice, then I will.
Anything and everything can always improve. It would be ideal if the powers that be didn’t limit content distribution with algorithms, etc., for monetary gain. That said, this is the world we live in and it seems most people are going to make a buck (or billions of ‘em in this case) where they can, so this is nothing new. BLATT:
JS: How do you deal with detractors and do they deter you from utilizing the social platform for causes that are important to you?
Honestly, I love it when people get fired up. All I can do is laugh. I post something about, whatever, and someone throws the, “WTF do you know? Stick to snowboarding.” RICE:
You just can’t take that shit seriously. You don’t know what that dude is dealing with, what happened to him that day. I stay true to what I am and post what feels good to me. You can’t read too much into it. That’s the beauty of it, we all have our own voice. At the root of the human psyche, everyone
BLATT: Woof. I try to be genuine…And stay clear of pinpointing exactly where I am.
I get deterred from sharing certain topics, even on things that I would think are so simple. People always have their opinions and opinions are like assholes, right? Sometimes the most opinionated are the loudest and make the biggest stink. But, like I said, it has caused me to really think about who I am and what I stand for; what I am willing to fight for. BEAMAN:
Josi Stephens loves words, art, horses and naps. @Mustang_Josi
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voyage Launching over uncertainty and into a fresh season
Issue Number Thirteen 95 W O R D S : B L A K E PA U L
P H O T O S : A A R O N B L AT T
hen the holidays wrap up and a new year emerges, the presence of Old Man Winter takes hold in Jackson Hole. It is the start of filming season—a time to assemble a crew and embark into the mountains. Marking this moment last season, Bryan Iguchi and Mark Carter spearheaded a trip to Box Y Lodge in the Greys River area near Alpine, Wyoming. A storm delivering more than 30 inches was on its way followed by blue skies and frigid temps. Snowboarder Pat Moore, along with Tanner Pendleton, director of the new Vans snowboard film, Landline, and Aaron Blatt, photographer and backcountry pancake enthusiast, met us to commemorate the occasion.
up basecamp at the bottom of a half-moon ridge of rock shelves and pillow stacks. Daylight was fleeting, but the terrain was plentiful so we would spend a few days returning to the area.
During the storm’s final and fierce day, we sledded out 30 miles with supplies strapped to our machines. With the snow unrelenting and the temps dropping, we made multiple stops to check for frostbite, readjust our face protection and apply more layers. The discomfort, though, was short-lived. A home-cooked meal at Box Y awaited us. Nestled in a valley between the Wyoming and Salt River Mountain Ranges, the family-run business offers a remote retreat with a lodge and eight private cabins with endless wilderness to explore.
“Damn, he’s really flying into this thing.”
We awoke at dawn to crisp air and bright sunshine. The cold pierced its way through every piece of outerwear we could reasonably fit on our bodies. We noshed on oatmeal and eggs, struggled to start our sleds and headed out to a pillow zone across the pass. It was no small task breaking trail into the zone. Carter took the lead rampaging through the woods and setting the first track. After a couple minor tree collisions, the crew followed suit. We set
Watching this crew select lines and destroy terrain is always awe-inspiring. It is something video footage cannot capture. Carter wasted no time handling a few of the trophy lines glistening in the sun. Moore followed him up, linking big drops together and mashing his way through the deep snow. Guch, meanwhile, eyed a backlit mini spine, threw a backside slash, disappeared in the mist, then shot out the bottom like a surfer flying out of a barrel.
The trip’s zenith arrived in the form of a possible gap jump off the road. The run-in looked funky with a mandatory 90-degree turn and quick transition. The landing also seemed a bit flat, not to mention the size of the gap was massive. So naturally, one day as darkness fell, we headed to check it out. I was leery, but Moore’s confidence and motivation rubbed off on me. Most of the crew headed back for the night, but we decided to stay and start building it. Tomorrow was our last day, after all. When we returned the next day, the gap, lit up by the morning sun, appeared even larger. Defeated in rock-paper-scissors, Moore was forced to guinea pig it. As I counted him and judged his speed I remembered thinking, “Damn, he’s really flying into this thing.” He took off the lip with a loud “whoosh” and soared like a bird
though the air, vanishing past the landing. I breathed a small sigh of relief; it was possible to clear the gap. Moore and I sessioned it for a few tries each and on my second try, I lost control. Unable to handle the speed or the compression, I went completely upside down and landed on my back on the knuckle. Frustrated yet determined to land something, I made a point, on my final voyage, to control myself through the run-in and off the lip, to spin as slowly as possible. But the jump didn’t have much pop, it felt like a giant drop with a ravine you had to clear in the landing. In the air, my stomach churned like I was strapped into a mega rollercoaster. I blacked out for a moment before somehow riding away, unscathed, bouncing through the little rolls in the landing. A feeling of accomplishment registered as Carter congratulated me at the bottom. These are the highs and lows of filming. We sledded back to the cabins and celebrated with some wine and a last supper before jetting back to civilization the next morning. Another storm was on its way and the crew was fired up for the season ahead. Something about being completely off the grid brings renewed meaning to the process. I’m grateful to people like Carter and Guch for helping me to see that new meaning. Cheers to the season ahead. bp
Blake Paul is a board rider, traveler, and amateur adult human from Jackson. @blakepaul
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Blake Paul launches a massive gap in Nowhere, Wyoming.
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