Back to the everyday... and so thankful...

Back to life, back to reality.  Traveling and skiing on all of these film and photo projects can really seem like a dreamworld when I am in the throws of all of the action taking place.  During that part of my skiing career I am consistently overwhelmed by the magic of the epics and unexpected experiences that rule over the nature of that work.  So much adrenaline and appreciation is wrapped up into that aspect of my life that everything else takes on a whole different vibe when the snow melt returns me to the more day-to-day nature of the behind the scenes roles of my lifestyle.  As an adventurer, I thrive on the ups and downs of the variety in my unique career.  Returning from the Freeheellife Films Alaska shoot I found myself exhausted and nerve racked from not only an epic trip, but a long and action packed season all around.  The high octane nature of these adventures takes a toll on me that usual results in three days of coming back down to earth to heal not only my body, but my mindset.  I gotta say, my nerves were shot.  Operating day in and day out in dangerous terrain and avalanche conditions is an emotional and stressful roller coaster of the highest highs and scariest lows.  Good and bad decisions happen all the time in any efforts, and ours is no different.  We simply have both dire and gloriously beautiful consequences.  Living in that kind of spectrum of high and low takes a toll that requires recovery and support.   

^Recovery and support are abundant from these two.  My wife, Christine, and pup, Murphy, are my two favorite girls.  They provide me both the recovery and the moral support I need.  I need them with me behind the scenes in order to be able to make the entertaining adventure stories that happen in front of the lenses possible.  Everything is connected and nothing happens without influences.  They are a good one.  

^Her chill vibe is contagious...

^...and smoothes out my mindset like glassy water.

^These two always are able to bring me back down to earth just like I really need them too. 

^The more safe and mundane view from my night job at Delta Airlines is a welcome relief to the high octane consequences of my day job.  Here I operate around jet engines, heavy machinery, and heights.  Yet, it is still much safer and less stressful than my skiing adventures.

^"Planes come in, planes go out, and we work them." This quote from an old timer at Delta is a comforting reality of the job.  Here I simply show up, do a job, and go home.  There are no avalanches at the airport, just jet engines and heavy machinery.  I will take that merely relative safety and enjoy it. 

^Planes going out, and me punching out with very few words.  Head down, mouth shut, and simply doing as I am told is a welcome reality after skiing off two avalanches in one day in my other job.  Most folks despise the boring nature of hourly work, but for me this job is perfect.  Flight benefits and some good old fashioned boring stability.  The exact prescription to complement my high octane winter work.      

^Spring also brings about the office work that is the integral other part of my adventurous career.  The stories that we make need to be told, and that requires doing the documentation work to tell them.  That takes a lot of behind the scenes effort that is not as glorious as what shows up on the screens and pages, but no less important.  Again, I enjoy these efforts because laboring from a mobile office like this one I set up on my back porch is a welcome change.  Again, no rocks or avalanches here, and my four legged sleepy assistant is good company.  I guess I am just thankful and enjoying how calm, relaxing, and all around good it feels to be home alive and healthy after another adrenaline driven epic of the highs and lows of another wild winter in the mountains.    

Adventures in Alaska... week two...

The first week of the Alaska trip filming for the latest Freeheellife Films movie, "Let's Go", was a roller coaster ride.  We were coming into week two with apprehensive motivation, but ready to get after what we came for.  Large lines.  

^Cody Smith is shooting Spencer Jonas in some really cool treed cliffs at Alyeska Resort.  We crushed a bunch of close ups and mini golf things while we were waiting for our window of opportunity to get back onto big slopes again.  The ramping up process flourishes with patience and planning. 

^The gratuitous gear shot.  Those are my Surface Live Free 181s right in the middle.  Love those boards.  Everything I needed and nothing I didn't in the big Alaskan backcountry. The early rise tip and tail were just progressive enough for my style, but not too much either.  The other two skis are the Surface Drifter 191s.  Big boys for sure, and with more shape too for Dave Magoffin and Andrew Schauer's liking.

^The gear up scene gets a bit chaotic with a six man crew and snowmobiles.  "Did you see that strap I handed you?"  Classic one liners all over the show.  We don't move fast, but we like to think we move smart.  We certainly did talk about, and make a lot of plans throughout the trip.  Better too much communication then too little.  That is for sure, "I'm not gonna lie."  

^Getting out with mechanized assistance made our lives much more efficient.  Days of approaches can get cut out off a trip with snowmobiles.  They are expensive and cumbersome tools, but worth their weight in media gold when they work well.  I still have managed to avoid the expense, but my Utah home is not quite as snowmobile necessary as these huge expanses are in Alaska.  

^The approach to the zone that became our dreamworld was cut by 75% with the snowmobiles.  Towing in is not all that easy itself, but we were turning five hour approaches into two hour ones all trip long.  It really makes heavy time in these zones possible.  I am almost sold.

^Coming out of the zones we had been working on this trip was further reinforcement of Alaska's dreamworld status.  We spent four of our last five days ramping things up in one particular zone in the Talkeetnas.  It took us four days to complete the whole process to be able to get into the biggest lines of the zone.  We worked the area hard, and it paid off.  After all of the avalanche reactivity earlier in the trip, we were definitely managing our lines with care.  Therefore, we were all deathly afraid of what I have nicknamed, "The Great Pyramid of Death" because of it's avalanche consequences.  I'd show you a picture of the giant avalanche funnel, but I think I should save it for the movie instead.  The story is rich and obviously has a happy ending because I wrote this from my home office in Utah.  However, I really look forward to telling it too everyone this fall in the new Freeheellife Films movie,  "Let's Go!"

^On our last day we only had to film some interviews up at this old mine.  The spot was really cool, and it was a relief to be done with all the big gnarly terrain.  It felt good to put the wraps on a really great trip.  Interview time is always good for some light tomfoolery and goofball antics.  We all think we are so funny, but mostly we just crack ourselves up.  However ridiculous it gets, there are always a lot of good times and laughs.  I am really proud of how well this crew was able to manage all of the turbulence of an Alaskan film trip.  This place is big, wild, and amazing.  This trip was the same.   

^Home sweet home tastes really good after an epic like that trip was.  Reflection on the drive brought me back to all the things that made the trip possible including the generous nature of a bunch of people that facilitated our journey.  Beyond the six man crew there were many saints, such as Monica and Kyla Gurry, the Jonas family, Alyeska Resort, Brooke and Mike Welch, Lizet Christiansen, Aaron Kallas, the Canadian Hunter, and the guy who invented the long orange elastic ski strap.  A lot of planets lined up to make this trip a success, and I can appreciate that.  

Adventures in Alaska, week one...

Spring was in the air in Utah, which was my cue to head north.  Way north.  To Alaska.  I have a busy life in Utah that was basically put on hold for my migration north.  It has been three years since I made it to Alaska for various reasons that include volcanoes as well as being broken in half on a rock.  I have been chomping at the bit to get back, and April showers bring airline tickets and deep powder in the Alaskan backcountry.

^In Utah I was helping my good friend Chris with a bathroom remodel.  My goal was to get this shower up and running for him before I left, but I ran out of time.  Alaska was calling.  Chris and his wife are snow riders, so I know they understand.    

^As excited as I was to get up to Alaska, it is always hard to leave these two.  Especially when they both give you the puppy dog eyes like this.  My wife is a saint for understanding my crazy lifestyle.  More so then most will ever know, or even be able to understand.  Being married to me requires unique patience and understanding.  Thankfully she possesses both.

^While rushing to the Salt Lake City airport to make my flight in time I was saying my farewells to the dry scene that has dominated Utah this winter.  Sunset on the spring time slopes was a beautiful thing.  Mostly because I was leaving it.

^Dry as a bone.  See ya later.

 ^Now that is what I am talking about for a real nice windshield view.  Jon Gurry and Dave Magoffin are our go-to guys in Alaska, and I was so stoked to see the two of them again.  It had been a while since I had seen either of them.  We go way back by now, and I am so thankful for friends like these.

^Dave has a really cool yurt in the woods in Girdwood that served as our base camp for two weeks.  Don't get me wrong this is not your standard yurt life.  That's right, that is a 40 inch television hanging on the wall.  

^This is for real.  Also, even more ironic is that one of our young gun athletes on this trip grew up on this road.  Spencer Jonas, is a Girdwood native, and I was really excited to get to ski with him.  I have seen him rise up through the competition ranks over the last few years with tight precision.  I remember watching him and wondering how good he could become.  Now I know.

^Andrew Schauer is our other young gun ripper.  We also found Andrew on the competition circuit over the last few years.  He is an exciting skier to watch.  He always puts on a hell of a show at the competitions, which rings true to my old comp style when I was doing comps.  We loved his electricity, and are stoked to be investing our time, money, and efforts into both Andrew and Spencer.  These kids crush it.

^Trailhead planning.  Dave and Jon listen carefully as lead cinematographer, Cody Smith, tells it like it is.  I have also known Cody for a long time, and worked on a variety of projects with him in the past.  I was pumped to have him running the show on this trip.  I have total trust in his judgement, and his ability to make us all look good.  


^...and approaching...

^...and then picking out the lines each of us wants to have a go at.  Dave and I have spent some time in dangerous terrain together before, but the two young guns were brand new to us.  It was great to see the crew starting to gel together and talking through dangerous terrain with each other.  Touring with a new crew can be stressful, but this group impressed the hell out of me.

^About a week into the trip the storms rolled through, and offered up a fresh coat of new snow.  We took refuge at the world-class Alyeska Resort.  Tram laps and powder turns were the name of the game, and they play it well up here.  This resort impresses me every time I get the chance to go there.  

^Down day action is even impressive.  This is a bore tide on the Turnagain Arm.  If you look real close you can see a stand-up paddler out there surfing the wave all the way in.  You don't get to see things like that every day.  Even if you live in Alaska.

^Then the sun came back out, and we got back out into the madness.

^It is big terrain here.  Not something you'd want to tackle alone without a good crew behind you to back you up.

^Because sometimes things like this happen, and if you get caught it is all on your crew to save your ass.  Fortunately for me, I was able to ski off of this rather gnarly avalanche and save my own skin.  You can literally see my ski track coming off the side of the slide path right in front row center of this picture.  That was a real scare, and it took me a few days to get my head right after that one.  It was a really reactive day that shook our crew to the core.  Obviously, we try to avoid these scenarios with all of our power, but when you are a pro skier trying to operate in dangerous terrain these things happen.

^Getting out with all the crew alive and healthy is sometimes a big win all unto itself.  Sunset never looks so good as when you see it after skiing off of two avalanches in one day.  It was a tough day for me, but the crew pulled me through and impressed me with how well they handled themselves in crisis mode.  Big scares like that are when you get a good idea about what kind of people you are actually touring with, and these guys made the grade.

^The next day we got back out to reassess the situation and start what I call the "ramping up" process all over again.  The reactivity of the new snow was starting to settle out.  All we had to do was get a feel for how quickly and how well that was happening.  We started back at square one pushing smaller and lower angle slopes.  Then we started slowly ramping up the slope angles and line choices according to the feedback we were receiving after each test.  The strategy paid off, and we began to get back into the kinds of lines we came for.  Things are looking up as the avalanche conditions settle out and the new snow continues to stay cold enough to ski really well.  We have a big few days coming up, and I for one am chomping at the bit to see what this crew can accomplish.  Now that mother nature is coming back around to our favor we have some really great chances get some good work done.  Check back in for the update on the second half of the trip.  Looks like this is going to get good... really good... soon.