If Hoji’s plan worked, it was going to be a great week. If not…
The north face of Trundle Ridge in the Esplanades is steep and technical but in an approachable, playful way (if you are one of the world’s best skiers at least). It was the logistics that made it a gamble. Film budgets and a week of prime season would be risked in the hope of coming away with a crucial segment in Eric’s feature movie.
Eric (and M-T-N) spend weeks every December at Sentry Lodge (the next drainage north) so he’d seen the wall, taken photos, studied the lines and imagined the snow and light he’d need.
There was no doubt it would be sick ski terrain and would produce great footage. The difficulty would be getting film crews and cameras into position to capture it all without a helicopter. The face is on the backside of Trundle Ridge from Vista Lodge, so you can’t really scope your lines easily and cameras would need to climb, descend and then climb the next ridge to shoot back at it. When camera bags weigh 40lbs or more, that’s quite an effort. If you send them up, over and up again- then clouds roll in- you could have a pretty frustrated crew on your hands. On a self powered, ski touring mission, you might only have time for one set-up like this a day. And our week at Vista was likely to only have three days of good filming weather total.
It’s a skier’s dream this wall. But not a movie maker’s dream.
Eric rounded up a team that could get it done and convinced them to take the gamble with him:
Matty Richard: A playful, soulful ski style from the most easy-going guy you’ve met. Any trip is better with Matty along.
Marcus Eder: Video game style. Mind-bending athleticism. I often couldn’t understand what he intended on doing when he dropped in. He can ski things most of us can’t even visualize. I don’t know what his knees are made of, but it’s not human.
Eric Hjorleifson: Mastery. Next level, pure mastery. No one is better at studying, planning and then executing in technical, consequential terrain. At SPEED.
Harley Hegnauer: Skied the “client lines” all week. If your clients are rad skiers with lots of backcountry experience and fitness.
But it was the behind the lens crew that made it all work:
Shane Treat: Man-beast who can fix anything, shoot on any thing and haul heavier packs further than anyone.
Jason Ebelheiser: MSP cinematographer running drones, organizing camera angles and finding time to squeeze in a line or two to show off his classic ski style.
Nicholas Teichrob: West-coast to the core. Photographer with passion to spare and the motivation to build and shred the pump-track on any down day.
As a guide, my highlight might have been looking down from Trundle Ridge the first day and realizing that cornices were small and there were more “safe” entrances than I expected. There was also a direct couloir we could ski and safely bootpack up to speed up our turn around time.
The Ski Highlights:
You’ll probably see most of them in the HOJI Movie this fall but Matty and Eric started things off with playful rib features. Matty’s smooth, surfy turns and Eric’s boosting side-hip airplane turns.
As we got the lay of the land, Marcus took over and started linking airs with spins and butters. Everything stuck first try on lines we could barely even scope. This was the day I saw where backcountry skiing is going. Wow!
The home run at Vista is a bit of a natural terrain park so on down days the crew built up a pump track and mini terrain park. Good old fashioned fun.
Our final day we set out for a new zone which was a gamble with our last filming window but it sure paid off! Hoji and Harley climbed a steep chute to technical ridge section. From here Hoji nailed the line of the trip. He blasted down a rib with a couple small, blind airs to start. He then had slough to race to a large double drop where his spray blinded him but he still nailed the pinpoint take offs. His heal piece released as he stuck the first air and checked his speed. Still he sent the bottom air (30 feet?) and stomped the heal closed on landing. Flying out the bottom, you’ve never heard a grown man scream so much.
On the other side of the mountain, Marcus and I mountaineered up a big ridge to a featured face. Marcus made it his terrain park. He started with a butter to spin I couldn’t even name followed by another spin and a huge backflip. With everyone down and happy, the guide was able to sneak into a line with a rib to small air. The slough was quicker than I would have thought so the rest was a race to cross under it and cruise out the bottom. Hardly even noteworthy for the pros, it was a great line for me. And a boyhood dream to ski it for the MSP cameras.