Got a chance to meet up with Abby Stanford and Jake Carlton, whom I met earlier on in the season when I was filming with Storm Cycles at a small catskiing operation just over the boarder called Great Northern Powder Guides.
Abby is doing an article for Freeskier Magazine that is about having fun in bounds at a resort when avalanche conditions are too dangerous to venture out of the ski area boundary. The timing worked out great, with a month long dry spell, then over 100 cms in the past 10 days there are huge avalanches ripping out everywhere. So we maximized the new snow and her only one day to shoot, hopefully her article gets published!
Fernie Alpine Resort has traditionally produced talented freeskiers and riders. With a bounty of challenging, steep terrain to keep even the hardcore among us happy, it is no surprise that the freeride world is familiar with some of our household names such as Luke Nelson, Jamie Rizzuto, Aaron Schmidt and Caleb Brown.
The Kootenays produce a special breed of skier and Fernie is no exception to this. Hard charging, adventurous and low key. Happier skiing their favorite resort lines or spending time on a skin track than in a terrain park, big mountain lines and fresh tracks is what these guys live for.
Caleb Brown is no exception to this. Don’t let his big grin and relaxed nature fool you, when it’s time to get serious in the mountains Caleb is a man not to be underestimated. Growing up in Fernie and representing Fernie Alpine Resort as one of their resort athletes, Caleb has a strong connection with the peaks in the Lizard Range, part of the Canadian Rockies.
I caught up with Caleb to talk about Fernie and to see why he still calls Fernie Alpine Resort home.
After taking time off the Freeride World Tour to get some perspective on the competition scene, the 2014 winter has still been keeping Caleb busy.
Just recently returning from an epic ski trip, filming with the Storms Cycles crew for an upcoming production. Caleb and three other skiers took a different approach to your everyday ski trip, travelling by Amtrak trains from Chicago to British Columbia, finishing their 18-day adventure in Whistler with the aid of a bus for the last leg.
Days skiing included cat skiing in Montana, backcountry sessions in Stevens Pass and some classic west coast Canadian Whistler slack country.
Huge cliff drops, deep powder tree sessions and back country booters were common topics when discussing the trip, getting me inspired to write a piece on Caleb. Not because he can do things on skis that many of us wouldn’t dream of doing, but because when it all boils down – he is a humble Fernie skier who lives for winter adventures in the town he grew up in.
“Travelling the world and skiing with some of the best freeskiers is an amazing experience! I am definitely lucky to have had those opportunities from a young age. When I do get to travel I am always excited to come home at the end of a trip. Finishing a trip can be a bit of a downer sometimes but I am lucky to always be excited to come home and ski my home hill. The terrain, the awesome people and the snow in Fernie make it the perfect place to live as a skier!”
Fernie Alpine Resort played a big part in Caleb becoming the skier he is today.
Entering his first freeskiing competition held in Fernie at the age of 14, Caleb got the taste for competition. Not knowing what the judging criteria was or what constitutes freeskiing, Caleb ripped a line down the familiar Big Bang terrain and found himself standing on the podium in third place! Following the junior circuit in BC and finally cracking the Freeride World Tour, other Fernie locals, Luke Nelson and Aaron Schmidt took him under their wings and showed Caleb what this level of competition was all about. Finishing 19th in his first year on the World Tour and following up with a 15th place the next season – he is no stranger to performing when it counts.
Taking some time off competing, Caleb is skiing better than ever and loving every minute of it! Hearing these stories and to see the enjoyment that he gets from coming home and spending time in the resort and surrounding backcountry, it is obvious Fernie is special.
“Competitions, film shoots and countless hours on skis would not be possible without my sponsors! I would like to thank Fernie Alpine Resort and Island Lake Lodge for giving me the perfect training grounds. Dynastar, Look and Lange for their support from day one. The North Face, Smith Optics, Discrete Clothing, Ice Breaker Merino, and Cast Binding Systems for the epic gear and my hometown sponsor GearHub Sports!”
Follow Caleb in his Fernie and future adventures via his blog, “Chasing the Dream” http://freeskiercalebbrown.wordpress.com/
See all his shots on Instagram @calebwb and follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caleb-Brown/291607337525259 .
Caleb ripping Fernie Alpine Resort - Kyle Hamilton
Storm Cycles crew – Trent Bona
Jack Viney – Tourism Fernie.
With good snow and awesome weather, Whistler made our first trip end in a bang. We had sick cliff zone sessions, cornice drop sessions, a backcountry sunset booter session, and some of the best light we’ve had to shoot in on the whole trip. Everyone was stoked, we did it.
Whistler was the only location we didn’t have a “host” to show us around, we were on our own to seek out the zones that we would shoot. A few of us had skied here before so together, we found some cool spots, a couple spots that I’ve wanted to ski since the first time I laid eyes on them, many years ago. As always, it was cool to see everyone look at a zone and pick different lines, depending on skier style, the first zone was called the Jersey Cream Wall; a row of cliffs, mostly with flat landings, especially so early in the season. We ended up shaping two big rocks into jumps and we were able to air the cliffs and then ski right into the lips we shaped. Milked.
After that we went and played in the woods a bit, got some pillow shots and some cool angles on pow turns. There was only one more day of filming left, time flies when you’re having fun!
All the other guys, being from the States love to get poutine when they come up to Canada, so that night we went out to the village and got some. I fell asleep at seven o’clock that evening; the early mornings and long days were finally catching up to me.
The next day was technically our last day of shooting, and the day was filled with more jib-type skiing. I was on the sidelines for most of it watching the other guys do their thing which was super impressive and fun to watch. At the end of the day we built a jump and hung out above the clouds and watched and filmed as the setting sun made the light more and more interesting. The Tusk in all it’s glory, was looming in the distance.
The crew called it a wrap, but there were a few things I had seen on a ridge near the “Left Hook” area. We had a small window where the ridge was going to be in the sunlight so Trent and I got up early one last time to get the shots. One was super straight forward; ski down a steep exposed ridge and send it 15-20 feet out the bottom. The toughest part was getting down to the ridge; I had to hang of off trees and manoeuvre my skis around them to get into position. I got half way to where I wanted to start and looked up, wondering if I should bail on the idea. It looked almost harder to go up than it would be to continue manoeuvring down to ski the line I had never skied before, I forced the thoughts of surrendering out of my head and continued.
That run didn’t turn out as I hoped; it was shorter than It looked and really steep, so my turns weren’t as smooth as I had envisioned, but after I was able to scope out a double drop from below and it was good to go, so I ripped up the Red Chair then onto the Peak Chair and over to the double. It was so steep between the two cliffs that when I came to the top it looked like it would be hard not to send the whole thing in one air, I even considered it, but as I got closer and closer to the edge I saw that if I just crept over the first 20 footer, the bottom (which was smaller) would be no problem. All I could hope for was that there were no rocks in that snowfield between the cliffs. The last drop in was one of the best of the whole trip, and the turns skiing out the bottom after stomping it, and knowing that that was it, that we were done, felt so good. I hooted and hollered as I skied through the runout then jumped on the phone to call Trent to see how the shot went, he was stoked. Now, it’s a wrap.
The second part of our trip was just as fun and exciting as the first. Stevens Pass did not disappoint, and we couldn’t have hit it at a better time. It rained the night we arrived, absolutely nuked (or as we call it, puked) the entire two days we were there, then started raining again as soon as we were packing to leave. It was their biggest dump of the year, it was a busy weekend, but not where we were skiing.
The first day was so windy and socked in the entire top of the mountain was on lock down, so we went up as high as we could and played in a really cool, old forest with massive trees that were covered in old mans beard; which continually worked as a perfect place to hide from the wind and snow as we waited for our turn to ski. That zone was filled with small hits like big root balls from fallen trees to jump off of as well as tree taps and pow turns to shoot. It wasn’t totally my style, but the other guys were able to pull off some sweet tricks amongst the old giants. At one point the wind picked up, blew all the snow off of the trees, we couldn’t see five feet in front of us, the group of people standing below me completely disappeared for more than 30 seconds. It was surreal. It had snowed about 15 cm’s that day, and the drive back down to Leavenworth in our rental mini van was a slight bit sketchy . We went and bought chains to ensure we make it up the pass, and to at least not get stuck in the parking lot. Good thing we got the chains because it didn’t stop snowing.
Almost a foot fell overnight and we were as stoked as ever. We had local photographer Jordan Ingmire, who had been snowboarding Stevens Pass for 8 years, to show us around. He brought us to a sick zone, with many different options. Whit had the first shot, a sweet double drop pillow air, then Thayne stomped a sweet cliff, Hayden jumped off a massive piece of rock and I catered to a shot that TJ wanted, more pow shots and a couple fun airs. Then accidentally jumped off a 30 footer to flat, I stopped right where I landed, almost buried in my bomb hole. It was still nuking. We worked that area from 10-4, hiking multiple times each, wallowing through the intensely steep and deep pow. We moved down the ridge after the guys built a bit of a lip of off a cliff and got some more sweet shots. Whit got caught in a slough-alanche (a small avalanche) in a bit of a gully feature, burying TJ who was filming below from the waist down. That spooked both of them, and TJ was done for the day. Whit Hayden and I hiked back up to where Thayne was hitting a few other feature in the woods, Whit and Hayden went over to them, I eyed up a nice size cliff, wallowed up to it and waited my turn. That was a fun air, and an awesome way to end the second part of the the trip.
Now were on the train from Everett to Vancouver, I can’t believe it’s the last leg already. It’s been a whirlwind of an adventure; action packed ski days, hilarious travel days, and absolutely wicked skiing. Sounds like Whistler is setting up nicely for us too, it snowed the last few days, similarly to Stevens, now it’s supposed to clear up. What an epic adventure, and it continues.
Our first day with Greg was an awesome adventure; a grunt of a tour up through the woods of Essex Creek, manoeuvring between and above cliffs into a zone we dubbed Waterfall Creek that was a steep gully littered with rock and pillows. Greg was showing us around and we also had along with us was a Whitefish local David Steele and a photographer from the area Craig Moore. Greg has been guiding here based in Columbia Falls for nine years, his company Glacier Adventure Guides has been around since the early 80′s. He’s got a good thing going; Columbia Falls backs right onto the impressive Glacier National Park that runs from Montana up into Canada. He has some amazing terrain right in his back yard.
Greg said he has never showed a film crew around, and I could tell he didn’t know what to expect, but he got a glimpse of what was to come right away. As we were heading up the skin track to more of a more open zone known by the locals as the Backdoor Chute, we saw more of what we were looking for which was an obvious creek in the summer but quite a unique zone with all sorts of options nicely covered in about 15 cm’s of light Montana powder. We all started getting amped as we looked up at the stuff to jump off of.
The toughest part of the day was the approach, it was quite the adventure. It was a technical skin track, I love when it’s like that; I end up being so focused on making it up that small section that I don’t think about how tough it is, or how tiering it is. After a bit of steep bush whack touring we made it on top of the zone we scoped from below. There was a bit of a crust underneath and having only had a quick glance at what we were above it was a tricky zone to work but we milked it hard, got a bunch of shots, some worked, others didn’t but we all had a blast, walking around in the woods, jumping off cliffs with only our fellow skiers to guide us over the blind take offs. Craig got some really cool still shots of us too, and who knows, sounds like his photos get published, maybe one of those will surface up in the next year or so.
Our second day was also a grand adventure, following Greg and David down an old narrow road, which was almost a tunnel, due to the Lodgepole Pines that had bent over on either side from the snowfall. We skinned up through a forest that had burned in 2002, a huge chunk of that forest was devastated, now what was left was either perfectly spaced burnt stumps that were still 30 feet tall, or super dense saplings that were three feet tall which we had to make our way through to get to where we wanted to shoot. That part was both interesting and humorous. I was stoked to ski in a “burn” and to be able to capture it on film was exciting and rewarding, the shoots are going to turn out well.
It’s been a blast working with the crew we have; everyone is super positive, easy going and just plain talented. I can’t say too much about it but we’ve had some logistical hick-ups since the beginning of the trip, times that almost seem like it might be over for all of us, but we’ve all pushed through, made adjustments and kept the stoke high. What are we going to do? Go home? Heck no, not yet we haven;t finished what we started! And it’s off to a great start; we’re creating quite the buzz with our social media.
The big story here in Montana had been Greg. I am looking at him now as he drives us in the short bus we’ve been using the past few days to get around to all the zones. The other six are fast asleep in their seats. Our train got cancelled out of Whitefish due to the cold weather. That train was taking us to our next destination, Steven’s Pass where we have two days to make a six minute webisode, which is not a lot of time. This is where Greg comes in; after putting up with our shenanigans for the last four days he’s driving us to Coeur d’Alene where we have rental car waiting. We’re going to cram six dudes with six ski bags, six duffle bags, six backpacks and multiple bags of camera gear into the Dodge Caravan so we can drive the rest of the way to Leavenworth where we have a condo booked out for the next two nights. We all agreed that Greg is a legend, and a big reason this trip is still on it’s feet.
With the way everyone is skiing and shooting, we’ll be able to make that episode no problem. Plus, it sounds like it supposed to snow a lot in Washington anyway, up to three feet! We’re hitting the storm cycles perfectly.