About mid-season last winter, I met up with a group of riders and filmers for a day in the deep fresh snow of western Wyoming.
We spent most of the morning shooting the bull in the parking lot as we waited for more riders to show up, guys to get their sleds tuned, and someone to get out of bed. The snow was piled high in the hills where we were headed from about a week’s worth of storms. It was untouched, and everyone knew what was in store.
When we finally hit the snow at around the crack of 11, the snow didn’t disappoint. Visibility was horrible, which made the whole ride extremely entertaining to watch from the back of the pack. Guys were falling off edges into creek basins, nosing over ledges, getting stuck so bad you almost felt sorry. It was deep.
Later in the day, after a couple sleds had required a little duct tape maintenance, the film crew set up next to a long mountainside dotted with trees. Bret Rasmussen and Chris Burandt were making repeated passes on the sidehill, pulling technical lines as they worked it for the camera.
After that session, Rasmussen and the film crew moved on while Burandt and I looked for a few technical lines to get photos of.
We made our way down the ridge to a line that went up a steep slope and opened up above a few strategically-placed large trees. It’s the kind of have-to-commit line that Burandt is known for.
I positioned myself at the bottom of the slope, about 10 yards up from any kind of flat area (not that I planned it that way… it was just so deep that’s where the sled put me). From there, I had a great angle on the line.
Chris scoped it out, looped around and shot up the slope. He kicked it hard right in one of his signature no-footed seat hop above the big pine. Chris cut a slow sidehill across the steep hillside before dropping the nose a touch to pick up enough speed to 180-it back uphill. He pulled that maneuver off perfectly and walked a slow sidehill back the way he came. Once past the big tree, he turned out, pulled up to me and asked how it looked.
I told him it was a nice line, but the big tree was blocking my shot of his 180 uphill turn.
“Do it again, this time a little more to the left and higher in the fresh snow.” Normally I don’t ask riders to pull specific lines, mainly because there’s a fifty-fifty chance it’s going to go bad and I don’t want them looking at me as their sled takes a header into the forest. But the snow was so insanely deep and I wasn’t worried about Burandt.
I cleaned the snow off my camera lens as Chris rode down and turned around for a second pass. He shot back up the hill with enough extra speed to carry him higher than his previous line.
With the usual finesse, Chris kicked down another hard right-hand turn with a jump over the seat. He worked a little harder on the sidehill because he was up on a steeper angle, but still, he made it look easy.
As he pulled the nose up for the uphill-180, the track seemed to dig a little deeper than before and he didn’t get the lift he needed. The sled nosed up and whipped around so quickly that it tossed Chris off to the side. The sled seemed to stand on its tail for a second as the nose hung out over the slope. It started to drop down as it gained momentum. A split-second later, the front of the sled crashed hard into the big pine tree.
Chris was standing on the hill about 15 feet above the tree. I nearly dropped my camera from laughing so hard. It just all went so perfectly wrong.
Chris looked down and yelled, “Is that what you wanted?”
Not exactly, but it did make for some good photos. However I stopped laughing almost immediately. You see, when we started out shooting, Chris’s stock sled wasn’t letting him hit the high lines he was after.
So I told him to get on my turbo… which was now about six inches shorter than it used to be.
Oh well. He did do what I asked him to…