2015 ski and snowboard videos: Last Champions by Nightmare, Small World, Side Hit Society, Afterglow
Life is rough when you’re a pro skier or snowboarder. You spend most of the year chasing snow wherever it might take you, and that means trans-Atlantic flights, language barriers and sketchy heli rides through the Alaskan Rockies. It also means getting paid for trans-Atlantic flights, hotel stays in Japan and those otherworldly powder lines in AK.
Last season, pros chased the snow just about everywhere, including downtown Boston (courtesy of a January mega-blizzard), the Japanese backcountry and, as usual, all across British Columbia. The Level 1 team even took a trip to the urban playground of Estonia, where Eastern Bloc architecture might as well be a terrain park in disguise.
Luckily, powder junkies stuck in a nine-to-five can taste snow vicariously through the latest crop of ski and snowboard videos. The Summit Daily sports desk rounded up four of the best from the past two seasons, including a feature from the local Nightmare Snowboards crew. Here’s to winter.
“Last Champions” — Nightmare
Athletes: Alex Malik, Sean Murphy, Josh Carreola, Jade Phelan, Josh Boeser, Zach Griffin, Eric Gronneberg, Christian Handahl, John Myre, Matt Coughlin, Sean Brady
Nutshell: The second video feature from Nightmare Snowboards, a local group of hooligans known for slaying just about everything they see (and that’s a compliment). It’s essentially a tour of Summit and Eagle counties, with tons of creative urban riding on features you’ll recognize from simply walking down the street.
Breakdown: How many snowboard edits open and close on a fully illustrated Grim Reaper, complete with demonic cackling and nearly five minutes of nasty bails? Not many, at least not after “The Art of Flight” turned snowboard films into miniature Hollywood productions.
But this isn’t Travis Rice’s video diary. Leave it to a crew of hooligan locals to embrace the grittier side of snowboarding: The screener I watched was a bootleg version (available on the Nightmare website with a password), filmed while the video showed to a packed house of more than 200 fans at this year’s Snowboard on the Block Festival in Denver. The Nightmare guys even included random frames that read “Steal This Video” between rider segments.
Sure, the quality might be spotty, but, if you couldn’t be part of the rowdy premiere, the bootleg is the next best thing. The crowd whoops and hollers every time Sean Murphy pulls a ridiculously huge urban drop or when Matt Coughlin puts together a burly log-rail sequence (one of my personal favorites). Then there’s Josh Carreola locking into a frontside noselide on a concrete ledge, skate style, with a 270 out. That one got a deafening round of applause, and so did the final shot, which you’ll just have to see for yourself.
The video isn’t long at just under 25 minutes, but it’s packed to the brim with local riders who are pushing the sport right here in our backyard, usually between shifts at Main Street bars and ski shops. Unlike many films these days — the ones with helicopters and travel budgets and dolly cameras — this one feels punk as hell, like practicing with a garage band at midnight. It got me pumped for the season to come, especially when I spotted Carreola hitting handrail drops at my old apartment complex in EagleVail. What’s not to love?
Watch it: Right now, the Vimeo bootleg is the only version. Contact the Nightmare guys through http://www.ridethenightmare.com for the password. You can also catch the local premiere at Luigi’s in Breck on Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. It’s free.
“Side Hit Society” — Airblaster
Athletes: Travis Parker, Scott E. Wittlake, Temple Cummins, Brandon Cocard, Nick Dirks, Tim Eddy, Erik Leon, Jesse Gouveia, Max Warbington, Freddy Perry, Yusaku Horii, Tucker Andrews
Nutshell: An eclectic video from the Oregon-based Airblaster crew, led by underground snowboard legends Travis Parker and Scott E. Wittlake, who I swore had retired from pro riding. There’s rails, powder, park jumps, urban drops and, yes, even a few side hits.
Breakdown: The Airblaster pros kick off the film at Mount Hood in the heart of summer, when everything is sloppy and slushy and pretty miserable. But hey, there’s riding to be done. Part one has tons of rails and quarterpipes, plus cruiser segment filmed in complete fog.
Then, it’s off to Japan (aka the new South America) for mid-winter riding in part two. I’ve always wanted to head out there, and watching old-school pros like Wittlake and Temple Cummins roll through powder fields filled with Japanese maples doesn’t help. They even hunt down a big, burly rainbow log in the Oriental woods. Are log rails making a comeback across the globe? I’m fine with that.
Part three takes the all-male crew to Boston, the must-film urban location of the season after a January blizzard dumped nearly four feet in four weeks. There are suburban drops, massive staircases and even a park bench sequence filmed smack in the middle of the city. It’s the dream of all urban riders: mounds of downtown snow and not a cop in sight.
Watch it: “Side Hit Society” premiered in full at Snowboard on the Block, but, right now, it’s only available in parts on the Airblaster Vimeo. Luckily, they’re free. The DVD and online download will be available by November.
“Small World” — Level 1 Productions
Athletes: Will Wesson, Tatum Monod, Will Berman, Mitchell Brower, Shay Lee, Sandy Boville, Khai Krepela, Wiley Miller, Tanner Rainville, Duncan Adams and more
Nutshell: This globetrotting release from Denver’s Level 1 Productions is a gorgeous, creative glance at the top tier of freeskiing. It takes the world’s best skiers on a world tour of 17 locations spread over four continents, with urban, park, backcountry and Midwest ice riding.
Breakdown: Like their board-bound counterparts, the Level 1 pros headed out to Japan and Boston last season for a combination of surreal powder and equally surreal urban. Watch for a wild playground segment in the beginning, with drops and gap-to grinds on stainless steel slides painted every color of the rainbow.
But they didn’t stop there. The various crews hit up Switzerland, Alaska, British Columbia (a sublime final jump sequence) and, in one of the cooler segments I’ve seen in a while, Will Berman and Shay Lee destroy urban in Estonia. Literally — at one of the abandoned concrete jungles, Lee manages to break a handrail in half. You don’t see that often.
After nearly 45 minutes of killer footage, the film ends with the oddest — and most energetic — finale of the season: Minnesota. The Level 1 urban guys unload on Buck Hill and Afton Alps during spring break, throwing flip trains through the jump line between signing autographs and snapping photos with groms. Sure, the rest of the film is pure wish fulfillment, but that segment had the same vibe as the Nightmare video. Chances are you’ll see at least one or two of those Midwest kids rolling through Park Lane when they graduate high school.
Watch it: $5.99 for one-week rental or $14.99 to purchase through Vimeo. Blu-Ray/DVD combo available Oct. 10 through Amazon, and it comes to iTunes on Oct. 21.
“Afterglow” — Sweetgrass Productions
Athletes: Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, Chris Benchetler, Daron Rahlves
Nutshell: From the folks who brought you “Valhalla” (aka the one with the naked ski sequence) comes “Afterglow,” another off-kilter ski flick that’s anything but an ordinary ski flick. Why? It was filmed at night in the BC and Alaskan backcountry using LED light suits and nearly 9,000 pounds of multi-colored lighting equipment. Chances are it wouldn’t have happened without backing from Philips electronics (it’s “best viewed on Philips Amilight TV,” the film says), but I figure that sponsor plugs are the price Sweetgrass pays for something this risky.
Breakdown: This truly is the sort of film you have to see to believe. It’s quick at just 12 minutes, but I don’t think it would work as a 50-minute feature. The narration is sparse and ethereal, waxing poetic about the hours between sundown and sunup (the afterglow) when our senses shift slightly and instinct takes over.
It’s the same storytelling approach that Sweetgrass took with “Valhalla,” but, just like that video, the wildly creative skiing and filming are the true attractions here. Big-mountain legend Pep Fujas and Olympic alpine medalist Daron Rhalves are wrapped in LEDs and unleashed on untouched powder, with stars above and a kaleidoscope of floodlights everywhere else. There are chutes, cliff drops and pure, unadulterated carving in wide-open fields. It’s trippy and euphoric, all at the same time.
Watch it: Free through the Sweetgrass website at http://www.sweetgrass-productions.com.
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