Around 5 p.m., in early March 2014, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa started hiking through the snow at Grand Targhee, pulling a Honda 3000 portable generator behind him. The plan: to project his motion art—created from Vimeo, photographs, and his drawings—onto snow and ski through it. Over the next eight nights, a 15-man crew, including photographer Adam Clark and cinematographer Todd Jones, fell into an exhausting routine. Film from 8 p.m. to 5 am. Have a beer. Pass out. Wake up. Watch some footage. Repeat. A life-long artist and skier, Sage saw his passions merge into the most unique, and rewarding, powder skiing of his life.
This is the Experience Sage Project.
"Everyone talks about combining art and sports, and that is what this truly is. We experienced that in a live space where the artist's work and vision was projected and mapped onto the snow. It was one of the more inspiring and cool and whole, complete things that I've experienced as a filmmaker, and it's hard to even put words on it. We'd meet at the projector, he'd go in, look at patterns, like, ‘What do you think?' He'd start spinning it and then he'd light map it and do his whole thing. We'd be all jazzed getting the cameras ready, then he'd hike up to the top, and 3, 2, 1, and go through it and interact with it and explode it, back down to the projector. Really, really mind blowing."
— Todd Jones, cinematographer
"It was part of the goal for all of us to share our experience through photo and video. When you're out there and suddenly you light up this tree or a slope and this piece of terrain that could easily be overlooked during the day all of a sudden comes to life, it becomes this totally different place and you really are transfixed by these shapes and colors. I was super jealous of Sage. I really wanted to ski through it. We'd see the snow up in his face and it'd be changing colors. It changed how we looked at skiing."
— Adam Clark, photographer
Sage grew up in the 500-person town of Alta, Wyoming, down the road from Grand Targhee, the ski area in the shadow of the Tetons that annually receives around 500 inches of snowfall. There, he cut his teeth skiing the same terrain where they filmed. Although Targhee was not originally among their places to shoot, cinematographers Todd and Steve Jones suggested the ski area for its roadside access to short, steep shots.
"We went out and it started dumping, like 16 inches. We were almost stuck getting out of there it snowed so much. By 1 in the morning, my tracks were fully refreshed. As the night went on, things just kept elevating. I was doing a flatspin off a mini cornice at like 3 a.m., I'd land, and it was all black because of all the new snow. That first night blew our heads off."
— Sage Cattabriga-Alosa
By the time Sage was in high school, he was drawn to art. At Central Oregon Community College, in Bend, Oregon, he took every fine arts class available. But it wasn't until a down day on a ski trip to Alaska several years later that he reconnected with it. "I remember sitting in the Tordrillo lodge at 11 at night, and all of a sudden I was like high, just buzzing. I remember just feeling this energy, like "holy shit, I'm so psyched imagining what I can do and it's happening and happening quickly!" says Sage. "Digital grabbed me, and I saw potential of the mobile studio. Suddenly I had this creative outlet. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to make substantial art, I'd have to go deeper."
The roots of Sage's art are widespread. Artist Andrew Jones, who is known as an electro-mineralist for blending electricity with tools formed from the earth to promote social change through live art performances, inspired Sage to use Photoshop, Zbrush, and Painter programs instead of paints and brushes. The digital programs also fit the nomadic lifestyle of a professional skier. While attending a music festivals, Sage noticed art projected onto music stages. He met the artist, named Random Rab, and began integrating projections with his own art.
"Basically what I would use is Creative Commons motion graphics that I found on Vimeo from VJ artists that gave me free stuff to use how I want. I bought stock images that were compelling with graphics and 3D stuff that I could put some motion to in a VJ program, and blend with my own art and photos. So I was balancing that sample law ground that's similar to hip-hop with that remix kind of style but not blatantly ripping stuff off. So each night and each setup, I would come with this packet of images, and then I'd go sit at the computer for a few minutes and start to put something together with a combination of images reacting together, as well as using 3D mapping software that allows for this huge amount of creativity—making shapes out of nothing. What was being projected was a live art piece created with the structure of pre-made stuff."
— Sage Cattabriga-Alosa