The red carpet is unfamiliar territory for a skier—too many flashbulbs, too little PBR, and a lot of pretending that you didn't just buy your suit coat from the thrift store down the street. But Friday night we put that all behind us, slid on a fresh pair of slacks, and got together for one of the greatest nights in skiing, the 15th annual Powder Awards at The Depot in Salt Lake City.
The night was hailed as the biggest showing in the event's decade-and-a-half existence, and after shuffling through a crowded entryway of athletes, industry, YouTube stars, Instagram heroes, two bros in immaculate neon onesies, and a life-size snow trooper we've all come to know as Captain Powder, the celebration did indeed seem larger than life.
I say celebration because, in addition to acknowledging the best ski athletes, cinematographers, and photographers in the world, we were also announcing our return to winter. After months of humidity, Crossfit, juice cleanses, and advanced Rollerblade plyometric routines (what, you guys don't blade?), it was finally time to get back on snow—reason enough to turn things up to 11.
With stoke on high, Cody Townsend quenched his Powder Awards drought by winning not one, not two, but three categories, including Best Line, Full Throttle, and Best Male Performance for his segment in Matchstick Productions' Days of My Youth.
But while Cody stacked serious hardware, Friday was all about the ladies. Ingrid Backstrom won her 10th Powder Poll, Lynsey Dyer and the all-female ski flick Pretty Faces earned recognition, and Angel Collinson took home Best Female Performance with the opening segment in this year's TGR release, Almost Ablaze. More than that, the girls packed out The Depot crowd and made their presence known. When Angel was crowned Best Female, things got loud, Rachael Burkes threw her magician hat in the air, and not a single person stayed in their seats.
In the upstairs peanut gallery, where the beer flowed like wine and the party raged all night, all went silent when the 2014 Men's Powder Poll went to freeskiing legend J.P. Auclair. There weren't many dry eyes in the house as images of the late great flashed across the front stage screen, the guy in front of me muttering to no one in particular, "Man, I love that guy."
That sentiment was shared throughout the night, from J.P.'s dad to Armada co-founder Hans Smith to the hundreds of bottles raised in J.P.'s honor. Phil Casabon, winner of Best Jib, thanked the fellow French Canadian for his influence on our sport, and despite the obvious emotion in the room, it was hard to deny the influence and impact of the affable Quebecoise.
As the show wrapped up and Utah liquor laws kicked in, I followed the party onto the infamous Sweetgrass school bus. After taking home two Powder Awards, the innovative film crew led a rowdy field trip through the streets of Salt Lake, ending up at an apartment party downtown. The fiesta flowed deep into the night, things got a little blurry, and I distinctly remember staring at a guy passed out on a couch in a pair of Pit Viper sunglasses and thinking, "Will he ever stop partying?"
Eventually I did stop partying, and woke up Saturday to a mean headache. Still, I'd celebrated another Powder Awards, hung with my ski friends and family, and met more of the people that make this sport the best thing on Earth. Thanks again to all that made it out, and, until next year, I think I'll retire that suit coat for a ski coat.