This story originally published in the September 2015 issue of POWDER (44.1). PHOTO: Lee Cohen
Frank doesn’t have the best skis. His jacket doesn’t match his pants. His goggles are scratched and his socks look like Swiss cheese. A walk mode? Never heard of it, because Frank doesn’t need it. He’s just out there doing his own thing—hitting booters and not making it look good, rockin’ bump lines and not making it look easy. Which is OK. He’s treating the mountains and snow as if they were precious gifts from god. Because, man, they are.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be more like Frank? Less ego, more amigo? Well, now you can, every spring at Alta Ski Area.
“Frank is two people in one,” says Dusty Baldwin, a 32-year-old shop manager for Alta’s Deep Powder House. “Mostly, it’s a metaphor for what we really like in skiing—that freewheeling, fun, and carefree attitude. There is an actual guy named Frank, from Mount Ashland, Oregon, who inspired us to step it down a notch and enjoy the experience. Instead of charging hard, we’d say, ‘We’re going to Frank this run.’”
Five years ago, Baldwin and Mike Trioli, who also worked at the shop, started the Frank World Classic as a way of paying homage to all the Franks out there. Unsanctioned by the resort, the Frank takes place on Punk Rock beneath the Wildcat chair, and coincides with the traditional season-closing bash atop High Boy. “We had always pre-gamed on Punk Rock, the little Hollywood hit under the chair,” says Trioli. “We’d hang out and barbecue and heckle everyone who came by. People were already dressed up for High Boy, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we have a fake competition on Punk Rock and use a megaphone to heckle people?’ So we incorporated the megaphone and got a bunch of cheesy ’70s and ’80s instrumental karaoke songs as a soundtrack.”
They built a couple of kickers in the bumps below the chair for an old-school hot-doggin’ contest, and then threw actual hot dogs at competitors. About 30 people showed up that first year. Last winter, there were a couple hundred. Trioli, who moved back to Vermont in 2013 after 12 seasons at Alta, says the Frank is his crowning achievement as a skier.
“The idea came as a jab at the ‘bro’ scene we dealt with all year. GoPros and some folks taking themselves a bit too seriously,” says Trioli. “We wanted to bring it back to the roots. The tumbles and crashes and skinny skis and daffies. Every resort has a Frank or two, skiing lock-kneed and schnoodling in low-angle powder and hooting to himself. He doesn’t care about modern skis or the latest colorway in jackets or goggles. He’s just out there Frankin’.”
Knowing that even Frank likes to be recognized, Baldwin and Trioli rounded up prizes for first, second, and third place. That first year they also gave out the Top Gun Award, which went to the guy or girl who, like Tom Cruise, was just trying way too hard. The grand prize—consisting of a fake patch of lawn, a folding chair, and a briefcase stocked with whiskey and cigarettes—goes to the person who out-Franks all the other Franks. “Who’s bringing back that old-school flair and hitting that sick little bump line?” says Trioli. “It’s the passion more than the ability. You have to encompass what Frank is, and he’s not about being the best skier on the mountain.”