Sammy Carlson: ‘On Top of the Hood’

Talking about a summertime film project in Mt. Hood's high alpine


By Will Eginton

Sammy Carlson is spending his summer at Mt. Hood, but you won't be seeing him spinning laps at Windells Summer Ski Camp. Instead, he will be above the Palmer Snowfield sessioning unique jump zones in undisclosed locations with a few close friends filming for his upcoming film, On Top of The Hood. What’s this film project all about?

Sammy Carlson: We are focusing on features all above the Palmer chairlift. We are hiking for everything and building all our own features. We are just trying to explore different parts of the mountain that we all haven't been to before. We have been finding a lot of new zones and locations, and we have a sick crew. It’s really cool for me to grow up in Oregon and ski all my life on Mt. Hood and never really go out and explore it.

On the hour-long traverse back to Timberline. Photo: Darcy Bacha

On the hour-long traverse back to Timberline. Photo: Darcy Bacha

Who else is involved? We have three filmers: Brandon Kelly, Justin Weigand (from Nimbus) and Brian Dalrymple. Darcy Bacha is on board as our photographer, and Alex O'Brien has come out with us as well.

What about other skiers? It is a great crew. John Spriggs, Dane Tudor, Ben Moxham and Tommy Ellingson have been coming out with us a bunch. Nathan Wood, Nick Martini and Sean Jordan will be joining us, and Bobby Brown is coming out.

So you guys aren't messing around. Yeah dude, I've been working so hard. We have been doing massive builds, heading out for days at a time. Sometimes we end up building for a full day. You know, like 12 hours of just building.

Have you ever skied the areas you’ve been building in before? A lot of the jumps we are building have never been built before. Almost all of these features have never been seen before.

So these are entirely new zones for you? That's why this project is so exciting for me, because I get to go out and explore areas of the mountain I've never even been to before. We have a crew of people that are dedicated to going out every single day and just explore. We have been going out everyday and just exploring deeper and deeper and finding super cool hits out there. It has been a really good experience.

Will this be a Nimbus production, and released online like their other films? Yeah, Nimbus is putting it out. It is going to be an Internet release, and we are going to get it out all over the net for free viewing. We are going to get it to all the ski websites and just blow it up. Everyone involved is just super-stoked on this format and concept. We are all just out there doing it because we love it.

When did you start the filming process? We started on June 7th. We have only been getting into it for three weeks pretty much, but it has pretty much been the hardest two weeks of my life. We have been working super hard. We usually get off the hill around 10 o'clock each night just trying to get that last sick sunset shot. Then we usually have an hour-long hike back, and then traverse back to the ski area and ski down to the car. So we're getting done pretty late, but it's super cool, because we've got a nice sunset. I guess I never knew how big Mt. Hood really is. Everyday we find a new canyon; deeper and deeper.

How has the filming gone so far? Every session so far has been super productive. The sessions keep getting better and better and the quality has kept progressing. It has been super fun. I hope we can keep up the pace. Right now, everyone has been killing it, and hopefully we can finish strong.

What have you done so far that you've been super excited about? We built a feature really high up at like 10,000 feet. It is a hip. I've always looked up at from down low on the mountain and thought it was the perfect hip landing. I was always hoping I could get up there and do some double flats. We ended up building it, and getting some shots, and I'm super pumped on that. That was the first thing we did. We are just trying to keep 'er going. And recently we've put a rail over a crevasse, and just been carrying it around with me. We got it at the hardware store, and it cost like 30 bucks, and we've just been taking it all over the mountain. We've been digging it out, setting it up on cornices, and stuff like that. It has been fun, just trying to play, you know--hah.

How involved are you going to be in the production/editing side of the movie? My manager, Tom, and I have been producing pretty much everything I've been lining up for this project. Pollard is going to help with the editing, and Brandon [Kelly], Brian [Dalrymple], and myself are all going to be super involved in editing. We all are on the same page and have a really good idea of what we want this project to be: a session type vibe with hardcore bangers the whole time.

Has your involvement in this movie been different than Can't Stop? I've been working on this project a lot. I would say I've been working on my organization skills to make sure I'm on top of it. It's been fun, but super hard for me. I've been planning a lot of the shoots, and lining up the sponsors for the flick. It is just another aspect of what I do as a professional skier. There were some things that didn't go as well as I wanted. I was involved the production of Can't Stop, but it didn't go as well. We rushed it, and there definitely were some mistakes. This time I've been more involved in the planning side, and following through on all the tiny details leading up to the actual movie. Last time we ran into couple issues, and this time we want to make sure to avoid that. We are definitely way more dialed this time around.

Do you think releasing the film on the Internet minimizes some of the issues? For sure. We don't have to worry about the DVD distribution, but really, we are not trying to make any money off it. I just want to put it out for all my friends, and all the people that ride Mt. Hood. This is pretty much my ultimate Mt. Hood project. These are all the hits I've been dreaming of, and we are working super hard to make it a reality this summer. We just want to put it out online to make it super easy and accessible. I want to give something back to the community and hopefully they will get inspired to go out and explore their local hill.

Over the past couple of years, you've emphasized putting out footage throughout the year. How important is that? I don't know. It's just part of what I do. I'm a professional skier, and it is my job to represent all my sponsors and things like that, but mainly, I just love skiing and there is nothing more I want to be doing than going out and shredding everyday. But I'm taking advantage of what is available to me. I never imagined my career would make it to this point where I can do a project like this, and now I'm just trying to stay focused and busy by putting out bangers with my friends. It is just what I like to do. I love doing the contests early season but then just going out and to ride and film is where I have the most fun.

Has this project interfered with filming for Poorboyz? No. I was really fortunate to get a lot of days out there filming with them, and my segment is all done. Now I get to go out with a crew of guys that are super stoked to go shoot, and I'm really stoked to ride. It is working out perfect.

If this is the sort of project you've always wanted to do, would you like to replicate the process in a different locale? Yeah, dude, for sure. This is something I want to start doing with my career. I'm really stoked all my sponsors got behind me on this project and allowed us a project to go out explore Hood. We are trying to set up ziplines, shoot with paragliders, and remote control helicopters so we can really capture the best footage we can. Hopefully it will all go well, and my sponsors will allow me similar opportunities to do this with my career. I would be stoked to focus on smaller projects and blasting them out to the public.

Is this project the reason you’re not putting on Sammy Carlson Invitational at Mt. Hood? Yeah, absolutely. It is too much work to try to do both. It wasn't working out as well this year. Timberline is super busy with all the camps and everything that is going on up there, and this year has been one of the best snow years.

Mt. Hood had a monumental snow season. Was that been a factor in the timing of this movie, because you could film so late into the summer? Yeah, it is like winter up there. We are going to be able to film as much as we want. We are hoping to go all the way through July, and hopefully we are done by then so I can let my body rest up. If we keep up the pace we're on now, we will definitely be done by the end of July.

When do you plan on releasing the movie? We are trying to premiere it at IF3 and then drop it all over the web. It should be really good. We are putting in a lot of work and heart, for sure. I think everyone is going to be real stoked.

Anything else? I'd just like to give a shout out to everyone who has been helping me with this project so far: my sponsors, friends, and basically everyone involved who has made this project a reality.