Best Day Ever: Clayton Vila

Getting lucky on the last try

Stressed out, Clayton Vila is trying to nail a trick in Boulder. Not exactly everyone's idea of their best day ever. PHOTO: Stept Productions

A stressed Clayton Vila trying to nail a trick. Not exactly everyone’s definition of their best day ever. PHOTO: Stept Productions

Clayton Vila is a little bit obsessive, especially when it comes to filming. When he gets an idea in his head he won't let it rest. For his segment in Stept Production's Mutiny he had a specific rail and a specific trick in mind. When it finally snowed in Boulder, Colorado, he only had one day to hit it, and he almost didn't clean it. This is his best—although not his most fun—day of the season.

As told to Heather Hansman:

As you know, I'm a street skier and there are weird parts that go along with that. My best day was definitely not the most fun day, but I guess you could say it was the most productive day, or maybe most satisfying would be a better term.

This winter was kind of a blur for me but I was home in Boulder in January and we got a super unexpected little four-inch snowfall. We weren't sure it was going to amount to much, but I've had this one rail in mind for a long time and we didn't know if it was going to snow again.

There wasn't much snow, so we probably dug for four hours in the morning to make enough of a landing. The rail is a big gap—probably a 15-foot gap—onto a down flat down. It's at the Boulder Creek, one of the staircases that leads down to the creek from the road.

We started to hit it and after a while it started to feel impossible. At one point I ripped my binding out and had to go home to get another pair of skis. Five hours in, the sun was going down, there was barely any light, and I was hopeless, exhausted, and getting really fed up with trying and falling.

Eventually I called last try. It was probably the 50th time my friends had pulled the bungee back for me. It was basically dark; the cameras couldn't pick up any more light. I did a lip 270 disaster back switch. It was a really scary one. It took a lot of committing, because it was really blind to spin on to. I've never called last try and made it work before. I think it was half luck, half fully committing.

Clayton Vila nailing it on the last try of the day. PHOTO: Stept Productions

Clayton Vila nailing it on the last try of the day. PHOTO: Stept Productions

It wasn't a sunny pow day when the vibes are perfect. It was actually pretty miserable, but it was one of the luckiest times I got. I kept thinking back in time like, "Wow, imagine if that didn't happen." If I had stopped to get a sandwich in the morning or taken 20 more minutes it wouldn't have happened.

For us, when you're trying a trick, it's not really an option to give up. The only reason you won't do it is if the cops come, you get hurt, or the sun goes down. Even then you're probably going to have to go back at night and set up lights.

It's just what you have to do. It's our job, but it's also self-satisfaction, especially when it's one of those tricks in your hometown that you're thinking about all the time, it keeps you from sleeping. That rail has always been there, it's always been in my head, but it was the trick that I was really thinking about.

I'm still a skier, I still love a pow day, but we don't get much of that. I probably only spent two weeks on a real mountain this year. I shovel more than I ski, I tell people I'm a professional shoveler. But it's what I do and for me the satisfaction outweighs the exhaustion. By the end of the year we're always joking about how our job sucks, but I love the hard work part of it.

Don't get me wrong, I love skiing to death. I have fun in the park—my most fun day is probably a day at Breck—but my best day is definitely when I go to sleep super satisfied about a shot I got earlier that day. I ski a lot for satisfaction; putting my segment together consumes my mind. Sometimes no matter how sick a shot was I still think about it, like I should have rolled out better or something like that, but that night I went to sleep grinning.