In The Tracks of Giants

Powder Week with Nate and the Jaded Local

The circus has left town; Powder Week is over. Bartenders will look off into the distance and get all misty-eyed, editors and product managers will be called on the corporate carpet for outrageous “entertainment” expenses, a ski “tester” back at work waxing rental skis in Montana will keep shaking his head in a vain attempt to correct A Blown Mind… but the tram spins on.

Usually everyone is having such a good time skiing with each other in Jackson that nobody bothers to document any of it… and you can’t Get The Shot when you’re redlining it just trying to keep up with the locals. For a lot of the pros or photographers that drop in on The Event, it’s their only chance to shred together without shooting, so we all go home with a massive afterglow and nary a scrap of evidence that so many great skiers were out schralping fun laps together and giggling like little girls.

But this year Nathan Wallace parachuted in from Chamonix with a camera strapped to his chest and—voila!—Problem Solved. Wallace managed to capture glimpses of some of the most elusive big game in the ski world: Jason Tattersall smoking storm day laps in his office on Teton Pass, Powder Photographer Chris Figenshau sending S&S (!) and skiing like a frickin’ zen master, Hoji freedoggin’ Granite Canyon on Dynafits, Bill Briggs, Captain Benny Wilson, and even the near-mythical and notoriously camera-averse Wild Bill, the 59-year-old who sent the gnarliest line of the week. Nate even managed to poach a TGR shoot and steal money shots of Matt Phillipi, Forrest Shearer, and Griffin Post teeing off in Granite (thanks Todd!).

Luckily we had someone who could ski fast enough to avoid getting lost in all that roost. Whoever hires Wallace to be their roving camera platform has the Best Powder award at the Powder Awards locked down. After watching this and his recent edit from Cham, I have to admit that if you’re going to have a genre as a filmmaker, specializing in POV footage of reclusive legends skiing personal laps on the best stuff in the world is a pretty shrewd call.

Wallace was in fine form, but the whole squad was on fire this year. The shredding was relentless, the high-fives incessant. The women’s division was particularly strong, from kick-ass ex-patrollers and World Extreme Champions to a mysterious Austrian bombshell in Bogner who claimed to be a finance consultant from San Diego but skied like an angry and vengeful Old Testament God. Jess McMillan and Crystal Wright swung by to see if anyone had cliffs that needed hucking or steers that needing roping, and even globe-trotting ski-mountaineer Kim Havell dropped in. Meanwhile, special guest stars like Olympians Tommy Moe and Rob Kingwill cruised the tent forming up rat packs, Matt Sterbenz, Hoji, Johnny Collinson, Cody Barnhill, Wiley Miller, and Nick from Mammoth progressed the sport, Sick Rick Armstrong sent airs like a kid, and Benny Wilson skied everyone into the ground in the tram lap contest.

It was hard not to think about Benny’s old partner in crime Howie Henderson as I wandered around the Village; I kept expecting to walk into the VC and see him there, hyped-up and in my face about something, ready to run out another Granite lap. But Howie’s spirit still pervades Jackson, it’s just been distributed: Tattersall calling me from the pass on a storm day, voice going all high with excitement: “Hansy, I was disappearing, man—disappearing!” Kingwill showing up in the tent every morning stoked to have so many fast people to shred with, two-plankers or no. Figenshau out there bell to bell every day, secret grins from crusty patrollers, Benny Wilson beaming out the wattage and every Jackson local in the tramline tapped into the frequency…

Whatever it is that Howie and Benny and the Air Force built here—the pure, beautiful, hardass skier culture of this place—it will last as long as the big red tram keeps spinning (sticker in the Village Cafe: Nothing like a tight box in the morning).

At the bar I tell Tattersall and some of the Air Force vets that the ski industry should have been paying them the whole time for what they created here when they banded together and forced the boundaries open. Jackson is a great mountain—the vert, the terrain, the snow, the tram… but it was the unrelenting passion of Benny and Howie and the crew that made it into the best skier’s resort in America. One of the vets just shrugs and says, “Well, we would have done it for fun anyway.” Which is exactly the point. Because if the Skiing Public could tap into 1% of the pure joy that fueled the good fight here in Jackson, I’m convinced that a new Golden Age would ensue, peace would descend upon the Middle East, famine and want would disappear, and we’d all get laid. But instead we get Epic Passes, RFID systems, and a Facebook app. Attention Ski Resort Industry: just put Benny Wilson in charge. Or at least watch Swift, Silent, Deep.

Powder Week started as an alternative to the big trade shows and ski tests; we never thought that the rad people in Jackson would actually want to ski with us, but they’ve become the foundation of the whole operation. It’s not some kind of exclusive cool guy industry bullshit. Just head on up to Teton Village, buy a few at the VC, hoist one for Howie, and Steve, and Chris, and smile back. The rest will take care of itself.

Huge thanks to everyone that attended this year: ski drafters, industry kooks and media hacks, rad pros, assorted sick bros and chicks, mysterious Austrian bombshells; Zahan and all the awesome people at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the Snake River Lodge, and Teton Village Sports, Mike Rheam and all the patrollers, my bartender at the Moose, Kevin, and most of all, Benny, Howie, Greg Von Doersten, Tat, Figgs, Jake Kilgrow, CD & Hende, Rick Armstrong, TGR, and all the locals in Jackson. Love You!

-Jaded & Nate