Losing in Albany

By Mike Rogge
Published: January 6, 2011

The saying goes, “You win some and you lose some.” We lost this one. When you’re on an urban trip with three of the best park skiers in the world, a great photographer, and find yourself within a 20-mile radius of prime urban features, you’re in a good place to hit an editorial home run and fill up more than a few cards with shots. Unfortunately, this trip didn’t pan out that way.

Instead of watching the masterful skill of Tom Wallisch, Parker White and JF Houle, Albany, N.Y., opened our eyes to the horrors of a bad economy in a corrupt city. Late night after late night, we saw families shivering together on cold streets and questionable lurkers glancing from the shadows. All of this on a “ski trip.” A few days prior to our arrival, a news story cryptically crept across my parent’s television: “Police shootout in Albany.” One week before, a male college student was fatally shot while casually walking home from a Christmas party. Albany was a war zone. We shouldn’t have been there but with the New Year creeping toward us, time was not on our side and we found ourselves hard pressed on the front line.

As a group determined to be productive, we went out to recon the land for features with a goal to get shots and not get shot. That was our mission. As the days rolled by, we were met with little to no success. Our cameras were as empty as a homeless man’s begging hat. As if to solidify our place in cold hell, JF sustained a back injury on the first feature, a quad-kink rail at R.P.I., and high-tailed it back to Quebec. A man down, our morale was low in the dwindling days of 2010. By the end of the dismal gray week, only one feature was sessioned and a few shots captured for Level 1’s 2011 fall release. Hardly the homer we were looking for.

As a crew of skiers, we bonded over our failures. Sometimes urban shoots, and life, don’t come together. Other times, you have to turn the generator off to avoid drawing attention during a gang fight visibly breaking out only a short block away. Again, all of this on a “ski trip.” I struggled to find meaning in our trip. What was I going to write? No one likes a story about failure.

Days later, surrounded by friends in a warm bar miles away from Albany, the final seconds of 2010 ticked away. While recalling the trip to another bar patron, I realized you can have all of the resources, support, and right people in your corner and still go down. What separates the men from the boys is what you take out of it. Through voluntary forced hardship in a city crumbling to the ground, we reaffirmed urban shoots are never easy. For all of our efforts, we were awarded with only a few shots and a shared experience in a less-than-ideal shit hole. As for the “win some” part of the phrase, thankfully it’s a new year, there’s a bunch of snow in the mountains and six guys coming off an urban trip ready to rip it up. That’s a win every time. Happy New Year.