Will Hutchinson, 21, is peering over the edge of a cliff that looks like a diving board, trying to spot his landing. The conditions at Mount Baker Ski Area are so soupy he can hardly see through the fog, but he doesn't let the poor visibility deter him--these powdery, stormy conditions are what he knows best.
"You're good!" says Hutchinson's childhood friend, Mattias Evangelista, who is holding a camera from a vantage below. Hutchinson steps up to the in-run and takes off, going huge into the deep snow. When he lands, a chorus of whoops and a round of high fives greet him from the childhood friends he has skied with since he was in his dad's backpack.
"There's not much else to do around here until you get your driver's license," says Jim Evangelista, who took his two sons, Mattias and Micah, skiing when they were each a week old. "These kids have been in the backcountry since they were young, and they've cultivated relationships with the other skiers over those years."
The young skiers who grew up riding together at Mount Baker don't ski like others. Hutchinson, the Evangelistas, and their friends have an innate ability to flow through tight trees straight into a cliff drop, hitting the transition with panache. They know how to command deep snow and navigate big backcountry lines. Their style, fostered by an 800-inch snowpack and a close-knit community, is distinctly Mount Baker-ian.
The Older Brother
Mattias Evangelista, 23, was the first of the group to get outside attention when he started shooting with photographer Grant Gunderson. Now, he's focusing on shooting video of his own: ethereal shots of his trips to Japan and of his brother and friends shredding around Baker. "Matt is two-fold talented," says Jamie Baril, his coach. "He understands shooting as an athlete, and has the eye and that ability to slow it down."
Jamie Baril, 24, grew up in Sammamish, Washington, near Seattle. He didn't make it to Baker until after high school, but he's ingratiated himself because he's willing to teach the crew everything he knows. Will Hutchinson says he's constantly applying his park background and expertise from coaching at Windells to teach the crew new ways to look at tricky terrain.
The Zen Master
When you ask them who the best skier of the bunch is, Micah Evangelista, 20, Matt's younger brother, comes up first. "He is down to do back flips off of diving-board cliffs that I wouldn't even consider riding regularly," says Dylan Hallett, who skis and shoots photos with the group. "He rides like he grew up skiing in a park his whole life. He didn't; he just had Baker as his terrain park."
The Adopted Sister
Sophia Rouches, 21, who was born near Alpental and started skiing at Mount Baker in 2014, has quickly become a part of the crew because she's just as willing and able as the boys to throw backies. Grant Gunderson says she is one of the most naturally talented skiers he's ever photographed. She has a racing background, and since she's shown up, she's pushed the guys to put tricks to their feet. "Sophia is way better at skiing than she knows," says Mattias.
The Guinea Pig
Will Hutchinson, 21, from Bellingham, is always willing to speed check and go first. He's usually at the top of the feature, standing next to Micah and scoping out the landing. "Will can land anything," says Rouches. If he doesn't, Baker's pillows are forgiving and Hutchinson stands up with a grin caked in snow, ready to hit it again.
Nine-year-old Winter Crawshaw, whose dad, Rene Crawshaw, has a huge number of first descents in the area, has been hitting little drops and skiing through the famous Baker banked slalom since she was 3. Now she dominates the U-12 Junior Freeskiing competitions, beating kids who are years older.