“What did he jump off of down there?” Chris Rubens asks me as we perch next to a tree above a blind cliff band. I shrug to say, “I have no idea. You’re the pro skier that’s showing the kid around.” I’m more worried about how I will get down from here, so I delicately traverse to safety, leaving Rubens to ski an impossible-looking stack of powder pillows.
It’s mid-March, and we’re at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) so that Fresh team member Chris Rubens and up-and-coming local Alex Jay can shoot with photographer Bruno Long. The crew has assembled to produce images for a Fall feature in Forecast magazine. You can swing by the shop in October to get a copy of the magazine, but in the meantime, here’s the behind-the-scenes story.
There was just the slightest drizzle as we met at the base of RMR. I found Rubens displaying his local knowledge already by standing comfortably under an awning just beyond the gondola lift line. The precipitation turned to snow as the gondola lifted our group into the clouds.
We started our day by sidestepping above The Stoke chair and traversing North Bowl to Greely Bowl. There, we skied knee-deep fluff down the boundary line to the flats while skiers of every ability level yelped in delight and found their own faceshots. From there, we boot-packed up towards Beauty Glades, and Bruno pulled out the camera. The snow was even better off the beaten path, with plenty of untracked stashes hidden in the woods. It had only snowed three centimetres overnight, but 11 cm in the last 48 hours and 43 cm that week.
Chris Rubens skis powder at RMR
For a 17-year old, Alex is surprisingly steady. Bruno, like most photographers, is always wary when shooting with a new skier, especially young, less experienced ones. Mostly, he’s concerned they’ll push too hard and get hurt. So, for the first few runs, Rubens and Bruno offer their advice and express any concerns they have with certain terrain features. But after Alex nails a few little lines for the camera and displays both his skill and sensibility, they back off and let him identify the airs he wants to hit while they get themselves in position to capture the action.
For the morning, Rubens takes the crew to a few cliff bands below treeline where they can get shots regardless of the marginal light. Soon though, Alex and his combination of enthusiasm and local knowledge are guiding us. With the alpine shrouded, Alex takes the lead and bounds through forests entirely foreign for me. RMR’s topography is a convoluted series of creeks and drainages that etch out gullies, cliffs and pillow stacks. It’s an Ewok Forest crisscrossed with tiny trails in deep snow. Sidesteps and boot packs connect hidden terrain features and short slopes. I spent the entire day thoroughly lost but happy to follow along, watch the action and ski the scraps.
Alex Jay, Chris Rubens and Bruno Long tour off RMR.
I didn’t know when we were in-bounds or out of bounds for most of the day. We hardly saw another skier, and everyone carried avalanche safety gear and was on ski touring setups, so it didn’t really matter where we ended up.
Alex was shredding on Rossi Black Ops Gamers with Look Pivot 15s. When it was time to skin, he’d pull a pair of Day Makers out of his pack. Remember the old Alpine Trekkers that we called “day wreckers”? They’ve been modified and re-released as Day Makers. Alex had already bent his, but they were still working. If this style of alpine setup that has touring ability is what you are looking for, can we suggest the CAST system? (coming to Fresh soon)
Rubens was on the S/LAB MTN pin bindings and seemed happy about it. Even when we were skiing the groomed runs of the resort, he has carving hard and throwing butter 360s on the minimal bindings. They were mounted on the Salomon QST Blank skis, which had no trouble with the deep landings.
I was on the ideal setup for the day, even while those guys were clearly out-skiing me all over the mountain. Shift bindings were clearly the call, with brakes and the reliable release/retention of an alpine binding but the ability to switch over to touring mode for our short walks. The Fresh XX Armadas were totally in their element, slashing quick turns in deep powder trees. And everyone in the crew asked for a pair of the Fresh poles I was using.
We’d found our groove by midday, and Bruno was getting the shots he needed. Rubens is an old master at this work, but Alex was more than holding his own. Any skier hoping to turn pro or even just get a few photos published could learn from Alex’s balance of enthusiasm and openness to feedback. He’s a hard worker who’s willing to bootpack deep snow to get one more shot, and he’s brimming over with ideas of airs to hit or lines to ski, but he’s still willing to modify his plans to create the best images. He was driving to the coast that night for an upcoming ski competition in Whistler but stayed back and cleared his calendar for the day when the opportunity to shoot with Bruno arose. Another good lesson for would-be athletes: when a photographer as accomplished and oft-published as Bruno Long offers to shoot with you, make it happen.
Alex Jay popping pillows at RMROur ski day ended with a groomed to the base that grew softer as we dropped elevation. By the bottom of the mountain, we were carving arcs in slush and loving it. Judging by the grass that was starting to poke through, skiers will soon have to download the lower gondola, but that’s normal for this time of year, and the fantastic coverage up high will make it all worthwhile for weeks still.
Fresh recommends you get out to RMR one more time this season!