Team photo shoots are always a blast because: You get flown somewhere awesome, meet fellow athletes and get everything paid for; who wouldn’t want to be sponsored? The Marmot photo shoot was no exception. Three nights in a yurt in the Jackson Hole backcountry, a pro photographer to shoot you in all next year’s gear and porters to carry your stuff. – I was hooked!
I packed my bags
and left for the Vancouver Airport. Two flights later I landed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At baggage claim I was welcomed by my Team Manager, Alex Gilbert along with XM Mountain guide Brenton Regan and the kid Eric Bryant. Starving, we loaded up the Suburban and drove to one of Jackson Hole’s finest eateries. (As we ate Alex had to deal with “athlete problems” another team member was stuck in Aspen and needed to be in Denver by dusk to make her flight to Jackson Hole). We shared a piece of cake, hopped back in the Suburban and drove to Brenton’s cozy Jackson Hole dwelling to discuss the trip and food. “Wait, you have WiFi” Eric and I asked … and that was that, we pulled out the Mac Book’s and began surfing Unofficial Networks. It quickly became apparent to the adults that removing the internet from Eric and I would be like taking the favorite toy away from a child and to avoided the temper tantrum they decided they’d do the shopping for us. The elders returned a few hours later with bags full of Clif Bars and hut food. Eric and I closed our laptops, Alex confirmed that our fourth team member could not possibly make it from Aspen to Denver in six hours and we loaded the groceries into the suburban then started our drive over Teton Pass.
In a car filled with three guys all we could talk about was skiing, girls and food, yep food, so once we reached Driggs we had to stop for dinner. Thai food it was and it was effn good. Some sake and a few beers built up confidence and we begin flirting with our waitress Helen. Gabe, the photographer, arrived mid-dumpling-bite only to up energy of the group. All we needed was Philipa (aka: Pip) Hunt and our team would be complete.
The fact that we had to tour for the next three days loomed over us like cloud so we signed the bill, downed the last drop of sake and headed to the Fairmont Chateau Driggs. Did I say Fairmont, woops … headed to the Super 8 (which is the Farimont of Idaho). Once our bags were packed it was time for Christmas; Rummaging through duffel bags of next year’s gear deciding what we were going to wear for the photos. Pip finally showed up and joined the shenanigans. After some “This is Sick”, “Oh this looks so good”, “Marmot, so hot right now” it was off to bed eagerly awaiting tomorrow…
Z, z, z, z z, z,z……
A deep sleep quickly faded into the 6:30 am wakeup call … it was time to go. So after a quick Farmonte’eqsue breakfast we loaded up the ‘burban and headed to the trailhead. The porters were already there, complete with large backpacks and hemp necklaces. We unpacked the duffels loaded up the yacks with weighty product like Marmot jeans, thick jackets and work gloves. Alex had a shot list and he wanted all 30+ Marmot beanies to be in photos, so we packed all the hats.
“Where’s the fourth duffel?” Alex asked. And after checking the cars three times it was clear that we’d left the duffel bag full of next years Marmot gear smack dab in the middle of the Super 8 parking lot. The group feared the worst and thought we’d we just provided a redneck with the lottery – brand new Marmot everything. Thankfully, the town of Driggs doesn’t get moving at 8am so the bag was left untouched and Alex/Pip returned with the goods.
Off we go….
We began skinning up the road in the Idaho heat and not long into the tour we were dripping with sweat. We made it to the yurt with only two stops: one to cross a creek and another for photos. Once in the Yurt we feasted on lunch, changed outfits, shot some lifestyle and discussed how we were going to be productive with the crappy snow conditions. Alex decided to stay back and prepare dinner as Brenton, Gabe, Pip, Eric and I went for an evening shoot. About an hour of touring up the ridge we found our zone: a north-facing slope with semi deep pow and good light. Above us there was a BC or AK style cornice. We skinned, boot packed and side-slipped until every possible photo option had been extinguished. Highlights include Eric’s massive back flip off the cornice to flat (oh to have young knees).
After sunset we skied down the wind buffed ridge back to the warm hut and were greeted by Alex who had stoked the fire and started on the fajitas. The food was great and our after dinner activities included more lifestyle shots as Gabe continued to stick many-a-lens in our face. Dirty jokes and hut foot (similar to trench foot but with hut booties) concluded the evening. We fell asleep in our zero degree Marmot sleeping bags only to wake up three hours later soaking wet, our yurt had turned into a sauna. Trying to sleep completely starfished out of my sleeping bag I tossed and turned listening to the wind outside. Could it bring snow?
We woke up to grey sky and trace amounts of new -our excitement shifted from pow slicing to gear/yurt lifestyle shots. Breakfast consisted of bagels and cereal then we put on the jeans and went to chop wood. -Slow motion wood chopping it was. Marmot needed photos of Pip smiling, Eric’s action face and me carrying the wood. Back in the yurt we stoked the fire trying not to notice the lenses in our face and not moving our elbow because the Marmot logo would wrinkle.
After more posing, we again changed outfits, strapped an extra jacket + second layer to the outside of our backpacks, pasted on our skins and started hiking up the ridge. Ten minutes into the hike my touring bindings decided to fall apart. Lucky for us I found the small screw that popped out and with some McGiver ‘ing we were able to patch a quick fix. But of course Gabe busted out the camera and had us put on work gloves and fix binding. With real life work shots in the durable yet stylish Marmot Work glove we continued on our tour. Rolling off the ridge north we found fields of powder perfect for classic ski magazine turn. Hey, we were making headquarters happy with our low angle pow shots.
Venturing farther down the ridge we went in search of some possible air-time: rocks, cliffs, anything, but unlucky for Eric the snow was mank and we couldn’t even milk photos. Scratching out heads like a cartoon monkey we pondered our next move in the photo shoot game. Once again, as soon as we stopped, Gabe’s camera came out and we shed layers like models on a beach photo shoot. Unlike a beach breeze, our wind consisted of gropple. It’s tough work being a model. Ten more minutes of walking brought us halfway between the yurt and yesterdays ridge. We stopped at a small pillow area, busted out the camera and got the shot! More bootpacking, more mank, more photos -our day was finished. Back in the hut we took more lifestyle, cooked up some gourmet hut food and watched the clouds roll in. The night in the yurt-sauna was yet another “steamy painful experience”, as Eric would say in his sleep.
“It’s Bluebird”– and bluebird it was- However, speed was not a common motif on this trip (mostly because of my issues) but we left the yurt just in-time to get a few photos with the blue sky background. For the third day in a row we began our tour up the ridge but this time dropped south. (what did we learn about aspect…yep, snow = not so good on south facing slopes). Then it was up the adjacent ridge and after about 45 min of skinning we reached the top. I bet you can guess what two things happened next: Gabe busted out his glass for a banger lifestyle session, and the clouds turned the sky to grey.
In photo shoot fashion we milked turns down the ridge trying to find dead trees, or anything besides grey for our backdrop. We stopped for lunch and pondered or next decision like Bobby Fisher pondering a chess move. We had been put in check mate by the weather and still needed to get more photos. The sky was dark, the snow was shallow and we still had a steep hike back to home base. So in true pro skier fashion we decided to build a jump and a tap a tree. Gabe got the shot and Brenton even got the shot of Gabe getting the shot. Pip cheered and Eric and I hit a small fun tree tap.
Then is was off to the skinning races for a death march. A full south facing sun baked-then-frozen slope lay in front of us. I started off slow then started to grow and I quickly realized that I couldn’t get any grip. At all. Fifty minutes later, three switchbacks and one last “I’ve F*ing had enough of this shit” I decided to follow Eric and boot pack. I threw my skis on my shoulder and hiked straight up. –It sucked-. We reached the top, skied back to the Yurt and began drying our sweaty base layers. Inside the yurt we busted out some nice tequila that Alex had saved for the final night. A few shots deep and the college student Eric volunteered to carry out the tequila, back to campus with him.
Z, z, z, z,zz,zz….
During our final night the yurt was a reasonable temperature and we woke up rested and ready to ski home. Pip, Eric and I packed our bags, gave our hugs goodbye and began skiing out. We reached the muddy parking lot, packed our ski bags in the slop, changed clothes and headed for the airport. Once we reached Jackson we stopped at the market for lunch, iPhones regained service, parents were called, tweets were posted, facebook was updated and instagram ran wild. Pip dropped us off at the terminal. Eric went back to California via Denver and I flew to Vancouver with a stop in Salt Lake. The layover was more than a couple hours and I had time to explore the airport and locate myself and roommate Eliel Hindert in advertisements for the University of Utah. After my few minutes of fame I proceeded to my gate and was seated in the last row next to a man who smelled like hotdogs. Vancouver, to Whistler was a breeze and I was skiing powder on Whistler Mountain the next day.
If the sponsors call and want you to make turns in next years gear say yes, you’ll have a blast! (even if you have to drive from Aspen to Denver).