For the last three years, every time that I’ve been at June Mountain I can’t help but think about doing a photo shoot on the stair-set leading up to the access chairlift. It looks so inviting, sitting all there alone with three high round down-bars and 24 or so cheesegrater stairs. Almost all the rails around Tahoe are wooden (which severely limits the tricks that can be done) and have all been shot on many times before. I think I remember Kevin Jones or someone hitting the June stairs back in the day when Mammoth (and June) were taking some of the shine from Tahoe and Whistler in the old Mack Dawg vids. This rail is certainly legit!
I’ve mentioned shooting on the rail a few times to a few guys, but it’s three hours away from Tahoe, and needs a fair bit of snow for the in and out-runs. Enter Reuben Cameron and Sam Pofley. Reubs is probably my oldest snow mate, and I would have met him back when he was a Falls Creek park monkey.
He’s progressed to become Falls’ chief park builder, and after a couple of seasons at June Mtn, he’s also taken on that role there. Yankee Sam did a couple of seasons at Falls, showing Reuben the ropes, poached him to June and just this last season took over the organisational role for the freestyle park program. So when I finally found a project and a rider who wanted to come to June I called up Reubs to see if he could help, and he promised to not only smooth it over, but even use his Kat to build the take-off and landing!
Darragh Walsh was pumped (but a little nervous) to get a shot on the rail, and I roped in his Destyn Via teammate, Cohen Davies, to come along and get a different shot. All was planned…and then I got a call from Reuben saying that it was all cool to go ahead, but that another crew wanted to shoot on the rail so we would be combining shoots. No problem…until I heard that the other riders would be none other than super-pro Eddie Wall and wunderkind Tyler Flanagan! Talk about pressure on the Aussie boys to get the goods.
So packing the car Tuesday morning we set off, picking up Olliepop Films’ Jeremy Richardson on the way, and arrived in June’s carpark (complete with redneck truck and guard dog) by lunch. The guys have an awesome Taco Tuesday in place for Spring, with cheap beers and tacos besides the halfpipe and quarterpipe – and you don’t have to even hike the pipe or catch a chair – the maintenance guys tow you back to the top behind a sled! Awesome. It certainly was the place to be on a warm and sunny Spring day and there was a big Aussie and Hotham crew enjoying the good times, including my good mate, Mike D. Mike’s a salty old character (literally, as he spends half his life out at sea working on big ships) who’s been a big part of Hotham Boardriders for many a year, but who loves nothing more than to boost massive out the top of a halfpipe…and he’s always great for a crazy story or laugh. After the arvo shred it was time to celebrate with a couple of cold ones (check out Mike’s stoke with his fridge’s beer dispenser!), a recovery spa, then some good times down at the Auld Dubliner pub in town.
We all woke a bit foggy-headed, except Cohen and Darragh who took it easy to be in the best shape for their meeting with Eddie and Tyler, and headed back to June to get a few shots in the park. Once you’re up the mountain and off the super-slow access lift, June is a great place to shred a fun park without any crowds and hit some unique and cool-looking features. Cohen even found a new way use the top of his board to slide park features. We got a couple of nice shots and Jeremy filmed a bunch of park laps for Destyn Via…but the big challenge of later in the evening was never far from the guy’s minds.
Finally we headed down the hill when the lifts closed, grabbed some food and came back to find one kat shaping the in-run and take-off, and Sam dumping piles of snow in the car-park for the landing. Sure beats shovelling! However I was surprised to see such a huge crew on site – there seemed to be about 30 people stuffing around, getting in the way, arms waving, busy yelling and looking like they were there for business. No site of Eddie Wall though, unfortunately. I guess we weren’t cool enough for Video Hyper Shred. As time wore on and the sun dropped down it looked good to go and a heap of guys started hitting the middle rail and left rail (I’m not not sure why you would bother, though). It was an absolute shit show. Everyone was acting as if they were the most important person there without any consideration for all the other guys. There were 2 other photogs, and I counted at least 6 video cameras. Tyler Flanagan did some steezy boardslides, and Darragh and Cohen stepped up straight away, but all the other riders were less impressive. But it was such a weird vibe – there was no central organisation or order, and dudes were getting in shot, getting in each other’s way and causing lots of angst.
Cohen stomped his nose press before even the sun went down and I had one shot in the bag, but Darragh was trying to get a much more difficult switch front board – much harder than all the 50-50’s, boardslides and front boards the Yanks and Euros were attempting. There was one loudmouth fat photog who I’ve seen around Mammoth and June a lot before – he had all the gear, including a big strobe setup…but clearly no idea how to use it. One flash just isn’t enough to get a decent shot, no matter how powerful it is (I jusy had 3 small Canon Speedlights), and he must have moved the flash 10 times and done test shots 10 times for each location. We were all on edge as wind storms blew through and covered everything in dust, straining to hear the call of “All clear?’ and “Dropping!”. Then as Darragh stomped his trick the fat boy got in my way, and another time one flash failed to go off. It was a complete shemozzle, and we just wanted to get the fuck out of there and get back home. Darragh was banged up, but I coaxed him into going back up the hill a couple more times…and he kicked a goal straight through the sticks, stomped that switch front board and with a sigh of relief high-fived the crowd. I was happy with the shot, and happier to be getting out of there and heading home to Tahoe. Job done.
It was a short day-and-a-half road trip to June Mountain…but I’ll never have to walk up those access stairs ever again and wonder “what if…?” It was well worth the drive and the shit-show surrounding the rail, and it was a bonus to get a couple more shots in the park too. Thanks again to Reuben and Sam for organising everything for us – I think you guys should be happy with the published results. Cheers, boys.