The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry has become a highlight of the Australian winter, and it draws the best snowboarders in the world to Perisher’s terrain park. It’s not just the World Snowboard Tour International points rating of the contest that brings the best shred boys and girls to Jindabyne, but Perisher’s epic and inventive park built by master shaper, and good mate, Charles Beckinsale.
So many of the international pros I spoke to said how much they enjoyed the freestyle set-up at Perisher – easy access to the mountain, fast laps of the park on the T-bar or 8-seater chair, a fun halfpipe also in front valley and a fun park around the corner on the Leichardt T-bar. They all said that they enjoy their summers in Oz much more than New Zealand, and that Perisher has become “the new Snowpark”. High praise, indeed!
This year I was fortunate to spend two and a half weeks in Jindabyne, to compete in the Transfers Banked Slalom at Thredbo, have a bunch of days riding the resorts, and then working for The Mile High writing the press releases, running the website and taking photos. Unfortunately the weather rolled in for the four days that the contest was scheduled, literally putting a real dampener on proceedings. The competition finally ran on the Wednesday, but due to the misty fog, the last two jumps were excluded. It was a shame, as in the clear days earlier on in my stay, the riders were displaying some seriously mind-blowing riding and uber-inventive lines. But, a result was obtained, photos were sent out and video edits posted … and the all-important WST points were awarded to help set up a bunch of riders for the forthcoming northern comp season. Congrats to Jess Rich, who I shot with back in Tahoe a few years ago, for winning the women’s.
Wow – there are a lot of loud, drunk and dumb hockey rednecks that congregate en masse down Granville Street. I know that Australians can be unbelievably embarrassing, and the cheap flights of V Australia and Jetstar are just allowing povvo bogans to travel overseas for the first time and ruin the reputation for the rest of us, but I don’t remember Sydney 2000 having such an agressive, teetering-on-out-of-control vibe…but maybe that’s because I was part of the “team” cheering along, and not a foreigner making sure that I smile and high-five the gangs of guys in red, lest I get set upon? Or maybe it has something to do with the brainless way Canadians cheer for their 51st State of America. After 10 days at Sydney 2000 I never wanted to hear “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…Oi, Oi, Oi…” again. In Vancouver, Granville is jam packed with a sea of red and white, random games of street hockey, and chants that start up: “Can-a-da!…Can-a-da!…” Or guy will start screaming “Whoooooooo!” and then another will join in, or it will be “Yeahhhhhhhh!” and another will join in till the street sounds like a riot. Their cheering and chants are even more brainless than ours…and it’s the worst in an around Canadian hockey matches. (But then again, ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!” is pretty uninventive as well.)
And I forgot, I found another difference between Aussies and Canadians at the start of the week: Aussies shout “Show us ya tits!” at Indy/Bathurst/Melbourne Cup, whereas the Canuck chant must be ‘We want boobs! We want boobs!” After the Opening Ceremony a random mosh pit of crowd surfers (with the aforementioned “Whoooos” and “Yeaaahhhh”s) had formed on Robson and Howe Streets, and when a girl was lifted on to shoulders the booby chant started, and wasn’t sated till another girl was lifted upon high for a faux-lezo makeout. An interesting, organic way to celebrate the start of the Olympics I guess?
And I have also noticed a bit of a “bad sportsmanshio” from the home team, whether it be claiming to “Own the Podium”; or bar crowds cheering-on the last non-Canadian (and incidentally American) mogul skier to “Fall, Fall, Fall!”; ripping the flag off the back of some Americans cheering down Granville and throwing it on the ground; or booing former-Canadian Dale Begg-Smith during his medal ceremony. I hope that Aussies would never act such a way – but then again, my impressions might be coloured by the fact I had been getting back to Vancouver exhausted and grumpy each night, hating having to dodge throngs to get home, and seeing the crowds at their drunken worst?
Anyway, right now I’m in West Village, New York, New York! I decamped from the Olympics the day after Torah’s amazing Gold-Medal win – but sort of wish I had have stuck around now. And what a night it was. I was so nervous – so nervous to get the shot after she blew her first run (as night shots are clearly so different looking to the qualification photos), and so nervous for her to score well and get the win. Afterwards, I felt so happy for her and gave her a rousing shout-out and wave from the photo-pit in front of the podium – she waved back…and it gave everyone else who wasn’t cheering like an idiot a great million-dollar-smile shot looking right down the camera. So another shot missed by me. But she was smiling so much and looked so excited that i quickly blew the rest of the 16gig card on “jube” (jubilation shots, so Himbrechts tells me).
I finally managed to get up alongside the pipe – Himbrechts had left his pair of crampons lying around, which I naturally purloined and made the long hike up for the girls’ training and qualifications. Both Holly and Torah rode amazingly well, and went so big. It was awesome to watch up close. It’s hard along the pipe, as you aren’t given much chance to move around or get close to the lip for the regular fisheye shot. So I struggled to get some good shots, but think a couple turned out ok. And still I’m having trouble with my software processing the Canon EOS 1DMkIV RAW files to jpegs to put up on the web – but fear not, Evil Editor, the shots are there and there are some pretty nice ones – I’ll sort it out somehow. So again, all I have are the ones from my regular back-up 1DMkIIN and the candid pocket Sony Cybershot ones. And anyway the best of the Aussie shots I have to save for the mags: they won’t publish any shot that has been splashed around on the net before. So enjoy this small selection of action and behind the scenes.
Today the sun finally started to shine and my spirits shone, not least because it was the first day there was snowboard training up at nearby Cypress Mountain. There were some nice views from the Media bus, but it was a pretty dismal lack-of-snow sight to behold once up top. I managed to catch the bus with both Himbrechts and Matt “Elephantitis” Shirvington – he is one tall, good looking man. And pretty friendly and good to chat to. James Brayshaw was also on the bus, but was too-cool-for-school in his sunnies and avoided every Aussie and hid at the back of the bus…or maybe he was just super hungover this morning. If he’s anything like the substance abusing rest of The Footy Show members, I would reckon on the latter.
There is fuck-all snow up at Cypress, and on the way we passed one of those Ericsson “Elvis” Air Cranes – in Australia they dump water on bushfires, in BC they pick up container-loads of snow to make a pipe, mogul course and BX track! And besides the lack of snow, the layout and organisation of Cypress is pretty poor. There are at least 6 stories of stairs everyone has to climb in order to get to the bottom of the pipe and track, and the organisers are super anal about lame rules: where you can and can’t stand, which way you have to walk, where the buses stop…and worst of all, enforcing us to wear mountaineering crampons to hike the pipe to shoot on the deck! I don’t own any, so have to try to buy some tomorrow, otherwise I will be seriously limited the photos I can get.
I shot 700 or so frames and 4.5 gigs worth, but I reckon only 2 to 2 and a half shots are worthy of publication (but whether the Evil Editor decides to use them is a whole different matter!) But that’s ok, it’s only practice day 1. The best shots I have to save for the exclusivity of the magazines, so these are just some fun ones from today. But I increased my chances for tomorrow when I dropped by Canon Professional Services in the MPC. They loan photo gear of all descriptions: $10,000 400mm 2.8L lens? Sure take that. Brand new $7000 Canon1D MkIV camera body? Do you want one or two? It is amazing – I’m like a (photo-nerdy) kid in a candy shop! I can’t wait to try out the gear tomorrow.
But back to Cypress – the pipe is in good shape, so the riders say, but with the fog and rain the snow is in rotten shape. Two hours into training the right wall had huge deep ruts and action was ceased an hour early. The Aussie SBX racers are stoked with their “Ninja Turtle” tops, and I think the pipe team’s uniform is great – nice and bright and excellent for photos (and much better than the sombre black they normally have). And I don’t the Japanese have a team uniform…just a general theme of looking like a clown. The Yanks have copped a little flak for their faded jeans and flannel uniforms, but in person they look awesome (although a bit too dark for good photos here). Some American commentators have called the get-up unpatriotic – I guess becuase it looks a bit messy and casual, but it really captures the good-ol-boy, truck driving yankees to a tee. And let me just say that Gretchen Bleiler looks amazing in jeans…
On that note I’ll leave you…I’m writing this in the bar underneath the backpackers I’m staying at, surrounded by drunk, shouting Canadians chanting at the replay of Dale begg-Smith losing Gold to the local boy. I think it’s about time to join them…