Posts Tagged ‘Mammoth Mountain

10
Apr
13

RIP Chelone Miller: A Legend Lost Too Soon

RIP Chelone Miller. Flying high above the 100 foot-plus mega booter at 2009's Snowboarder Magazine Superpark at Mammoth Mountain.

I didn’t get a chance to know Chelone Miller for long. But what I did get to know impressed me greatly.

At the end of a long and fun 2009 northern hemisphere snow season I was fortunate enough to receive photo accreditation to shoot US Snowboarder Magazine’s Superpark at Mammoth Mountain. It had always been a dream of mine to witness this iconic annual extravaganza of shredding, but with a handful of Aussie and Kiwi snowboarders getting the invite that season, I also had the opportunity to shoot and write a feature article about it all for Aust-NZ Snowboarding Magazine.

Radich_Superpark2009_cabin-2Falls Creek ripper Jade McJanet kindly offered me the use of her old room at Mammoth Lakes as she was already on her way home to Oz. She had a housemate, a guy I had heard a little bit about but had never met – Chelone Miller.

I stayed for a few days in the little log cabin, which even the golden Californian spring sunshine failed to warm. We sat outside on the green grass while Chilly practised his golf swing with his drivers, both of us trying to dry out sodden spring snowboarding boots in the sun because the cabin had no heating. To make the living more bearable we even had to turn on the oven with the door open to try and warm up the lounge and kitchen area! Chilly showed me his collection native American (indian) artefacts that he had found on his many trips bouldering and rock climbing out in the desert with Lonnie Kauk. He told me about his older brother, infamous downhill skier Bode Miller, who was on the outer with the US Ski Team after telling the world he was considering quitting skiing just nine months before the 2010 Winter Olympics. (At Vancouver 2010 Bode came back with a vengeance, winning a gold, silver and bronze to become the most successful American male ski racer of all time). And Chelone also told me about the near fatal dirt bike accident that he couldn’t remember but which left him with a souvenir – a visibly moveable part of his skull nearly half the size of his bead. From the early reports it sounds like on-going complications with this accident caused a seizure that killed him in his sleep.

The impression I got of Chelone was of someone very relaxed, very chilled, very friendly and easy-going … but with an almost unparalleled attitude for gnarliness when he stood sideways on a snowboard. Some of the stories he first told me were almost too hard to believe … until I witnessed him destroy the monster features of Superpark.

Like this remembrance in Snowboarder Magazine says, at the end of the first day of Superpark rumours were running wild about one crazy unknown guy launching off the monster 100-plus foot Loon Mountain kicker with nary a photog or video guy around. I was sort of surprised to hear that it was the mild-mannered Chilly I was sharing a house with, but also mostly unsurprised.

Chelone Miller waiting for the signal to lead Will Jackways and a brave crew of riders into the Loon Mountain monster jump at Superpark 2009.

Chelone Miller (green and blue) waiting for the signal to lead Lonnie Kauk, Will Jackways and a fearless crew of riders into the Loon Mountain monster jump at Superpark 2009.

When I heard of Chelone’s death via Instagram and Facebook yesterday morning I thought that I might have a nice shot of Chilly. But when I saw the shot at the top of the post, with Chilly touching the  rays of the sun, it just seemed perfect. I took this frame at the monster booter on the second day, in between shots I took of Will Jackways for Snowboarding Mag. But as Chilly was a reasonably unknown rider, the shot never ran in print or online. I wish it had.

Superpark 2009 - Chelone Miller and Ryan Tiene. Photo: Sean Radich/radmania.com

Chilly with his 2009 Superpark winnings and an injured Ryan Tiene at the after party.

For some reason I missed the official presentation after Superpark, but was so pleased to discover that Chilly had won the Gatorade Standout award and a wad of cash when I made it to the after party. Since that winter I’ve tried to keep an little bit of an eye on how Chelone was going, and was pumped when I saw his epic photos published in Snowboarder Mag the next season. At the time I met him, Chilly was just receiving some basic hook-ups from Columbia Outerwear, Bataleon Snowboards and Smith Goggles. But after his break-out during 2009’s Superpark, he received some love from within, and outside the industry. Chelone was a snowboarder’s snowboarder – someone who goes big, all the time every time, and yet does it with the minimum of fuss. You can see from these videos what a ballsy rider he was.

Arbor Snowboards’ profile video:

Some commercial work for Jeep in 2010.

My thoughts and sympathies go to his close friends and family.

RIP Chelone. You were a legend.

Here’s a nice tribute video posted by The Ski Channel.

Chilly flying high in full colour.

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06
Apr
10

June Stair Shoot

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.