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.
Falls 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.
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.
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.