Posts Tagged ‘Olympics

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.

15
Feb
10

Sunny Cypress

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… 




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