Photos of the X Games 2015 Men’s and Women’s Superpipe and Big Air at Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado.
The X Games is the self-described biggest and most important winter action sport competition … outside of the Olympics, of course. And after finally getting to experience my first X Games just a couple of weeks ago, and seeing the transformed Buttermilk mountain with it’s huge mounds of snow, lighting arrays and TV and spectator infrastructure, I’d tend to agree. The fact that so much is packed into such a small portion of the mountain is quite amazing. One chairlift accesses the SBX track up higher, the slopestyle course, superpipe and big air jump in front of the base lodge.
It was an awesome few days in Aspen, checking out the resorts by day, and the X Games craziness by night. The highlights were seeing Scotty James throw down and Torah Bright securing a bronze medal on the big stage. A shot or two from the trip should make it into Australian-NZ Snowboarding Magazine this season, so keep an eye out. If you ever get a chance to experience the X Games I couldn’t recommend it higher. Yeah, it’s very “Yee haw, ‘Merica rules!” with it’s Navy sponsorship, simplified narrative and questionable judging catering to ESPN audiences and the mainstream spectators (ie it certainly ain’t a core, cool event like the US Open or Stylewars in Oz), and it really does get frigidly cold outside at night. But the huge crowd, the TV razzle-dazzle, smooth running of a legitimately big event and the insane feats of snowboardery you get to witness more than make up for any negatives.
And in the meantime, enjoy these snaps.
Click on the photos below to open up the gallery and read the captions…
Scotty Lago spinning into the Colorado sunset.
Taylor Gold with a classic method.
This gives you an idea of how big the snowboarders go. The amplitude out of the pipe is just something that can’t be translated to TV. Massive.
Shaun White with his black on black on black method.
Scotty James styling it out with a Fakie Air To Regular to kick start his run.
Shaun was a little off his game after a year away from competitive snowboarding. He still went huge, but interestingly 5 feet less on his first hit than last year. And here you can see him reach, but miss, the double tail grab.
Iouri Podladtchikov was also looking lethal in all-black. Goofy-footed method into the inky darkness…
Danny Davis’ run was impressive for its amplitude, style and inventiveness. A worthy Gold Medal winner.
DD switch method = all kinds of awesome.
The “made-for-TV” Big Air didn’t give a great vantage point for the hundreds (thousands?) of punters or the photographers, as the jump mound was so big you couldn’t get a good view of the kicker or landing, even along the monster pipe wall. But Yuki Kadono was impressive all night.
Torstein Horgmo with his signature smooth style.
Yuki Kadono throwing some sort of ridiculousness.
Torstein looking to launch into the sky like the private jets waiting on Aspen’s runway in the left of the photo.
Torah went so big on her second warm-up run that I cut off her tail. But it was too nice a shot to not post it.
Kelly Clark goes massive, but her style is doesn’t compare to Torah’s smooth, effortless riding. This boned frontside air was before she started the ballerina 1080’s on her first hit.
All eyes and lenses focussed on Torah’s money-maker … her famous McTwist, of course.
Chloe Kim was impressive – she went big, mixed up her run with much of it switch. At 14 she’s already an X Games gold medallist, and with some emphasis on style, she will be hard to beat.
And in case you missed it, take a look at Danny Davis’ gold-medal-winning run which he threw down on the last run of the night. Epic.
Issue 2 of Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder has been out for a couple of weeks now, and it was a productive issue for me, including another double-page-spread advertisement for Destyn Via. This time the photo was of Cohen Davies taken on the June Mountain stair rail. Here’s the original shot, which you can see has been cropped a bit, I guess to enlarge Cohen and his DV gear.
It was great that Linton from DV was willing to negotiate to purchase another photo, instead of just re-running the Darragh photo – not only did it give Cohen a big exposure boost, but it advertises some other “colourways” of the gear and shows the breadth of their team…and it was nice to see they spelt my name correctly this time! Check out my previous entry here and Olliepop Films’ video of our trip here.
On that same June Mountain trip two photos I took of Darragh made it into his 7 page interview that I conducted with him. The above shot is a slightly alternate angle of his June rail switch frontside boardslide, but the one published had better style. While discussing the upcoming interview with Darragh and living with him and his constant lolly munching, we came up with the idea to highlight this unusual habit in the text, and top it off with a themed portrait shot.
One rainy night at the end of our season we drove all around trying to find a candy vending machine, and finally spotted one out the back of the Tahoe Inn next to the Tahoe Biltmore Casino in Stateline. We snuck in and set up the shot…and of course got hassled by a few curious residents, but fortunately weren’t stopped by any rent-a-cops. It’s a shame there’s some shadow across Darragh caused by his arm and hair, but with only about 5 minutes to set up the scene and lighting and shoot a few frames before we felt we would be boosted, we didn’t have time to check every frame. But we did manage to capture the feel for the shot that we wanted, and I liked how the magazine designer ran with our theme and gave the article some candy-cane flair.
I also thought my 8 page interview with Courtney Phillipson and Jess Rich looked good and came together as a good light-hearted read. As I mentioned in my previous post about shooting the girls in Tahoe, as a visual theme for the article I had envisaged it to be all about mirror images, reflections, and like I said in the intro: “Brunette vs blonde, goofy vs regular, experienced pro-rider vs pro-ranks rookie, measured confidence vs all-out fearlessness.”
I had planned to shoot as many features as possible from opposing angles, as I had a photo layout in mind. I even sent through some Photoshopped arrangments of the photos side-by-side, which I was pleased to see the magazine designer applied when putting the pages together. I think it really captures the mirror-image action theme I was going for…however, they failed to follow my suggestion for a slightly saucy/creepy/arty reflection-in-a-mirror portrait shot.
Perhaps the artisitc references for my unusual portrait shot would have been lost on the Aust-NZ Snowboarder reading public? Diego Velazquez’s 17th century painting Las Meninas is the original famous artwork to place the artist eerily within the frame, along with intriguing dark figures and mirror reflections, giving the artwork an overall feeling of unease.
More recently, the revolutionary Aussie-German fashion photographer icon, Helmut Newton, often used mirrors in his work, placing his reflection in the frame as a sort of creepy voyeur in a trench coat, or all in black like here in a hotel room with his wife Alice Springs. This was my true photographic inspiration, and it was fun to try and recreate this sort of image with Jess and CP, and I made reference to the unusual photo shoot in the interview in the hope the shot would make it into the mag. But alas, Evil Editor decided that Snowboarder was not a proper place for some art history education.
But I’m not the only one who has been inspired by Newton and his use of mirrors – TopShop in the UK even set up a “Newton Machine” photo booth to recreate his self-timer and model-in-the-mirror shoots. Check it out here.
But the biggest thrill for me in this issue was my quarter-page self-portrait pow slash from Northstar that ran on page 17! I think this is the second action shot I have featured in among the pages of Snowboarder over the years. Dragon get good exposure with their goggles in this shot, but unfortunately for Nitro, I had split the nose of my board out at Donner the previous day and was riding an old loan board while my Nitro “Team” 159 was being repaired. But maybe I should still try to claim a photo incentive payment from Dragon?
I was able to thank Evil Editor, Ryan Willmott, in person for putting me in his magazine, as he came up to the Gold Coast for a week to finish off issue 3 in the Burleigh Heads HQ of the publishers Morrison Media. He was pretty stoked to show me his new free ride, a stickered-up Toyota Rav 4. It was cool to check out a bit of the behind the scenes of magazine publishing, and get a preview of issue 3, which has our Los Angeles trip in a big, colourful feature article…and also pick up a few free mags. Look out for that issue on the shelves very soon…and take a look at some shots below from my visit to Morrison’s head office.
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…
I was woken up Friday morning by the thunder of helicopters echoing off the buildings and rattling the window next to my bed – fortunately I wasn’t in some sort of Hunter S Thompson bad-acid Vietnam flashback (sorry, i’m currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegasto get in the right frame of mind for our Snowboard like a Rockstar magazine trip to LA in March). The Olympic flame was in town, and the choppers were catching all the action in downtown Van…and when I got out on the street it was packed, and the real Olympic spirit (not my manufactured, barstool one) had finally hit.
Thursday had been a great first day in town, checking out the massive MPC (Main Press Centre) and picking up my free kit, as well as running into Dan Himbrechts. Check his blog here for some more shots of pre-Olympic Vancouver. It was a busy night, first up with a ritzy reception by the AOC to introduce the Australian Team, and announce Torah as the flag-bearer. Well done, Torah! I knew how these things go, so while everyone was dressed in their semi-formal attire and on best behaviour, I, in my t-shirt and jeans headed straight for the bar and the food buffet to get the most of my tax dollars. Some snowboarders may scoff at the idea of being an Olympian, but I couldn’t help but get a real sense of excitement and pride from the “athletes” representing Australia. More than any other moment, I wanted to be up there with them, part of the Team. Maybe it seems more attainable when you see guys and girls you’ve known for years up on stage? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the last member to sneak into the snowboard team, Steph Hickey, with a bigger smile on her face!
The party was surprisingly full of sports and Channel 9 famous faces, and some out of place swimmers like Grant Hackett and Gian Rooney. The most important man in Australia gave a speech and intoduction, and even K-Rudd sent a video message perpetuating the myth that Australia “punches above its weight” on the world sporting stage – what a crock. If it weren’t for an old High Court interpretation of the Constitution that allows Australia to use taxpayer money to fund communist-styled institutional sporting programs for the “good of the country” we wouldn’t “perform” so well every 4 years. I’m all for public spending on sport, but now that the rest of the western world has cottoned on to taxpayer-funded sports programmes (except the USA, which is privately funded – ie sponsorship) don’t just expect and demand medals, Kevin. And remember, this is the same Labor that wants to cut sport spending unless a sport can guarantee medals (which affects all the marginal winter sports, except snowboarding and freestyle skiing).
After the AOC gig Dan and I then caught a cab to the aquarium where Canon and Nikon were jointly hosting a party – more open bars and hot buffets – for all the 1200 photographers. We just wanted to go along so we could pick up our gift, a limited edition Lowepro Flipside 500 camera backpack, which you can’t buy but would be worth about $300 in Oz. Score! But it was a bad idea to have a photog party at a place with some many bright and shiny things and so many enquiring eyes – I don’t think the jellyfish were allowed to float alone once…I even couldn’t help but get in on the paparazzit act, no matter how hard i tried to resist the obvious. It was a surreal, sort of nerdy party – but fun nevertheless. I got discussing Van’s shitty weather with a Canon Professional Services woman who commented that you don’t need to worry about white balance here – with all the clouds it’s always 18% grey. Haha. Photo humour.
Speaking of weather…it’s been pretty much raining the whole time i’ve been here, and doesn’t look like stopping. And I must say, i’m trying to love this city…but just can’t. What makes a city beautiful? Is it the people, the landscape, the structures or all three, plus that little bit of something else you can’t put your finger on? Van certainly gets a tick for its beautiful women, but a cross for all the pasty, splotchy-half-bearded hockey jocks. Without the advantage of makeup, fake tan or mineral bronzer, all the guys are so pale and weird looking – I swear I saw Edward Cullen yesterday. I understand why they filmed up here – the sun never shines on his glittery skin. And Van should get another tick for the theoretically snow-capped mountains across the bay, but with all this cloud, you can’t see them. The city itself is nothing special, in terms of structures, but where it really lets itself down is it’s slums right on the CBD doorstep. As the warmest city in Canada, Vancouver is mecca for the country’s homeless. They are everywhere, and then there’s all the druggies: I’ve been asked for spare change by cocky mother-fucker losers in the line for McDonalds and Pita Pit! I was walking just a couple hundred metres from the MPC and came across a homeless food shelter (I felt too intrusive to take photos) and on East Hastings there are shops selling everything to make your homeless life comfortable. There are even tourist information signs in front of the old Woodwards building that celebrate the descent into depravity that East Van has become. What’s next, Rio de Janeiro-style motorbike tours of the slums (favelas) to laugh and point at the downtrodden? Even Reno is less visibly sketchy than this place. I’ve never been to Detroit, Philly or the Bronx, but they can’t be much worse than Vancouver, except that in US slums I would be judged by the colour of my skin, and not by the content of my character, and targeted accordingly. It’s mostly white homeless here in Vancouver, which can make it hard to work out if that guy in tatty black clothes is a drug addled drifter, or just an urban hipster/emo punkster…until they get up close and you look at their eyes and skin.
Anyway, enough negativity. The Games are on, and there’s a great festive spirit all around…and I can’t wait till the weather clears (a little) and they can schedule some snowboard practice up at Cypress.