An Open Love Letter to Jackson Hole
It’s funny how one’s path, to a vast extent, is determined by coincidence.
For me, randomly running into Jackson local/legend Rich Goodwin at the Arctic Challenge back in 2004 was one of those life-altering moments.
Our meeting led to my band shooting a music video in the Tetons with Rich, and spending a few days in Jackson in October 2007, which naturally left me wanting to return during the winter season.
The next year I had a few weeks off, called Rich and flew right over. Honestly, I hadn’t really enjoyed or been that into snowboarding for many years. I had sustained too many injuries and felt like the scene, which back in the ’90s pretty much defined me as a person, was gradually dissolving (for starters, suddenly snowboarders were hanging out with skiers — when did that happen?).
Anyway, I flew over and discovered local/global shred hero Travis Rice was hosting an event that week. It was the inaugural Natural Selection competition.
I’d never done any serious photography but I needed some cash, so I emailed Norway’s premier snowzine and offered “my services” (and then headed out to purchase my first camera). To anyone who was there during that beyond-epic week, I really don’t need to describe what went down. Let’s just say I rediscovered my love for snowboarding, reconnected with the scene, and to some extent, jumpstarted a career of sorts in photography. And, yeah, totally fuckin’ fell in love with the mountainous paradise on Earth that is Jackson. Five years later, I quit my “day job” as a physician in order to pursue the dream that had been evolving ever since that life changing week in Jackson: Making a documentary about the all too unknown yet infamous snowboarding scene in Northern Norway in the early to mid-90s.
See, I was born and raised in a small town maybe not that different from Jackson. Tromsø, Norway is a small college town deep inside the Arctic with vast mountainous terrain, long, cold and dark winters yet a truly inspirational, warm-hearted and ultra vibrant (counter) culture scene. Far away from any international airport and way pre-Internet, Tromsø’s mountains were our playgrounds. And the scene was progressive. I don’t think the first pros that came up here for the now legendary Arctic Open contest (not Challenge, that was way later), in 1997 knew what was about to hit them when local hero — who was 16 years old at the time – Stian Tapani Gundersen stomped the first ever documented cab 1260 in a contest (again, this was 1997)!
So since that week in Jackson, and upon coming back to Tromsø and linking up with my old shred homies, I kinda asked myself: Whatever happened to all these guys? So I started making calls and searching for people on Facebook. Fifteen guys, 15 stories, and 15 drastically different life paths. We needed to bring the guys back together somehow. So in January 2012 we started shooting for the documentary (or the meta-snowboard movie, if you will) There’s Always Next Season. Fifteen years overdue (some of the guys hadn’t been riding for more than a decade), we were trying to make the film we were suppose to make back in 1997.
And what better place to start than in Jackson — an idyllic place we merely dreamed of in our pre-adolescent heydays. So I called Mr. Goodwin and he set it all up. And by “all” I mean Lance Pitman — the man, the myth, the legend. I guess it was some time during our first near-catastrophic snowmobile mission into an unnamed backcountry area when I first asked Lance if Rich had informed him what kind of a crew he was bringing out into his very own backyard. “Rich just said something about a Norwegian film crew.”
OK, so he left out the whole part about the group consisting of washed up ex-“riders,” who had barely seen a snowmobile. I guess he realized this once we managed to leave him behind during the only time his snowmobile flipped coming out of a sketchy-ass hill climb. (Hey Lance, if you’re reading this: You know how sorry we are!)
How we all made it back alive from that trip still amazes me. But somehow we did. And even managed to produce something resembling snowboard film-worthy footage (by 1997 standards, that is, but still, whatever). Fact of the matter was, we were in Jackson and suddenly this group of 30-something “grown” men was transformed (mentally at least), into fierce teen shredders, pretty much re-living the dream we once shared. Doing laps on Teton Pass, catching bottomless pow in Green River Bowl or getting lost on a snowmobile deep inside the Wyoming backcountry, nothing else matters, whatever your background or current life situation, it’s just you, your board, your best bros and the mountain before you.
So if you ever lose faith in snowboarding, just go to Jackson. It will come back, and hit you hard.
To all you fine people that make Jackson what it is, much appreciation. And hopefully see you again come next season.
There’s Always Next Season was originally set to premiere in January 2013, however, the date was recently postponed until January 2014. They still have no sponsors and few people of the industry truly believe it will ever be completed. Visit facebook.com/theresalwaysnextseason to keep track of the guys’ last fight for recognition.