Intersection 2011 and Learning How to Ski
Our Token Englishman, Callum Jelley wrote this fine piece about his experience during the 2011 Intersection filmmaking competition… and about learning how to ski. Join us on April 18th at the screening of this years films! Get tickets here.
There I stood at the very peak of Blackcomb whilst clouds swirled around me like thick choking smoke from a wood fire, and listened to my friend, housemate and revered Blackcomb local Matty Richard tell me the grave tale of the ice axes that lie embedded in the millennia old rock.
I’d only been on skis for the total sum of eight days. Some would call this irresponsible but we had a film to make and seven days to make it in, so it was not the time for being responsible.
I was not born in the mountains; I have no tales of skiing before I could walk. Sure there were mountains in my life but always in their summer dress for a couple of weeks of the year camping with my family in France or Italy. In fact I didn’t set foot on the fabled two planks until I was 12 and even then it was only for a week. Being taught partly by my dad and partly an Italian-speaking ski school teacher whose only words were “Vi, Vi, Vi”, loosely translated into “Go, Go, Go”. Following this inaugural experience was a couple of weeks separated by a couple of years. Not quite long enough to hone the craft, that and I’d only ever skied groomers.
So why, as March draws to an end, am I getting on skis for the first time in six years? Long story short, I spent the entire winter recovering from shoulder surgery while I watched with a feigned smile as my housemates, Matty Richard and Mikey Nixon, bounce out the door into the unrelenting snow every morning like puppies on uppers. After almost four months of this and two near mental breakdowns, it was go time. Physio said so.
Matty and Mikey wasted no time; I was thrown a collection of old outerwear, some ski boots and skis and told to get a move on. Drifting in three directions at once we arrived in Lot 8. The Red Leader, an affectionate name given to Mikey’s old red 1990 Honda Civic, purred like an angry lion with a cold as Matty, in hot pursuit in his big old Volvo, exploded a flurry of pebbles as he roared to a standstill beside us.
I suddenly noticed faces I’d happily drunk with at our house but now they were clad in their mountain attire. I already felt out of my depth; the last time I’d skied was six years ago. In a chaos of skis and snowboards we departed and before I knew it I was boarding Blackcomb’s Glacier Chair. The following runs and days blur into some of the best memories I possess.
I struggled to process rapid fire instructions from Matty, as he took off at speed toward the nearest area of untracked snow, to just charge like I was on my downhill bike. These were balanced out by Mikey’s patient and well-articulated descriptions of where I was, what was below me and the best way to manage it all. A chap couldn’t have had a better pair of mountain mentors.
Matty skis with such charge and vigour, it’s as if he’s skiing for his life at all times. With an effortless style that he also adopts on his Chromag hardtail in the summer, he’s by far my favourite skier to watch and the one I most try and emulate. It’s almost impossible to keep up with him which is probably why I learned so fast because if I didn’t keep up that would be it, lesson over, and I wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day.
Matty Richard can be a tricky chap to follow round the mountain
Mikey, on the other hand, radiates a calm that resonates in his style on a snowboard but somehow is equally rampant on his assault of the hill. He taught me everything I now know about Blackcomb and his confidence in my abilities and patience were the reasons I progressed as I did.
There is no petty bullshit between Matty, skier and Mikey, snowboarder. Nor is there any between their larger group of Blackcomb loyalists. The only mandate is to keep up.
So when I got the call from Darren Rayner of Voleurz fame saying we were in a seven day film competition over Telus Festival, I felt ready; I knew the people I wanted to work with, I had areas in mind and felt that although I’d only had a handful of days on skis, my intense apprenticeship under Mikey, Matty and the wider Glacier Chair family would hold me in good stead…
“Cat Skiing”: 2011 Intersection entry