In February, we joined up with Markus Eder in his hometown of Luttach, Italy. We planned to shoot with Markus for a few days prior to his trip to Sochi, Russia, with Sean Jordan. Unfortunately, Markus scratched all of those plans by dislocating his shoulder before we even pulled the camera out of the pack.
With Markus sidelined and only one skier—Sean—left for the Russia trip, Russia was then scrapped and Sean and Bobby Brown made the trip to Italy. Markus’ home resort, Klausberg, had just been ravaged by wind, but fortunately they had an immaculate public park jump that Bobby described as one of the best public tables he’s ever hit. He sessioned the jump for a day with a couple of locals before Sean arrived. With a strictly urban focus, Sean hadn’t hit a jump all season but he took no time warming up and throwing down some solid and stylish tricks. The two guys then took on a wall ride below one of the chairlifts, leaving a whole lot of passing skiers more than confused. Klausberg isn’t exactly on anyone’s hit list as far as Euro resorts, so having a couple of high profile ski stars like Bobby Brown and Sean Jordan in their midst meant the boys spent a lot of time with Sharpies in the hands.
With the snow scoured and a storm set to hit the Northwestern Alps, we realized we were going to have to play storm chasers, and with Markus’ help we determined our next stop to be Gressoney and Monterosa-Ski. It should have been a fairly easy 6+ hour drive, but to make a long story really short, the green gas handle in Europe is regular gas-not diesel—and yada yada yada, it took us a couple of days.
Ski resort-hopping in Europe is not so easy in February as it seems everyone is on holiday, leaving few vacancies in mountain village hotels. This means moving in, sleeping, waking up and packing your gear back into the van with no idea where you’ll be staying that night. But when the payoff is powder, it’s a whole lot easier to deal with. And Monterosa-Ski had plenty of it. Three feet of new. Being the tourists that we were, after Bobby received a pro call out in the parking lot, we asked the guy where to go, and he offered up some advice of some featured natural terrain. We soon found ourselves spending the day sessioning some little hits under gray skies.
The following day was bluebird and it was time to play. We traversed off of Monterosa-Ski’s one groomer and found several rocks to play on not far from the piste. With each setup, a crowd would gather and cheer on the boys as they threw cork 3s, switch 5s, rodeo 7s and switch 9s, much to the crowd’s delight. It was obvious we weren’t the only ones to clue in where it was going to be good, because foreign film crews—ski and snowboard—were scattered all over the mountain. We ran into good friends in the Nimbus crew, chatted for a while and then parted ways (on the following gondola ride, Bobby and Sean where giddy fans themselves: “Dude, that was Eric Pollard! He’s a legend. And Chris Benchetler. They’re both legends!”).
With the LA Ski and Style on his docket, Bobby had to leave Europe early, and we remained with Sean and turned our focus to shooting some urban. A member of Stept, Sean Jordan is one of the best street skiers out there, but unfortunately Euros over the ages didn’t build structures and rails with him in mind, and finding quality features proved a lot more difficult than expected. Rails were either wood or built in sections with knobs, totally blowing it for anyone who wanted to slide them. And the proper walls in these steep mountain valleys just weren’t available. But when you drive enough and search enough, something will come along.
We finally located a few rail features, one along the primary road up to Alagna and right below a colorful and historic church. Sean was hesitant to hit up the feature out of respect, but when the first local came out of his house only 50 feet away to see what was going on, disappeared and then rolled up with 5 oversized beers for us, we knew we were good to go. After the sun prematurely hid behind the opposite peak of the valley at 3 pm, we went inside, shared stories and reluctantly had to decline his offer for dinner because we were going to be on the hunt for housing yet again. And so it went.
With a storm inbound and a rear-wheel drive van that had already proven its futility in the snow (let’s just say the abbreviated story involves sliding backwards, ripping the front bumper off, a punctured tire, chains, digging, blocking a road, pushing the van up a hill and even pushing it to keep it centered going down a hill), we decided to pull a skier’s sin and vacate the mountains while it was dumping and retreat to the waters of the sunny Mediterranean for 24 hours. And the moment we arrived seaside in the village of Santa Margherrita, we were caught up in a carnival parade and the van was promptly destroyed by a blue dog carrying a massive bag full of confetti.
It was a fitting end to a hectic two weeks in Northern Italy. But that’s how memories are made.
Pictures by Liam Doran