With high hopes of a storm and a picture perfect location, a crew from Matchstick Productions headed South.
South? That’s not the typical direction to head when the radar looks good, but the San Juan Mountains in Colorado have proven as more than worthy. The crew, consisting of Tanner Rainville, Sander Hadley, photographer Aaron Dodds, and myself as the cinematographer headed down to Silverton to greet the approaching storm. Waking up the first day to some winds and light snow, we joined a couple of locals on a snowmobile ride to the top of a classic Silverton couloir. The couloir skied well and kicked off our trip with high morale. As the day ended the wind and snow picked up; signs that tomorrow was going to be another great day. After a few Avery beers and a good night’s rest we woke up to about a foot of snow out our window. We went to sleep in Silverton and woke up in Powtown! We drove to the trailhead, unloaded the sleds, and for the next several hours played in the trees as skiers do. Tanner made every turn look deeper than the last while Sander stepped up to some big airs and soft landings. The trip had just begun and everything was looking good, but we didn’t come to the San Juans to be staying in a motel.
The real reason we made the journey to Silverton was to make our way up to the Bonnie Belle Cabin. This gem of a place sits at 12,000 ft and hoards a diverse amount of ski terrain. The only problem was that it had just snowed a considerable amount and the road to the cabin had been completely buried by some of Colorado’s largest avalanche paths, we called it ‘The Gauntlet.’ The fresh snow meant we had to wait another day to let the avy cycle run its course before continuing our four-mile snowmobile journey to the cabin. Once the coast was clear the crew made its move; strapping camera gear, food, clothes, and beer to our snow ponies we made our way through ‘The Gauntlet.’ We picked our way along as avalanche paths starting at 13,000 ft loomed above us, making us feel small in scale. After a few hours, and the casualty of one sled, we finally arrived at the Bonnie Belle Cabin.
We cleared snow and prepared ourselves a fire before enjoying the sunset. We woke up to another bluebird day, and made our way to some playful terrain in a neighboring valley. Rolling and featured, it was perfect terrain for Tanner and Sander to play around in. As noon approached we made our way to an old abandoned mine, a familiar scene in the San Juans. These mines are relics from a day when industry boomed, but now they were part of our playground. Using these buried buildings as jumps our crew spent a few hours jibbing around the old mining structures. Before we knew it the day was coming to an end as we headed back to the cabin, and capped the day with another beer on the deck.
Our last day was blue like the rest, and having previously seen some larger lines one ridge away we mounted the sleds again. Tanner and Sander were stoked and the trail broke fast. We snowmobiled to 13,000+ feet and there was a perfect spectators angle for Dodds and I to shoot from. Tanner and Sander hiked along the ridge and poked around cornices to find an entrance. Tanner dropped in first to a very smooth air and finished off with beautiful turns. Radio chatter confirmed what our eyes had seen as Tanner said, “Sander, that snow is really good and that chute goes!” A minute later Sander dropped into a beautiful San Juan chute, and came screaming out the bottom. The next lap they traversed farther down the ridge where the snow proved to be perfect as well. The third and final lap Tanner and Sander lined up a pair of chutes right next to each other. The gem of the whole zone, it was calling out to be skied. Tanner dropped making a few turns and straight lining out the bottom. Cheers sounded over the radio as Sander was itching to ski his line next. 3.2.1. Dropping. Sander ripped down his line spraying dream-like snow with every turn. The trip came to its close as we snowmobiled back out of ‘The Gauntlet’ and wondered if it was all a dream. The San Juans had delivered once more.
-Mikey Curran, Cinematographer