First Winter Back
This will be my first full winter back in Telluride since my freshman year of high school six years ago. For someone who spent his childhood on the ski area, that’s pretty crazy to think about.
As I think is true for most people who have lived and grown up in Telluride, skiing has defined who I am, and the Bump Club lies at the heart of that. The decision to leave Telluride and competitive bump skiing was the most difficult and defining choice of my life.
My last full winter in Telluride, I decided that either I’d finally hit my breakthrough, and gain some ground on the unsurpassable Jimmy Discoe, or I’d go to boarding school. It was by far the most frustrating winter I’ve ever spent on skis. My priorities were off; I was no longer skiing for the love of skiing and it was time to move on.
So I left for Exeter. I went from skiing six days a week, to six days a year. Coming home for Christmas and Spring break, it was a struggle to force myself up onto the mountain. I didn’t know how to free ski. I tried to ski the same lines that I spent my childhood training and got frustrated when I couldn’t hang in them. I insisted on keeping my 180cm Volkl Dragonslayer competition mogul skis (66mm underfoot), even though my feet would ache unbearably after three runs. I occasionally saw my former teammates and coaches ripping through the Mammoth gully, embarrassed at my own regression and wowed by their improvement.
But it came with time. In ’07-’08 I moved on to NYU, I moved on to a pair of Volkl Mantras (96mm underfoot), and with both of those things came a fresh perspective on skiing. It didn’t hurt that we got pounded with snow throughout the month I was home for Christmas break that year. There’s nothing quite like the healing power of powder.
That also happened to be the year that I decided I wanted to make a documentary. And there are many layers to that. Probably above all others, I realized that I wanted to have another full winter at home to ski. Initially, my plan was just to make a traditional ski porn movie with my friends.
But I thought more and more about my time with the Bump Club. I realized that more than shaping me as a skier, the Bump Club shaped me into the person I am today. I thought again about my former teammates and coaches. We’ve all gone in different directions. The Discoe brothers have moved on to the U.S. Team and are breaking in to the World Cup circuit. Wade Parkinson has managed to stick with competing while studying engineering at CU-Boulder. Gus Kenworthy moved out of the bumps and is now traveling around the world competing in slopestyle and halfpipe events, and shooting segments in some major ski movies for Rage Films (or at least he will be again once that collar bone heals up). Lane Stoltzner started studying at Colorado College this year, and is now competing with the Steamboat team. Lindsey Cannon has stuck it out in Telluride, and is still competing this winter. Page McCargo has put her ski career on hold as she wraps up her studies at Colorado College.
Then there’s Jesse Hope and me. We both gave up competing in high school, but the Bump Club has stayed with us, and now we’re all reconnecting again through this film project. At the most base level, our common link is the Bump Club.
And now there’s a new generation. Zak Watkins moved to Telluride from Durango five years ago, and has emerged as one of the top skiers in the Rocky Mountain division. Keaton McCargo, Page’s younger sister, is breaking out this year as one of the best skiers in Rocky Mountain on the women’s side, earning her first overall victory this past weekend in Breckenridge. Along with Nicki Jones, Ryan Parkinson (Wade’s younger brother), Bridger Johnson, Benni Solomon, Zach Nunn, and Kealey Zaumseil, there looks to be a strong core of Telluride freestylers for the years ahead.
Telluride has produced several generations now of elite freestyle skiers. From Will Wasson and Hugh and Andy Sawyer pioneering the unique cross-trough, Telluride brand of skiing, to Caleb Martin, Harold Ehnbom and Justine Van Houte, all of whom competed on the World Cup circuit and narrowly missed making the Olympics. And now the torch has been passed to our generation. The Discoes are making their mark on the World Cup circuit as some of the youngest male skiers competing, and with some of the prettiest turns. Zak, Wade, Lane and Lindsey are all competing on the North American Cup (NorAm) circuit this winter, with hopes of earning U.S. Team spots for next year.
And Jesse and I are hoping to make a new kind of ski documentary, by exploring the role of the Bump Club in shaping generations of elite skiers. While most ski movies search out pristine powder pockets in the backcountry, we’re shooting most of our footage right on the ski area. This is bigger than the Bump Club; it’s about this mountain and community. We’ll do our best to post regular blogs and videos documenting the progress of the documentary, and we would love feedback from anyone and everyone.