I have to admit I was a little nervous about bringing everyone out to the cabin. I had only been in the mountains behind the cabin once before, and I knew there was more than the very small part of the area I had seen. With Treadway breaking trail my job was easy, I could point him in the right direction, and he would find a way to make it work. We put a few sleds into tree wells, let out some swear words, and exuded a fair bit of sweat, but we made it to our intended zone. I realized I had nothing to be nervous about anymore. We had found the good stuff, and it was all ours. No opposing crews, no race to the trailhead, just us.
Every corner we went around or valley we dropped into unveiled more surprising terrain. Cliffs, pillows, rocks and more, much of it accessible by ghost riding. A ghost ride means you take your skis off your snowmobile, then push your sled away and let it go down the hill on its own until the pitch flattens out. You can just ski your line, and your sled is patiently waiting at the bottom of your descent. We did have to take turns moving each other’s sleds so that a riderless sled didn’t smash into the other sleds at the bottom.
On a sunny morning we found a particular area that turned out to be one of the more productive spots I’ve ever had the chance to shoot in. Riley and Treadway made it to the area first, so when the rest of us arrived, they were almost to the top of their lines. But it didn’t take long for the rest of us to get set up since these lines required no hiking and minimal doubling on the snowmobiles. I don’t think any of us had to wait for more than about 30 seconds while we skied that face for the entire morning.
After a lunch break, we talked about a line we had all seen earlier. Everyone wanted to ski it—a common problem when filming. Because the late-day light was not quite right for filming, we decided to settle who would ski the line over a poker game that night. In addition to first dibs at the line, the pot was sweetened with a cherry bomb, ammo and some whiskey. Riley won the poker match and some added pressure since we all let him know that he had to do something good on the coveted line. Maybe that extra weight got to him or perhaps it was the conditions because after spinning the cliff perfectly, he came around to discover the snow was not as soft as it had been the day before and he wasn’t able to hold on. After a little heckling from all of us, Riley was able to rebate it and stomp his trick with no problems.
Poker wasn’t the only activity that filled our downtime. One popular pastime was target practice, which took many forms, including flaming bottles, skeet, skis, burgers and gas cans. Unfortunately, Treadway had caught a ski on a tree while sledding, and the ski had broken. He decided to make the best of the situation, so when we got back to the cabin, he planted the ski in the sand and shot it with a 30-06 rifle. Using his sled handlebars as a bipod, we all took a few shots. Then the 12-gauge came out and really did the damage at close range. It was the responsible, humane thing to do at that point.