I am living proof that anyone can have a stroke of luck at least once in their life.
When I was told I’d be attending the ISPO tradeshow in Munich this past February, I booked my ticket with a few extra days on the end of the trip so I could shred. I didn’t have a plan, I just knew I needed to finally ride in Europe. I had no idea what a great move this would be at the time.
I arrived on the first day of the tradeshow in Munich, and almost instantly heard the rumors of the massive amounts of snow the Austrian mountains were getting. After getting reacquainted with Brian Wolfe, and hearing about his latest project, Backyard Austria, I knew I had to make my moves in that direction. So with 3 days of high fives, too many of the same conversations, and even more beers, myself and Paul Maravetz (Rome co-founder and board engineer) made our way to Innsbruck, with plans to ride Ischgl the following day.
As the clouds broke on Wednesday morning on our way to the mountain, I was in awe of the size and scale of the mountains. And it had snowed. A lot. With a few of Paul’s old friends as tour guide, they treated us to steep, long runs with unreal deep snow – pretty much all of it located directly off the groomed runs. I had never experienced anything like this in my life, and I’ve never been happier. The highlight for me was ripping turns through the avalanche fences, directly below one of the gondolas. That, and the fact that we actually rode to Switzerland on one run. That was pretty cool.
Thursday was an off day, but that night, Mike Waldert (Rome’s operations manager) and I made our way through some sketchy mountain passes on our way to the hills above Hippach, and finally arrived at Backyard Austria. We were greeted by an Austrian with wild hair, two black eyes and a scar across the bridge of his nose. This was Jurgen, one of the 2 co-owners of the Backyard. Seems like he had gotten a bit loose in the puking snow the day before, and in the low visibility he took a small cliff band to the flat of a cat track. His wounds were a sharp reminder to keep my head in the game when we finally got out in the mountains. We were welcomed with open arms, some beers and local-made schnapps, and immediately felt like we were at home.
Friday greeted us with an epic sunrise while we ate some “power breakfast” (a Backyard original composed of sautéed apples and granola), local meats and cheeses as well as Gustav’s amazing homemade bread. Shovels packed and beacons on, our crew loaded up the gondola in town, and it transported us into another world. Steep runs with pockets of trees and wide open pow fields all funneled into this high alpine base area. As we rode the next 8-person chair up, an AK style face presented itself in the distance. This face, I would learn, is fully accessible by the nearby 150-person tram. Stoke and intimidation was both at an all time high. We spent the day ripping open pow fields and wide open trees. My legs were jelly at the end of the day, and I loved it.
Knowing that the 12Months crew was arriving on my intended departure day, I relayed my luck; along with some details of the snow pack and terrain back to the home office. After some convincing, I was granted another week in paradise to ride and shoot photos with the crew. See what I was saying about luck?
The following days were amazing. It wasn’t very hard to find untracked fields of pow directly under some of the lifts. I rode the deepest and lightest snow of my life directly under the tram, on a perfectly bluebird day with the Rome Europe crew, Mike Waldert and Jordan Phillips. Jordan even came up with a shot on a nice natural pat down in the same zone. We spent three shit weather days building two massive jumps in a zone that funneled into one of the best gully runs ever. I watched Thomas Delfino crush one of the kickers we built, laughed my ass off at just about everything Len Jorgensen said, and was able to capture Bjorn’s timeless style, both in slash and method form.
I was pretty sad to finally leave the Backyard. I knew what the crew had lined up for the next week and wanted to stay and shoot it so bad, but I’d pushed my luck enough, and needed to get back on the board graphic grind. As I left the beautiful Mayrhofen valley on the way to the airport, that grin I developed over a week earlier was still plastered on my face. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have hit this place with such good snow and met such great new friends, but what I could believe was that I would be back again next year. Grinning from ear to ear.