Snowboard co-hosts the sixth annual Beating Film Fest in Silverton, Colorado
We set off Friday afternoon eagerly anticipating the 385 miles of open road that lay ahead of us. This was no ordinary road trip: We were headed straight into the heart of the old country. The idea of a swanky 4-star hotel, outdoor hot tub, high speed quads and warm chocolate chip cookies were all thrown out the window. We were headed to Silverton, Colorado.
Having never been there before I had no idea what a weekend at Silverton would actually entail. Never-the-less, we packed up the rental car, a new Chrysler Town & Country caravan, with our gear, computers and iPads and a cooler full of Red Bull and PBR. It was officially on!
I know what you're thinking: "Town and Country caravan? What's that all about." But it was one of the greatest road trip rentals we have ever used. From the spacious interior that stored all our gear to electronics that kept the music flowing and an automatic door setup that made us never left a finger, it was the classiest part of our entire trip. Not to mention the looks we got as four dudes rolling past bunch of biddies.
Two fast food stops, some sightseeing breaks and seven hours later we arrived at our destination. A quick stop at Villa Dallavalle Bed & Breakfast to drop off our stuff and we quickly headed to a soundcheck at Grumpy's, a local watering hole, for Saturday's The Beating Film Festival. A quick stop in turned in to a few too many drinks. But who gave a shit? We certainly didn't. We'd made it to Silverton.
The Boy Band gets ready for life on the road
We had arrived at night, so the next day blew us first-timers away as we seemed to have been transported back into the mid 1800's. Original buildings from the minings days stood erect and local businesses swarmed the streets. There was no Walmart here, and that was the allure. You felt like you were off the beaten path of civilization as roughly 500 townspeople went about their daily lives as if the only the thing that would remind them that the rest of the world existed were the 747s flying above. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary if two cowboys rolled up on saddle, robbed the local bank and made it out with lead bullets flying. A duel was also not out of the question.
A short dirt road away was Silverton Mountain, a daunting 13,487 feet of expert terrain that had us all freaking out. It might not have been the best conditions when we arrived, but that didn't stop a group of die-hards from getting some insane turns in. The locals, pretty much everyone you see, tipped us off to head up to Billboard, located at the top of the mountain. We took the lone double chair to the top, and with our full avy gear strapped on we started the 1,187-foot hike to the summit. It seemed mellow enough until the end where you're required to pretty much crawl up a steep ice wall, rope in hand, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But the hour-plus hike was worth it. The view from the top was simply breathtaking. A full 360-degree panoramic view of the steep, majestic San Juan peaks extruded from the earth below as if Gaia, the greek goddess of earth, created them in rage.
After snapping a few necessary boy band shots (check out our instagram feed, SnowboardMag, and you'll understand), we headed down through the 50-plus degree slope known as the Pope Chute where we found some of the best snow of the trip. With the recent weather patterns taking a toll on Colorado's snowpack we weren't blessed with waist deep lines to slay, but that didn't stop us from charging, and Pope Chute was perfectly set up to attract some wind blown freshies. It was a successful first day to say the least which followed with an interesting hot tub session and a celebratory PBR, or two, before heading heading to Grumpy's Saloon & Restaurant situated in the Grand Imperial Hotel.
We chowed down on some much needed burgers and fried food as the locals began to arrive. Packing into the cozy screening area it seemed as though the entire town of Silverton showed up to watch the 12 finalists battle it out on the big screen. It may have been a small group of hardcore snowboarders and skiers but these people were stoked to be there. Many a drinks were poured and the crowd went crazy as free swag was raffled off from the sponsors to benefit the Silverton Mountain High School scholorship ski and snowboard program. The lights finally dimmed and it was showtime. The 12 films evoked a great response from the crowed from laughter to looks of horror as big lines were dropped and some bone chilling spills were had. Wild laughter poured out as Austin Wilson's How To Get Down The Mountain In Style faded to black. He would undoubtably take first place for his creativity and great sound execution employed in the making of the short film. Wilson earned himself a free heli drop at Silverton in addition to a new Contour HD camera. Contour cameras were also awarded to the makers of the videos that placed 2nd-5th.
Top Five Finalists:
1. Down the Mountain with Style by Austin Wilson
2. Stoke Embodied by Mike Alcott
3. Puppies! by Goodie Pocket Films
4. Just Keep Skiing – A Story of Perseverance by Evolutionary Antics
5. By Any Means by Alex Mueller
Once the films wrapped up we got down to business as the bartender's heavy hand continued the party throughout the night. But before long the days activities caught up to us and we headed back to the Villa Dallavalla for some much needed sleep. After all, heli skiing waited for us on what would be a glorious Sunday.
We arrived to a packed house in the Grand Imperial Hotel. Everyone was stoked to check out some amateur films vying for a grand prize of a free heli drop courtesy of Silverton Mountain and free Contour Cams for the top five finalists. The videos (watch all videos here) were great, mostly consisting of helmet cam footage of amateurs slaying some deep pow. The winning video on how to get down the mountain with proper steeze got everyone riled up. Free shwag from all the sponsors was raffled off as the proceeds went to SOLRC (an outdoor education non-profit).
We woke up early on Sunday, as the forecast called for four to seven inches dropping on Silverton. Much to our dismay, it did not. Most of the snow had fallen north of us. But we came here to get in the helicopter, and so get in the helicopter we did. With our guide, aka the Director of Gnar (actual job title), with us, we boarded the red Eurocopter. We took off through the trees and immediately rocked huge bank turn. My immediate thought, this dude can fly!
As we rounded the base of the mountain, the valley opened up and perfect blue bird skies backdropped the aggressive San Juan peaks. Alex explained to us that right below was where Shaun White's private half pipe took place. I couldn't even fathom what it must have looked like in real life. A half pipe just chilling in the middle of the backcountry, right were we would be taking our heli drop? Shit was unreal!
Alex Hunt looks on as the heli tears away after dropping us off at the landing zone above the Grand Couloir
We flew over our LZ, El Capitan put down another solid bank turn and we came in to the drop with ease and unloaded. The pilot banked an aggressive down turn through the valley that reminded me of those epic shots from Brain Farm's The Art of Flight.
As the chopper flew away, we began our descent down the Grand Couloir, one of the more popular backcountry drops at Silverton. The Grand was steep, wide, and provided some insane views as we charged down her. The snow pack wasn't so kind. But none-the-less we enjoyed it. How can you have a bad day with good friends, a helicopter, endless backcountry terrain and one of the coolest guides around?
The day had ended and many a high-fives were given. If you ever have the chance to take a trip to Silverton, I highly recommend taking some heli laps. Right now, heli drops are only $50 (check it out here). And besides, you only live once.