All photography by Erik Hoffman
If you’ve ever snowboarded upon or visited, Mount Baker, Washington, you know of the distinctive smell of the many pine trees, the thick moisture in the air that covers you like a blanket, and the massive amount of heavy snow that this glaciated stratovolcano receives. Nestled in the northern west corner of the U.S., this mountain challenges any snowboarder that dares to descend upon it.
Not surprisingly, the 686 Team is always up for that challenge. With 686 Team Manager, AKA “secret weapon”, Patrick McCarthy leading the way, Matt Belzile, Forest Bailey, Phil Jaques, Mary Rand, and Matt Wainhouse set off to the third highest summit in Washington to shoot for 686’s new movie, “Rabbit Hole”.
When you get a crew like that together at such a legendary location, of course explorative adventures, captivating stories, and progressive snowboarding is going to be the outcome. To learn a bit more, we spoke with Phil Jacques and Matt Belzile to find out what made the trip what it was.
The good vibe.
The crew showed up to Pat’s cabin late in the season toward the end of March with typical Baker conditions; rain, snow, and a bit of uncertainty. On this mountain, the conditions can change from hour to hour, and so, the diverse team of new and old friends intermingled their time between Baker’s famous road gap, the cat track gap, Granny’s Ridge, Mt. Baker Ski Area, features they could find in Pat’s backyard, waterfall hikes, playing UNO, devouring Pat’s delicious home cooked meals, hot tubbing, and drinking games. Not bad.
Secret weapon's out.
When asked how they dealt with the the harsh conditions Baker’s atmosphere is known for putting onto those who descend there, they all tip their hats to Pat.
“Pat is so knowledgeable out there. It’s been his playground forever. He definitely knows where to build the jumps, how to build them, and a good time to hit them. We were able to ride the resort the whole day and by the end, he’d be like, ‘What do you guys think about building the cat track gap, because it looks like it’s going to snow tonight, and then we could hit it tomorrow in the morning?’ So by the end of one day, we’d build the cat track gap, and then by the end of another day we’d build the road gap…There’s probably only one day that we hit the cat track cap that we got a decent amount of sun and blue sky.” — Phil Jacques
Super hero suits.
The crew agrees, that although the snow was abundant, it was a bit sticky and wet, and the conditions overall were a bit of a challenge. But when they had a window of opportunity, they took it. Luckily, 686’s GLCR outerwear collection with GORE-TEX® and infiDRY 20K fabrics came in useful for the whole team as a sort of kryptonyte to Baker’s extremely wet and varying conditions.
“I was wearing the 686 Men’s GLCR GORE-TEX® SMARTY® 3-In-1 Jacket and GT Pants pretty much the whole time. It’s GORE-TEX®. So great for that rainy weather we had … I was pretty much dry the whole time. That’s the kit that I rode the most.” — Phil Jacques
“I ride the GLCR SMARTY Weapon Jacket and Pant, which are both GORE-TEX®. Being at Mt. Baker especially, it can be so wet, and the weather can change so quickly. Just to have a jacket that will keep you warm, and dry, in any elements… Not just warm, but also cool when the weather does get hot, and you need a breathable jacket. I feel like having that GORE-TEX® really does it all, even if it’s just the shell because you can layer it accordingly.” — Matt Belzile
Meat. It’s what’s for dinner.
When they were off the mountain and hanging up their 686 gear to dry, the riders couldn’t stop raving about how delicious Pat’s meat-filled dinners were, providing them will necessary energy for hours of jump building and filming.
“Pat just loves cooking meat and there was just an array of meats. There were steaks, tenderloins. Anything that had to do with meat, Pat was hooking it up. We had the energy.” — Matt Belzile
Sounds like some solid team dinners to us.
Gap to victory.
Although delicious dining fit for carnivorous cave-people gave the 686 Team the necessary stamina, mustering up the courage to boost out of the sky over the Mt. Baker highway, WA-542, is another thing.
“Every time I’ve been to Baker, I never got to hit it before … I’m really hyped we were able to hit it. It wasn’t perfect, but still. That’s the highlight. Hitting it and getting a good photo out of it.” — Phil Jacques
For those of us who aren’t pro (yet), can you imagine driving to the mountain, hands on your steering wheel, probably singing your favorite tune and admiring the surrounding snow, and all of the sudden, you seeing a human gracefully spin above you out of the sky with a board attached to his feet? In your head, you’re like what the fuck? Then you wish it were you, and you wonder what’s going through the dare-devil of a snowboarder’s head who just slingshotted out of the sky.
“I get so nervous hitting backcountry jumps, it’s insane. I go through a little phase, questioning myself like, ‘Am I going to totally blow it and fall right on the lip and die on the road gap?’ The chances of that happening are so small. I still think about it … I guess I get really really nervous and then hit it for the first time. Then I’m like, ‘Oh, right, I can do that.’” — Phil Jacques
The difference between Phil Jacques and us is that last bit. Well, most of us. And for Matt, his success story lies on the cat track gap that they sessioned on.
“I think the session on the cat gap was my favorite because we just had three riders on it, and we had built it the day before, so we could just show up and start hitting it. We each got more than one shot on it. Was just a great session, and everyone was super psyched.” — Matt Belzile
What else happened?
“Both Matts killed it and kind of stand out in my eyes. Belzile on the cat gap probably did like seven tricks. Insane. Then, Wainhouse was the champion of finding small stuff in the trees or stuff to do while it’s snowing. He did so many cool pillows and cool poppers that no one saw, no one thought were doable. He was just like, ‘Yeah I’m boosting it.’ It was really cool to see.” — Phil Jacques
Lucky for you, you can also see it in 686’s new movie, “Rabbit Hole”, and now you’ll have more context around what else went into the making of the film.
If that doesn’t make you want to book a trip to Baker, grab some 686 gear that can handle it, and cook up a fat steak, then we don’t know what does. Just watch out for Matt and Phil spinning in the skies above you on the drive in.