Landing in BC to film Elyse Saugstad, Dash Longe and Nick McNutt pop pillow after pillow for a week is rad. But landing in the rain: not so
Hell no. These are no fools
I could tell you it went blue the moment Elyse,
For the first few days, the crew and their camera saw naught but shades of gray. Having spent a couple months in BC before, Elyse was all too familiar with the province’s monochromatic coloring, but, like all good skiers, she was watching the forecast, and blue was on the horizon.
While they waited for it to pop, the threesome scouted lines via snowmobile. They needed to be prepared for when the skies cleared. Who knew how long they’d have. 15 minutes? An hour? A whole day? Their window could be intimidatingly short. Plus, no pressure or anything, but wasting shots isn’t really an option when you’re filming via
Chatter Creek’s a cat-skiing operation known for its pillows. But Elyse,
Vertebrae Ridge, so-named in 1916 because it’s a bumpy ridge resembling vertebrae, had been skied previously, but only by a handful of professionals. We’re talking the likes of Cody Townsend, Sean
Even though the threesome had started their end-of-day ritual of taking off their gear to dry it out in the lodge’s forced air-drying system, followed by indulging in Chatter’s unforgettable après with the rest of the guests, they jumped back on their snowmobiles to get a better look at the ridge. Vis was still sub-par, but they felt good energy. Six thumbs pointed up, and the decision was made: when it popped blue, they were going to ski one helluva no-mistakes zone.
“If you crash, you’re gonna get funneled into some kind of rock,” Elyse says, “I was totally puckered when the skies cleared and what I was about to ski sank in." Elyse doesn’t sugarcoat her experience on Vertebrae. Not only did her line have super high consequences, the drop-in was a hanging snowfield loaded with deep, fresh snow. It was steep and rocky, and while she’s no stranger to either variable, this ridge was different. If she effed up here, she was going to be in serious trouble.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have sweat pooling in your pits about now. I try to picture myself in Elyse’s
Elyse recounts, “A few days previous during the heavy snowstorms, we could hear huge avalanches on nearby peaks, but it was so socked-in we couldn’t see them.” I’m afraid to ask how big they were, but I can’t help myself. “About class 3,” Elyse says, “It was spooky.” Class 3 avalanches can bury cars and destroy small buildings, and most definitely kill humans.
Snow stability was for sure an issue, and the crew had to tread lightly. But that’s another reason they opted for Vertebrae: it’s so steep it naturally flushes itself out, making it safer to ski.
Nick was the first to go when it went blue. Elyse and Dash were ready for action if the snow pulled, but it didn’t. The terrain is so vertical they couldn’t see Nick until he reached the runout. When they saw him come cruising out the bottom, they knew it was game on.
Of her response to Nick’s line, Elyse says her thoughts were just, “Oh man, it’s my turn now.” She’s the cream of the crop, but she doesn’t deny she still gets nervous. She’s human, after all.
Elyse recounts standing at the drop-in, feeling the blood
Elyse says, “It was so steep, I was just fighting to get over to the line I wanted.” The first few turns were the hardest, but she found her groove once she got in the air. Air is her jam, and, ironically, hitting it made her feel grounded.
Like Dash and Nick, Elyse sent Vertebrae flawlessly. I ask how she felt when she hit the flats. Her response: “Elated, and then I had that moment of, ‘Oh wait, I have to do it again.’”
Elyse says her experience in Chatter was unforgettable. The group nailed something rarely attempted, and nobody once questioned her choice in line. The crew’s confidence in her was apparent and she didn’t walk away with any crap. What she did walk away with: quality bonding, and one rad Rogue Elements segment.
Photos by Grant Gunderson