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Part Five

Jackson Hole Through the Eyes of Johnny Collinson

Story by Hadley Hammer

There’s a dual nature to the creature formally named John Collinson. Some may see a shirtless, motorcycle riding, Red Bull drinking blonde. Others, the technically gifted skier, and mountaineer. And gifted is an understatement. While you were taking the bus to the zoo for your childhood field trip, Johnny was climbing the seven summits. While most skiers fit into either a freestyle category, mastering tricks, and spins, or big mountain chargers, sending cliffs and mountains with nuclear speed, Johnny can and frequently does both. He survives off of chicken tenders and Coors Light, but will always be the first and fastest up the boot pack. You can’t put John into a box, and that’s what makes him so successful, but also wildly underrated.

So what’s it like filming with this elusive creature? Well, it could be described as the following... hate hucks, fat to flats, sketchy in-runs, sketchy out runs, sketchy jumps, banshee bungees, rooftops, roadside hits and of course chicken tenders. While it was technically my job as the Jackson Hole native to show Johnny around for the segment of this year’s TGR film, it was definitely me being shown how to do everything else besides navigating the lifts and terrain of my home hill.

I think the reason why Johnny is so good at everything lies within his duality. He isn’t afraid to try anything, or be anyone. So, subsequently, while filming, we tried everything. During the first storm cycle, we veered away from the Wyoming classic lines and powder lanes. We found new zones, even to me. Johnny found absurd tree hits and built even more absurd jumps. Areas I’ve looked at for my entire life all of a sudden became new. And while maybe 75% of the lines and airs attempted were a total failure in terms of takeoffs and four-point landings, they pushed our skiing (or at least made our abs stronger from the laughter that ensued after double ejections, bloody chins, and broken trees).

When most people–myself included–watch TGR films, I think it’s assumed that everyone is nailing every shot every time. Being relatively new to filming, I always felt the pressure to get the shot. Filming with Johnny, I quickly learned that the only way to get those truly great moments is to spend most of your day eating snow, your knee, and digging around for your lost GoPro, ski, or goggles.

One memorable day with Johnny occurred about a month into filming. It had snowed the entire month, restricting us to powder lanes and jumps. Finally, the sky cracked blue and we figured it might be time to leave the comfort of soft fluffy snow in search for some serious airtime. The Tramline was buzzing with excitement and you could tell it was going to be a sprint to get to any of the lines before the crowds. It’s always good to have Johnny on your side when trying to outrun eager locals. When the light switched from red to green, signaling the mountain’s opening, we sprinted to Fat Bastard.

It looked terrible (well at least more than normal). “What if we go warm up on the Kina Pickett line," I asked. "It’s only about 20 feet of air but similar style to fat." Johnny, eager to feel the wind flow through his golden locks, agreed and we veered our course. The Kina line, named after my old ski coach, ex-racer and TGR film star, follows a similar trajectory as Fat Bastard.

Being the “local," I took it first. My “local” knowledge failed me instantly as I forgot that despite the record snow year we were having, it was early and the classic lines may not have been as filled in as my memory would have suggested. I left the lip of the cliff, and as the tranny came into and quickly out of view, I thought, huh, this will be interesting.

Upon landing, I retrieved my skis and tried to find my dignity. I radioed up to Johnny. “Um so I think it’s maybe more than 20 feet, might be closer to 40." Johnny, claiming that everyone in Utah says everything in Utah is 40 feet, took my same speed and direction and nearly the same bomb hole. Unfazed, albeit a bit bloody. Johnny just laughed it off. 

I don’t think Johnny was purely ignoring my warnings. I’m pretty sure he simply doesn’t have any other speed other than full throttle and full curiosity. Crashes are not failures. Bodies recover with ice and Advil (and did I mention chicken tenders?). Filming a segment is just another chance to attempt a new way of skiing. Johnny doesn’t put himself in a box, why do you?

If you want a local’s tour of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, I suggest you seek out the blonde-locked younger Collinson. He might not know where he’s going exactly, but he sure as hell will show you the most creative way to get there, or at least where the best chicken tenders and Coors Light on tap is.

Photos by Mark Fischer

Watch the trailer