Colorado-based Colter Hinchliffe is never one to ignore big storm totals. After all, he has based his career on chasing large numbers on maps, whether it’s big peaks or even bigger snowfall. This season, Colter didn’t have to go too far, linking up with his partner in crime Tim Durtschi and longtime friend Todd Ligare to explore the nooks and crannies around Jackson Hole. He spent the better part of February – which happened to be the deepest ever on record in the Tetons – base camped in the area to ensure that no snowflake was left untouched. While in Jackson, he laid down his trademark style that’s a combo of highly aggressive yet intimately precise skiing through high-consequence lines. Oh, and he knows how toss a mean double off a backcountry booter too.
After the Jackson segment was in the can, he turned his efforts to skiing in Europe, and then focusing on his late-season love of skiing and rock climbing across the American West. He teamed up with Durtschi again for some late-season lines in Moab and the High Sierra for TGR’s Rise of Red project. Whether it was ripping laps on Big Red, blasting sled laps deep in the backcountry, or hiking classic lines just beyond the gates, Colter found his own version of Nirvana this year.
Colter doing Colter things in Jackson Hole. TGR photo.
Can you give us a rundown of how last season went down for you?
Yeah man, it started off pretty all-time in Colorado, where we got one of the best early seasons that I can remember. I live in Aspen, and we saw big totals early on which meant that my homies and I could start touring early season to get our legs back underneath us. The community there is so awesome, I know the place tends to get a certain kind of rep, but the people I get to ski with on any given day are down to earth and definitely some of my best friends. Right now, I’m actually on my way to Mexico and it’s dumping again in Colorado, so I’m a little jealous that they all get to ski already.
Anyway, I made it out to Japan to ski some Japow – or Japanuary, or whatever the kids call it these days. That place is always a trip, and we got lucky with snow again. After Japan it was time for me to meet up with the TGR crew in Jackson, which is definitely one of my favorite places in the world to ski.
This past February was the deepest one ever recorded in Jackson, what did it feel like to film a segment during that time?
I kind of came in on the tail end of that big storm cycle, so I didn’t have to play as much of the waiting as game as Tim and Ligare, which was pretty lucky. I got out there and started skiing big lines pretty much right away. We spent a lot of time in the North Shore zone outside of the resort boundary. On one of our first days, I got to ski one of the best runs of my life, really. It was this little spine transfer that turned out to be a lot rowdier and bigger than I originally thought.
That line was insane, was it an accident that you had to jump from spine to spine, or was that planned?
Definitely not planned! Day 1, I pulled into Jackson at 7am and hopped on early tram to join up with the crew who had been scouting the zone already. When I came into the line, I looked over the roll and realized holy shit, I’m going to have to transfer spines halfway down. The lower one was really narrow, but it all worked out really well. You can check the POV out in the film.
The JHMR backcountry is the place to be, as Colter find out this past February. TGR photo.
It’s quite something to have your first line check all the boxes, how did you keep it up after that?
When your filming a segment for a ski film, you really need both good snow and sunny skies, so after that we spent a few days waiting for it to go blue again. I only had 12 days total scheduled in Jackson before I had to head to Europe, so it was kind of a time crunch. It definitely wasn’t a bad thing because I think it forced us to focus a little harder on getting good shots for the film. The other plus side was that all the down days when we couldn’t film were full of skiing deep pow with Todd and Tim on the backside of Jackson.
Can you tell us more about skiing with Todd and Tim?
Todd and I have been friends for quite a while, and Tim and I go way back. I’ve skied with Todd a bunch at Alta and on trips up in Canada. It’s always made for a really fun and good dynamic. When it’s the three of us, Todd and I are always trying to keep the train on the tracks while Tim is the one trying to yank it off, so that’s always a lot of fun especially since you don’t always want the train to be on the tracks. On trips like this, we all ski pretty similarly, but just different enough so we’re not all just stomping on each other’s lines. Skiing with those dudes was a highlight of my winter for sure.
Colter enjoyed the fact that Winterland felt like a bit of a throwback to shred flicks of the past. Nic Alegre photo.
What’s your favorite thing about skiing in Jackson?
I think the biggest thing is just how massive the place is. I’ve skied in Jackson for many years, but every time I come back I always find something new. This year, almost all the lines we filmed were new to me, even though they’re not far from the resort – stuff like lines in Rock Springs or on the North Shore. The stuff we sledded out to was also new, and man do I love snowmobile-based skiing, it’s the best.
Overall, the terrain we were getting into totally gelled with my style. I love skiing big lines as much as throwing some tricks and patting down some takeoffs on cliffs. We were seeking out that kind of terrain mixed in with some serious big lines.
This year’s film was a bit of a throwback to the pure shred flicks of years past. You’ve been part of TGR for about a decade now, what did it mean to go back to a more old-school style of film?
Yeah I think it must be at least seven or eight films now, with a few years off in between for various reasons, and I’ve always been stoked to feel so much a part of the TGR family. I’ve definitely seen an evolution in the films over the years, and have always loved working together because of the fact that TGR are such great storytellers and always want to keep it fresh. It was cool that this year in order to keep it fresh and different, we went back to a more old-school vibe. The story thing got a little worn out over the years, and it worked for a really long time, so it was sick to see something more retro this year. In particular, my segment had a really old-school NOFX track which definitely kept it retro and I really enjoyed the film overall. It’s got a bit of poetry holding the segments together, but the meat is in the really good action, which is definitely what we’re all going to ski movie premieres for.
In terms of the gear you were skiing on this year, we saw you all over on Völkl’s new Revolt 121 ski. Can you tell us about the development of those and how they perform?
I got to go to Argentina with Völkl last September to test the final prototypes of the ski and had some input on the final version, and I couldn’t be happier with the final product. The Revolt 121 is Völkl’s new big-mountain and powder freestyle ski, that has everything a skier like me could be looking for, like a nice and light snappy construction with camber underfoot, lots of rocker tip and tail, a reall cool shape, and pretty colors on the top sheet! I was definitely having more fun on that ski this winter than anything I have skied in years past.
The other thing that changed for me this year was finally having a touring boot that I trusted as an everyday ski boot, whether it was inbounds or out of bounds. I skied the Dalbello Lupo with a Marker Kingpin binding every day filming last year. Both Tim and I actually skied in our touring setups for the whole time, which is definitely not something we’ve done in the past. Whether we were inbounds or out of bounds, it really just freed us up to take another lap. If we crashed or just wanted a second go at something, we’d just pop our skins on and go back up to try it again. It’s awesome being really efficient in the mountains, and the available touring gear over the past few years has been a game changer.
After Winterland, you and Tim reunited for a second film trip, driving a red Ford Ranger through the desert chasing climbing and skiing. How did that all come together?
Honestly, TGR hit me up in late April, asking if I would want to do a trip in this Ford truck the following month, and I was a little hesitant after a long winter. I was kind of excited just to do my own thing for May, and I told them that I wanted to kind of hang in the desert and go ski some lines in the Sierra. Turns out that’s exactly what the Ford project was looking for, so it worked out really well. We got to drive around in a brand-new truck for a few weeks and hit some classic climbing spots in Utah and California, as well as get some really spicy skiing in along the way. It was nice that we kind of got to on the same exact road trip that I was already planning on going on anyway, and that TGR forced one of my best friends to go along with me. Along the way, we got to do some really cool things. I had never been skydiving before, we climbed in some new spots for me, and skied some super intense objectives in the Sierra.