There was no rabbit in sight, only a forest of frosted trees floating in a sea of untouched white. No paw prints in the snow or sight of the tweed coat clad hare, instead a rarely traveled path split the forest and led into the mountains, and that’s where it all began.
Boosting a large road gap. Erik Hoffman photo.
“A couple years ago I went exploring the eastern side of the Cascades,” claims 686 Team Manager Pat McCarthy. This initial journey convinced Pat to gather the team and survey a new range to ride. He enlisted riders Sammy Luebke, Matt Wainhouse, Parker White, Mary Rand and Frankie Devlin. “The movie all stemmed from trying to find somewhere unique, a place not too many people had gone to yet,” says McCarthy. The film begins with this trip, letting the riders, riding and narration set the tone. Amongst a beautiful backdrop of crumbly peaks and rust hued rock and the crew crushes powder, pillows and pow surf laps. “The zone was eye-opening and reminded me of some European peaks right here in Washington,” remembers Sammy. “It’s always nice to get away from the crowds and the travel schedule and just get back to what makes snowboarding so much fun,” he continues.
Scoping the drop. 686 photo.
The excursion reinforces the idea that if you dig deep enough there are still yet-to-be-ridden places across the west and this is simply one of them. “We’d park the sleds as a group, put skins or snowshoes on and just charge up the mountain to see what was behind each ridge,” McCarthy recalls. Whether over the ridge or simply off the road, the team made the most of fresh snow in a far removed place. “There is more fear of the unknown so it was a bit more exhilarating or nerve-wracking or exciting or a combination of those,” says Wainhouse. For newcomers like Parker White and Mary Rand the trip was a melding of the minds and styles. Parker, the sole skier and well versed powder hound, fell right into place with the snowmobile driven mission and dissected lines left and right. Mary, relatively new to the Northwest and backcountry scene offered this insight from the trip, “Riding is always an escape from the mundane tribulations of reality, but being out deep in the mountains really gives you the feeling that you are far from the rest of society and all that goes along with it.”
Cheese wedge. Erik Hoffman photo.
Although not present on the eastern Cascades mission, veteran backcountry freestyle rider Matt Belzile looks at digging into the new terrain this way. “Traveling somewhere new is almost like going on a blind date. You’ve only heard things about the place you’re going to or seen pictures and kind of built up this expectation. And then when you finally get there it can be a total let down…or you can be blown away and fall in love with the place! I fall in love with most places I go.”
Exploration of the unknown is the central theme of the video project, yet it’s rounded out with more than one trip. From far off to familiar the film dives into scenery from Stevens Pass, British Columbia and settles on Mt Baker where the crew grows to include Matt Belzile, Phil Jacques and Forest Bailey. Under the iconic terrain in the shadow of Mt Shuksan the riders dominate the area’s classic features. “Witnessing Belzile land about seven tricks in a single session on the cat track gap and Wainhouse straight sending it off of everything in sight was pretty memorable,” Phil Jacques recalls.
Tree bonks. Erik Hoffman photo.
After getting lost in the plethora of powder footage things turn around as Parker White convinces the group to head out to Montana in late spring for one last fling at Beartooth Basin Ski Area in Montana. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world, especially that time of the year,” Parker claims. “It’s a total cowboy resort.” This glacial hold out near the Montana-Wyoming border just outside of Yellowstone National Park has a tiny rope tow that opens for six weeks in the spring. Rather than big lines and booters, it’s an easy style slush slashing camp out, yet still another rabbit hole of an adventure in a place few have heard of or ridden at.
The crew stays warm in the backcountry. 686 photo.
Rabbit Hole is a journey through elite riding and exploration with subtle insights into the rider’s minds and team mentality. The story narration and rider voice-overs offer more of a tale than the simple act of riding over music can. As the imagery unfolds over twenty-five minutes it triggers one to discover a rabbit hole of place and state of mind for the forthcoming winter.