The range of emotions in Alaska runs high. I was fresh off a two week camping expedition in the Yukon, more than a little sour and soggy from getting skunked with bad conditions, no sun and was severely in need of change of pace and scenery. Luckily a quick 30-minute drive from Haines Pass through the US/ Canadian border I saw the sun for the first time in weeks and rolled up to a busy scene at the Alaska Heli ski base camp. What a welcome site to see Justin Hostynek, Nicolas Müller, Austen Sweetin and Manuel Diaz geared up and running to get a lift out into the field. Apparently it had just cleared and the boys were taking a quick evening flight to a little snow assessment for the next day. After a very short night we all woke up early to clear skies and stars, which initiated full panic mode packing gear to head to the heli base with hopes to try to get a sunrise lift.
This was Nicolas’ 13th or 14th year in Haines and after a brief hiatus Nico and Hostynek reunited like “the good old days” to work on both the Absinthe movie, Turbodojo, and to finish Nicholas’s personal project, Fruition. After so many years together riding and shooting lines up there in AK, Nico and Hostynek were looking to put a few new twists on some old zones.
It is extremely hard to shoot while harnessed up and hanging out the side of the helicopter. There are so many moving parts of the puzzle that all need to fall in line. You need a good pilot, good vision of the shot, communication needs to be on point, the rider needs to drop on cue and if all things sync up perfect you can get the best shots you could ever hoped for. But sometimes you get really amazing and unexpected photos by blowing shots. Case in point: this cover.
Nico wanted to drop in and do an andrecht off this pillow/cornice into a huge spine transfer. Our timing was off and we totally missed the first shot, Nico dropped a little early and the pilot was going way to slow. Yelling into the mic over the blades and wind noise I remember Justin screaming “speed up, speed up” as Nico disappeared over the cornice and luckily just as we flew over the ridge he was flying down into the spines. By this point my eyes are totally blurry and filled with water from the wind and cold but I remember barely making out Nico doing a massive ollie transferring over and landing on a spine in a full on disaster/lipslide, barely hanging on, then going into a full white room and then shooting out the bottom of the run. It was truly an unreal thing to witness, but there is so much going on when shooting doors off–not to mention you’re looking through this tiny little viewfinder. It’s hard to not stress that you actually got the shot and it’s in focus. I’m always a mix of nerves and excitement importing images after these type of days in Alaska because they are so few and far between. Luckily things worked out this time, and I couldn’t be more stoked and grateful to everybody involved in making this cover happen!
Cheers. – Andrew Miller.