Trio Sonic is a convergence of boarders who hail from Northwest Washington state.
Austen Sweetin, Zoe Vernon and Jacqui Shaffer spend their winter months caressed in the pocket of the catcher’s mitt that is Mt Baker. They chase each other up the boot pack, race to get first tracks and fist bump on top of pillow stacks. Their winters are spent weaving in and out of each other’s orbit, and it was only a mater of time before these riders converged for a trip.
This confluence of snowboarders brought all past experiences, abilities and expertise together to move through the Alaskan mountains like a braided river, Each rider weaving their unique line down the mountains, merging together, more powerful than before to cascade over obstacles and flow with their surroundings.
- Jacqui Shaffer
Waiting in the ferry line in the middle of the night in Auke Bay, Alaska the crew begins to assemble. I had sent my truck and snowmobile up on the ferry from Bellingham a few days prior. Me and Jacqui Shaffer sit in it, eager and excited. Austen Sweetin and Sean Lucey arrive shortly thereafter in a rented Tacoma. With minutes to spare before loading, the loose crew of early 20 year olds, the BS boys, straggle in after a pit stop at the bar. The gang’s all here.
This will be my fourth spring coming up to Haines but first time attempting to film up here. I’d been trying to garner support from sponsors for this trip since the previous April. Jacqui was a go the whole time but finding someone to fill the third seat and a filmer was proving difficult. Our prayers were answered when Austen asked if he and Lucey could join. Austen hadn’t been to Haines since his days filming with Absinthe and had been eager to get back. I felt blessed to have such a talented rider, who conveniently shared a board sponsor with Jacqui and myself, as well as such a talented filmer, join the journey. Colin Wiseman will arrive a few days later to round out our crew as photographer. The plan is to share a heli with the BS boys and another group of Baker-based boarders, each group with an allotted amount of Hobbs time to burn. We all have big plans, aspirations, lines mapped out, and high hopes of scoring.
I am hoping to build upon the lessons and skills I’d garnered in the previous three years, and finally have the opportunity to showcase what I’ve been investing so much energy and money into every year. But the snowpack is a little lower than normal and there are some heavy crews in town. When the weather breaks, it feels like a race, with everyone clamoring for a handful of notable lines that are in decent shape. And most of the time, it feels like we are last to the party.
In my previous years riding here, I never had to worry about lighting, tracks or where the filmer was going to set up–we just ripped what we could when we could. Filming proves to be a whole other bag and one that our homies in the other crews aren’t concerned with. Our flight time burns up fast through a string of high pressure, and, after four days in the field, we are left wanting more. I feel a little bummed because my high expectations don’t feel met. Some of the key lines on my personal hit list were ridden. by others before we could get to them. Other key lines didn’t hold good snow. But after some much needed reflection my mindset begins to shift. I realize that we did indeed get lucky riding great lines and pushing ourselves in stable snow with a positive, supportive crew.
We did the best with the cards we were dealt and I’m proud of what we accomplished. Heliboarding in Alaska is a dream, but even when dreams come true, they don’t always play out how you thought they would. You have to remain humble and grateful for the experience, whatever it might bring. Moving forward I still have goals of scoring Haines perfection and capturing it on film, but I think I’ll keep the humility close at hand and remember to be stoked for whatever comes our way. Because how lucky are we to even be there in the first place?
- Zoe Vernon
It was like any other pow day at Mt. Baker, WA: a mid-season storm day, the mountain was quiet except for the usual suspects. I was lapping some of the go to runs with my friend and fellow ripper Zoe Vernon when she mentioned her and Jacqui Shaffer were headed to Haines and they needed one more person for their crew. I loosely tossed out that I would be down to fill the spot and asked if Sean Lucey could tag along to document and make a short film about the trip.
Jacqui and Zoe are a quintessential part of the Mt. Baker snowboard community—high school friends that grew up boarding together locally, they have a friendship that runs deep into the mountains. On most given days they will be out bagging lines and charging harder than most all for the love of snowboarding. I was stoked to head up to Alaska with them and get into some good terrain. With a shared positivity and wanting to ride anything and everything we possibly could, the crew dynamic was strong and we set off to see what we could get into.
Zoe and I have been to the Chilkat Mountains a few times on separate occasions and this was Jacqui’s first visit but we all knew we wanted to ride spine caked walls. Alaska is an interesting place, though: it rarely gives you what you’d expect. Inconsistent weather plus a helicopter and a handful of other crews that want to ride the exact same thing as you can lead to high highs and low lows. With a limited window and limited access to terrain we rode as much as we could given the conditions presented to us. Although we never got the opportunity to ride the spines we dreamt of, we scored a few days of very stable snow and highly rippable featured terrain.
Spending time in the mountains with Zoe and Jacqui was a privilege that I was honored to have. No matter what the scenario or line, they were confident and capable. It was inspiring to see them charge lines with speed and confidence—total board control flowing with ease down the pow caked walls of the Chilkat. When things were tough they stayed confident, calm, and collected—traits of good mountain partners, absolute pros. We worked as a team to help elevate each other in the mountains and motivate each other to push it a little further. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish in those mountains together and I look forward to spending more time out with these two absolute shredders this winter.
So, without further ado we present you “TRIO SONIC” a short film documenting three boarders from Mt. Baker spreading their own unique wavelengths on a snowboard amongst the humbling mountains of Washington and Alaska.
- Austen Sweetin