ANDREW BURNS INTERVIEW | AGAINST ALL ODDS
By Rob Lemay | Photos [o] Ben Girardi Andrew Burns. That name goes hand in hand within Canadian snowboarding. It’s one that...
[o] Priscilla Cannon
Interview by Stephanie Lake
The hype is real when it comes to Robin Van Gyn. She is a straight up one hell of a talented female rider who leaves you nothing short of inspired while watching her kill it in the backcountry.
Whether you’re a guy or a gal, we can all agree here… Robin and the female crew she rolls with (Leanne Pelosi, Helen Schettini, Annie Boulanger, and Marie-France Roy just to name a few) continue to impress the shred nation with what they’ve got going on, bestowing upon us killer films like last year’s Full Moon, leaving us all yearning for more and all the while keeping shreds everywhere inspired. Lucky for us, we get to see Robin light it up with her latest project Depth Perception.
Before we begin, and if you haven’t done so already, you need to get your hands on a copy of this movie (check iTunes). It is one hell of a heavy-hitting, visually assaulting and shred dream-inducing new flick, featuring none other than our female shredding superstar—Robin Van Gyn and a few others, of course… you know, like, T-Rice, Austen Sweetin and Bryan Fox.
We were able to track down Robin after a recent adventure in Europe and before hitting the movie premiere circuit for Depth Perception; we needed to get the skinny on her latest project, which was spawned by mastermind and ultra-talented shred Travis Rice, as well as let us in on some of the things that makes Robin Robin.
When it comes to the future of shredding for women, having riders like Robin at the forefront with her “chudes” crew, the future looks bright and it’s only gonna get better.
Let’s get after it here with Robin, and find out what being a “chude” is all about.
DEEP DIVING INTO DEPTH PERCEPTION
You’re one part of an incredibly stacked team in Depth Perception. When did you first hear about this project and how did Travis Rice approach you to get involved?
I was at Baldface Lodge at an avy course and Travis asked me for a meeting. I actually felt I was in trouble because he was so serious, and he told me about a “small art project” he wanted to do and asked me if I would join. I tried to act cool, but I was sweating so much I was slipping off the leather sofa… dead giveaway. We shook on it and the rest unfolded, but for some reason, it didn’t feel real until we actually got to the tiny house.
When you knew the crew who would be involved and the plans for the film, what was your initial reaction?
I don’t want to sugar coat it… I was a bit intimidated and was feeling a bit of pressure to ride well and to rise to the occasion; it felt like a really big deal. However, once we got going and we were into a good flow, that changed, the guys were so supportive and inclusive. It was then I felt like I was supposed to be there. It’s always exciting to film with new people, always interested as to how we were going to work together. Really, the crew is so different in so many ways, so all of us had something to contribute. Just a fun-as-hell crew of people to ride with.
What was the most intimidating line for you in the making of this film?
There was one line in particular that didn’t sit right for me. It was a fluted face called Upper Jazz. I was supposed to get out with Travis on this line that to me was pretty straight forward. It wasn’t the line itself but the LZ (landing zone) that freaked me right out. It was a tow-in at the top of a ridge and the backside of it was rocks to the valley and I just didn’t feel good about it, so last minute I sent Austen instead of me. He did the line, and every time I see it in the movie, it makes me shift a little in my seat with a bit of regret and a bit of jealously, but that’s just how it goes—it wasn’t my line that day. He killed it and who knows what would have happened if I went instead.
What are you the proudest of in making this film?
I don’t know… maybe RIDING WITH M@th* F*ck^ng TRAVIS RICE! Seriously, though, that’s like a crazy dream I had once, but then it’s real, so I am proud that I got myself to this point that I would be ready to be on a crew like this one. I also learned so much from each one of those guys. Just sad it’s over, seriously—what do I do now?
Can you give us a behind-the-scenes story in making Depth Perception?
On the last day of shooting, we packed retro CMH guide uniforms out in the field and brought the entire staff out for a run. We coordinated a flying V in classic 1980’s heli-op style, like the skiers used to do in the matching and hilariously old and smelly suits. We squiggled our way down to the bottom in sequence… then we drank champagne… and then we went home. I also thought that I was good at Ping Pong until Travis beat me left handed while sipping a Red Bull between hits.
Amazing. Okay… so obviously intimidation can be a mental hurdle, especially when faced with some insane terrain. What is your process when you’re approaching and picking your lines?
I pick it apart into sections and go through each section separately to make sure there are safe outs and I understand them well. Then, once I have established them separately, I put them together and memorize. I find once you look at it in pieces and identify the hardest or scariest points and find a solution, it becomes less intimidating when you have mentally found a way. Then you just stick to your plan and execute. Easier said than done, I know; it takes time to develop a way of making it look to you like a walk in the park.
You mentioned previously that the “lessons in riding with a crew like ours in the mountains that complex was a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Can you dive a bit deeper into what lessons you learned exactly in the making of this movie exactly?
I think when you’re with such a high caliber crew, it’s really hard not to compare yourself to them and what they’re doing. There were so many times I felt like I shouldn’t be there because I was falling and I had the feeling like I was blowing it, but then after beating myself up so much, I started to realize that I was there because of the way that I ride as Robin, not Robin trying to keep up with Austen, Bryan, or Travis. I just needed to focus on what I knew how to do and ride like Robin does and not anyone else. That being said, each one of the guys has strengths that I really had the opportunity to learn from. Bryan rides smart; he picks lines that are straight-forward and adds in his own creativity to make something amazing. Austen has this energy that is like that of a flying squirrel and he bounces through his snowboarding and it’s incredible to watch. Travis is another beast, he doesn’t second guess or tone it down ever, he sees limitlessness and it shows in the things he is able to ride because he has that confidence which allows him to execute like a samurai every time. All of these styles come together to offer the audience (me) a lot of learning opportunities and I just tried to absorb as much as I could. Walking away from the project, I feel like I am a bit snowboard wiser.
[o] Andrew Miller
You mentioned that all the filming for this film was done solely at CMH-Galena. Was it something that you guys as a collective decided upon?
Travis scoped Galena a few years back and had been trying to go film there for years, it was just the right timing for CMH and for Travis and they worked it out. It was a bit of a trial-and-test period also though. We had CMH guides with us helping us find terrain, and I think it was to get a grasp on what we were doing exactly. When we wanted to extend the project from three weeks to five, they jumped on board and trusted us with their terrain, which was super generous… and then we had the entire tenure to ourselves.
What is your most memorable moment when filming this movie and why?
Riding trees in the Antique forest. The cameras were off and I have never seen it snow so hard anywhere. We rode a huge chute in these gigantic trees and it was just so simple and beautiful. The snow blanketed the forest to the point of silence; it was just us and the forest on the most incredible tree run—it was magic.
Of the entire crew involved, who is the one with the funniest quirks and what are they?
Our producer and lead cinematographer “Chip” (Justin Taylor Smith). The guy is straight out of a comic book; he is always making the weirdest noises and imitating scenes from movies. Seriously, though, he was scaring the wildlife. He is a cinematography wizard, and man he has moves… moves so serious he needs his own B-boy circle.
In one word, how would you describe your experience filming with Travis Rice?
In one word, how would you describe your experience working with Bryan Fox?
For those readers who don’t know, you and Austen Sweetin are in fact dating and have been coined by some as a shredding ‘power couple.’ So, how was filming with Austen in this film? Did you find it challenging at all or was it actually pretty rad?
It’s pretty rad. It’s so fun to watch him ride, he just has a special energy and it’s contagious, he is insane to watch and by far my favourite person to ride with, so it was best-case scenario.
How does the term “power couple” make you feel?
It’s weird. I feel like that term is saved for people who wear suits. Maybe “powder couple” is better?
Agreed. Powder couple it is! In one word, how would you sum up your experience working on this movie?
[o] Andy Wright
In Depth Perception, I saw a clip of renowned backcountry guide John Buffery a.k.a. Buff. He is one guy who knows his stuff when it comes to safely navigating mountains, and is loaded with epic stories. How would you describe your experience working with Buff for the movie?
Working with Buff is a trip; he is one hell of a human and we were so lucky to have him guide us. He sees the mountain and with a lifetime of experience and without ego, and it really allowed us a bit more freedom than the normal program. When the guide knows and trusts you as riders alongside being one of the most revered avalanche workers in the world, the doors open a bit more. He helps us mitigate risks and walks through everything with you so you feel more confident in your lines and in turn so does he. We trust the hell out of him and on top of that, he is just an awesome, mellow guy and so much fun to hang with—we love him!
Your snowboard career is inspirational and hella impressive, especially for women shreds of all ages. What piece of advice would you give women who are looking to get into the backcountry but just haven’t built up the confidence to do so yet? Where is a good place to start?
Make “chude” friends and just start doing it. You don’t need confidence or advice— if you want to do something, just go do it—it’s that simple. You can do courses, join groups, encourage other friends and roll as a pack, create your own “chude” squad. Leave the comfort zone and ditch the ego and go be a beginner at something, it’s fun as hell when you stop caring what other people think. I just started skating and I am always the oldest and the worst skater at the park, but I am open to learning and everything that comes with it including mall grabs and I just don’t care.
Can you tell us about origin of this sweet nickname “Chude?” Is this a clever concoction of chick and dude? If so, who coined this nickname for you and why?
This is the nickname of a bunch of my girlfriends and it was given to us by our friend Chandra as the “Chick Dudes.” Basically, she called us Chudes because we are always doing sports n’ stuff. We are in on that action and not baking pies; it’s a blanket term and there are SO MANY chudes out there… we actually just more make fun of that term a lot cause it’s hilarious. We’re not dudes, we’re just females who do more than shopping, selfies, and baking.
RAPID FIRE WITH ROBIN
Shred plans 5-10 years from now?
I always have AK on the mind…
I just want to keep riding powder.
What scares you in the backcountry?
Overconfidence and ego,
Most rewarding and why?
Feeling like I positively affected a young girl in some way.
What keeps you humble?
Something you have on hand at all times?
Sunscreen, chocolate, and hand warmers.
Something people might not know about you?
I love making bouquets… I think when I retire for good, I’ll open a flower shop that serves coffee.
Go-to dance move?
Top 3 vices?
Indian Food, craft beer, and surfing. (Am I boring?)
Quirk that drives others crazy?
I talk a lot, laugh loudly and over analyze everything.
State of mind when you’re on your board?
One song to sum up Robin Van Gyn—your life?
“Free Bird.” It’s 10 minutes, full of highs and lows, and has an epic guitar solo right in the middle.
[o] Andy Wright