BLACKCOMB TO BACK-BROHM | A JUMP STORY

Blackcomb to Back-Brohm

By Robjn Taylor

“What kind of tricks are you thinking of doing on this?”

“I don’t know, we’ll see how it is, but I think I’ll do a Cab 12.”

“Huh.”

I’ve been close friends with Chris Rasman for something like six or seven years now, and I have never seen him even try a Cab 12. So for him to drop it casually, as his plan for the day, is a bit surprising. More than that, though, it’s encouraging.

We’re driving up a steep logging road in his truck, heading up Brohm Ridge just north of Squamish. It’s mid-April, so we’re balls deep in spring conditions, with no promises of a snow-reset. This will be the last day of shooting out in the backcountry for the Manboys, capping off a strong year overall.

I’ve been asked to leave my favourite mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler, to come along for this one—something I almost never ever do. So I’m very curious about this feature we’re going to hit.

“We’re building a fun jump. No one’s trying to kill themselves,” Matt Belzile had told me the night before, “except Jody, ‘cause he needs an ender. It’ll be a good time.”

“Well shit,” I thought, “a good time? I like those!”

So now, as we jostle up this road in 4LO, Rasman’s favourite of all the gears, and he basically promises me a Cab 12, it’s encouraging because it further solidifies which tricks I’m planning to do: a perfect (because why wouldn’t it be?) Switch Backside 7, and an equally perfect Backside 10. Yes, these tricks will work quite nicely for me today, even though I have never done a Back 10 in my life.

It’s possible that we are both suffering from a common disease. One that makes its victims think that snowboarding is really easy, whenever they are not actually strapped into a board. 

So while “Lovecats” plays on the radio, Rasman’s pretty decent Cab 12 and my amazing Back 10 play on repeat in our respective brains. The sun ripping through the cracked windshield is here to stay. It looks like Belzile is right—today’s going to be a hell of a good time.

Then we get to the snow-line, and immediately begin standing around for two hours. It’s a bit of a momentum killer, but what do I know? I’m new here. We eat snacks, shit talk a bunch of people, unload sleds, double around for an eternity, and boom—31 sunny park laps missed, we’re at the spot.

Can’t wait to check this sucker out. Where do we drop in from? I see. That’s pretty far away. We walk over to the landing. Alright alright: heavy mashed potatoes. Hooking a tip in this would make for some violent tomahawks. Jody Wachniak thinks we should definitely slip the landing. I like his safety-first attitude! But we vote not to do it for some reason. Also, there’s a seven-foot, gnarled-up tree that’s kind of hanging out on the knuckle by where we’re standing. I step up onto it for a moment, and establish that yes, this would be a decent leg breaker. Too many people have been breaking legs lately, so I decide not to land here, ever. 

RUSTY AND THE HIP | PHOTO | ASHLEY BARKER

We get to work finishing the jump. Belzile, Jody, and Rusty Ockenden had built a bunch of it the day before, so they have every right to just chill out, but no, they do not chill. Lots of shirtless teamwork on display here, folks. Teamwork and abs. Even Mikey Rencz is here, shovelling snow all over the place, and I’m not so sure he even plans to hit it—he’s just helping out like a boss. As we add more blocks to the top, the jump starts to develop some real last-second twang. It might end up being a bit of a bronco.

Another 17 sunny park laps later and it’s ready. To be honest, with the way the in-run is and with the lack of driftability to the one side, that massive Back 10 of mine is becoming less inviting. Also, the sun has now lowered itself to be directly behind the lip, which does three fun things:

1. Makes the jump look like a pitch black vertical wall.

2. Promises to blind me at the most critical point of trick-initiation.

3. Suggests that I might die if I even try a Back 7.

Of course, this is all just how it seems. Maybe it’s quite different when you actually drop in? I’d like to find out!

So Jody, Rasman, Belzile, Rusty and I all get sledded up to the top of the in-run which, because of its lengthy flat section, is about three kilometres away. “Is this necessary?” I ask.

“Kind of,” Rusty says.

Jody offers to guinea it, which works really well for me. I would hate to guinea this jump.

So here he goes: he meanders down the steep thing we're standing on, ollies the vert section, navigates the chunder with speed, almost goes down (!), hits the flats where we had salted, fishtails a few times, smacks into the monolith, and… Front 3! Whoa, that was awesome. Such good style, especially considering all the drama.

The rest of us stand there looking down at the jump, and there's a lot of chin-scratching and blinking. No one seems to be too happy to go next. We all silently strap in anyway, and when I stand back up, I am officially cured of the Snowboarding Is Easy disease. My beautiful baby Back 10 has now vanished, replaced with what? That’s the million dollar question.

“Rasman, what trick are you thinking of now?” I ask.

“Man, I still don’t know. Front 3. Back 1? I don’t even think I want to spin off of it,” he says.

He’s cured also! It’s music to my ears. Nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks we might be kind of fucked.

RENCZY + RASMAN + FIREBALL = MOTIVATION | PHOTO| RUSTY OCKENDEN
POSTCARD OF A BS 180 JAPAN, CHRIS RASMAN | PHOTO | ASHLEY BARKER

Belzile’s got this. What a champ; he’s looking good so far. He goes Backside 540, and what! He lands right on top of the leg-breaking tree. Why would he do that? Session’s over, let’s get him to the hospital. Wait, what’s this? Word comes in that he’s escaped major injury somehow. Oh. Okay, I guess it’s my turn then.

In light of this, I decide that I’ll do a Cab 540 because I’ve done seven million Cab 5s and nothing bad has ever happened on any of them. I drop in, full of fake confidence, but as I hit the dark void on the in-run, just past the point of no return, I realize that coming in switch for this jump is not the sweetest.

The battle of wits has begun. The blackness, the sun, the jump, they’re all trying to screw with me. Do they not understand? I have done this trick seven million times!

I get ejected from the lip; the battle of wits has ended. Buckaroo bonzai’d into the abyss, I have lost, and now my safety trick has abandoned me, and I’m at the mercy of a rotational axis that’s got me off to who knows where. When I hit the mashed potatoes, my knee jerks aggressively, there’s cartoon lightning bolts coming off of it, and I do that thing we all do in this situation, where you immediately start to wonder how long this will take to heal, and if it’ll effect the surf trip you have planned in three weeks. But it’s no broken leg, so there’s no real wolf to cry.

I head off to the peanut gallery and start icing. While Belzile and I talk about how many Teslas we’re going to buy one day, Rasman goes for a Front 5 and—sneak attack! He loops out the same way I did. Gorilla shot out of a cannon. He doesn’t hurt himself, so it’s fair for me to enjoy the moment. And I do, I really do.

I walk around a bit and realize that my knee can bear weight, it’s just a specific twist that causes major pain. Well that doesn’t seem so bad. I’ve come all this way, missed so many park laps, maybe I should head back up to the top, hey? Just a quick rebate. In and out.

So I go. Here’s Rasman again and Jody, staring downhill, focused up, waiting for the filmers, Nate Laverty and Matt Gibo, to calibrate their movie magic. Jody’s taken the lens out of his goggles. Makes sense. Okay, game on. Rasman goes ahead and crushes that Front 5 of his. I like that, it’s momentum I can use. Fuelled by the annoyance of the first attempt, I ride in with determined fury and sure enough, I rebate the Cab 5. But… well, it didn’t feel that awesome. So back up to the top please!

Third time’s the charm, right? No, it is not. I land again, but did not like the weird cork I had going on.

Fourth time. I don’t want to talk about it.

Fifth time. This one’s good! I phantom grab for the first two-thirds of it though, but no one notices. Oh, everyone noticed? Shit.

I touch base with Rasman. He’s working on getting a Back 1 Japan that he can be happy about. He’s got hydrogen psychosis (crazy eye), and he’s obsessing over small details. Yikes.

I keep going, hit after hit, and as I whittle away at this usually stock trick, I get progressively beat down, physically and mentally. My knee hurts. This one here, I decide, has got to be the last one. No more excuses, here we go, this is it.

Bucked! I land on my back. You’ve got to be kidding me. What does this mean? About the universe? I don’t know anymore.

Once more at the drop-in, Jody’s got a comment or two about his own boarding. He’s done a huge Front 5, and some insane Front 3s, and now he’s working on a Front 7. “I’m the worst. Tear up my contracts! I don’t deserve to live,” is what he says right before dropping. Fair enough.

Are we suffering from a Snowboarding Is Hard disease? Or is this just life outside of the park, away from those manicured, god-sent jumps?

ELUSIVE CAB 540, ROBJN TAYLOR | PHOTO| RUSTY OCKENDEN

I drop for the ninth time. Right through the valley of the shadow of death, and there it is! Hallelujah! I have done the impossible: a normal Cab 5. I didn’t think it would ever happen. Oh, the sweet nectar of victory. What happens now? Is there a press conference? Do I have 100 new Instagram followers? Oh, it feels so good.

I’m soaked. I’m drained. The sun will be down in a few minutes. Rasman and Jody are still hustling. Rusty has joined photographer sensation, Ashley Barker, in capturing moments one frame at a time. Belzile and I help her set up some flashes for the final jumps.

Jody rips in and nails a Front 7, Super Mute (or whatever that craily grab is that’s so fun). Rasman follows it up with an all-time Back 1 Japan. Maximum tweak. Great height. Everyone looks quite pleased with the whole affair. Especially Renczy, who might be drunk. Many high-fives are finally executed.

The setting sun is a magnificent orb of visual riches that we all decide is worth some effort to behold. So we posse-up to the top of the peak or the ridge, or whatever this is, and bask in some good ol’ fashioned glory. Owning four Teslas would not be better than this (because why do you need more than three?).

I breathe it in and I realize that I’m forever changed. Next season, I’m buying a sled and my own avalanche gear and I’m coming out here every single damned day. The only thing that can stop me would be five or six jumps, perfectly built and maintained, in a row, that can be accessed by a chairlift possibly named Solar Coaster that I can drink coffee on in the morning. But that’s it. 

FIREBALL, FIRE PITS, SHIT'S LIT