Blog Post

Client: Burton Snowboards

This was another milestone post for myself. With more of an editorial focus with our blog, I really tried to get across the emotion and feeling the riders had when they were filming in such harsh conditions. Referencing photos, quick interviews with the filmers and riders, and trying to put myself in their shoes, I was able to create a story that made it feel like I was really there with them and add a subtle product reference. 

Contribution: Words
Originally Published: 9/25/13


Much like deep-water salmon fishermen, Jeremy Jones and Zak Hale follow winter storms, constantly checking the weather for cities inundated in snow and shut down to near state-of-emergency levels. The introduction of video contests like X Games Real Snow has pushed the start-date of street snowboarding ever earlier, and an early December winter storm in the frozen reaches of Edmonton, Canada, was just what they needed to kick off their season.

The early Canadian snowstorm also brought with it some deep temperatures, deep below zero that is. And minus 20°C temperatures make snowboarding, filming, and shoveling all that much more difficult. It’s not uncommon to spend upwards of 22 hours a day in snowboard boots, and in conditions like that, proper gear isn’t just a suggestion. To add to all that, none of the crew had ever been to Edmonton before. “It was the first trip of the year so we had a lot of kinks to work out, and we didn’t have any spots or tour guides lined up. It was a bit of a fiasco, but it always comes together in the end,” says Jones. Heading to a new city is always a gamble, and a lot was riding on this trip to stack some clips for Jeremy and Ethan’s Real Snow parts as well as for Burton Presents STREET [SNOWBOARDING].

A three-second clip in a video does a great job of highlighting the action, but unfortunately it doesn’t do justice to the work, in extremely cold weather, that goes into getting that shot. Having warm and comfortable feet is always important, but even more so when you’re in you’re in a pair of Hail’s as long as Jeremy Jones. “No matter how tired and sore I am, if my feet are cold or in pain I can’t focus.” In addition to riders bringing the obvious gear like their snowboards, rented trucks and SUVs get packed to the brim. Generators, lights, extension cords, propane tanks and torches, shovels, more photo and video equipment than most people would know what to do with, and the infamous winch all add to the complications of street snowboarding. Needless to say, setting up a spot is a process, and even bagging one shot can take all night. 

“It’s long,” Zak Hale starts then pauses as he continues to describe the process, “People don’t see what goes into getting one shot. The shoveling, waiting for the weather, stuff breaking, filmers trying to find the right angles…everything.”

As someone with years of street filming experience under his belt, Jeremy Jones has not only pushed the envelope of what’s possible, he is also one of the most dialed and prepared snowboarders out there. He rattles off a typical session like this: “One go: photog adjusts the lights, filmer messes with the lights and the generator, and changes in angles are discussed. Riders maybe do a test pull, fill in the landing and fix the takeoff. Sometimes you’re ‘warming up’ every go because the scene is moving so slow.”

Lots of people snowboard, but there are very few people who possess the determination and drive to bail over and over in the pursuit of landing a trick. Zak likens it to an emotional rollercoaster. “Sometimes you won’t even come close for like five tries, and then you try again and get so close that you just want to keep trying. The cycle keeps going until you get it.” 

Slamming time after time, pain pulsing through your entire body, and the fatigue of working for almost 24 hours can really take its toll. “Once fatigue and pain start shutting my body down, I always try to give a few more for the effort that everyone on the crew has put in,” claims Jones. Jeremy says that sometimes success is found in those final few tries, but being physically and emotionally tapped out makes them the hardest.

Those final few tries are when most people have already called it a day. Lifts are closed, rope tows stop running, and the light finally fades away. In an average day of riding, there’s only so long you can ride, or even want to ride. After a full day, riders begin to feel each drop, each landing, each slam more and more. Whether riding, hiking, standing or landing, boots are the first and most important connection to the day. If your boots are packed out and your feet are done, your legs will be next. Physically exhausted from slamming time and again, or after one scary bail, there comes a time when it’s best to call it quits. “I know when to give up,” Zak says, “when I’m not even getting close and I am just so over it.” Even then, Zak knows the decision is his and has nothing to do with his Ambush’s not being comfortable.

While it’s impossible to know the back-story to every video clip and photo, sometimes having an idea can give the viewer a greater respect and turn that fleeting moment into something worth remembering. The drive for riders to land a trick, get a shot, or put together an amazing video part isn’t just a professional requirement, or to push the level of riding—it’s personal. Jeremy Jones admits that, “straight up, the desire to clip up can overpower everything.” Each time riders challenge themselves to a new trick, new feature, or new way to look at terrain, they are competing against themselves. Check out Zak and Jeremy, along with Mark Sollors and Ethan Deiss in Burton Presents STREET [SNOWBOARDING] dropping this Friday.

(Story by Chris Zimmerman)