Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by Dan Brown
We're in the midst of the twelfth and final day of competition here in Åre, Sweden at the second annual Jon Olsson Super Sessions...and it's crunch time. With less than 24 hours left until tomorrow's 8am deadline for the edits, all of the athletes, filmers and photographers are hunkered down behind closed doors in their rooms finishing their entries along with resting up for tonight's JOI.
It was hard not to notice that the vibe was getting a bit tense amongst the teams over the past few days, as although virtually everyone has been having a great time skiing their brains out and enjoying the various aspects of Sweden's nightlife culture, the reality is this: the weather has been shit this year. We've had very few days of sun, it's snowed, it's rained, it's been foggy and most of all windy. We've hit five features over the past 11 days, but one of them (the City Hip) was only hit once, another (the Super Combo Kicker) most of the guys didn't attempt due to the hardness of the landing, and another (the Reverse Combo Kicker) was only hit for an hour before clouds rolled in, barely giving the boys time to warm up.
Because the weather again put shooting on hold yesterday until the evening shoot on the Semi Floater, I took the opportunity to go from room-to-room to sit down and talk with the teams. I wanted to get their thoughts on the competition so far and how challenging it's been for them, how their entries are coming along, along with a little tease of what we can expect to see from them on Saturday night at JOSS Awards. Amidst all the perfect features, ski porn, lavish living and wild parties that this event is famous for, when all is said and done, this is a very serious competition that is being taken very seriously by everyone involved, and I wanted to give everyone an inside glimpse as to just how hard these guys have been working over the last two weeks...
Darren Rayner: Well we feel like we had a really strong start but we wanted our riders to stay a bit conservative in Norway so they were healthy when we got to Sweden. But then when we got here after the delay with the bus and as everyone knows, weather issues, we've had a bit of trouble getting out there and staying really motivated. Going out there and getting urban footage is not 100% Team Canada's style, although we definitely have some good stuff and TJ and Cosco can shred urban real good, but we're really banking on jumps because that's their strong point. But the whole jump thing has become somewhat difficult with the weather and all. Everyone on our team has been working super hard. Neil was awake until 6am this morning and then got up at 10am to go shoot, and our photographer Damien Cromwell was up until about 5am working with Neil on some cool ideas because Neil is pretty much the man when it comes to the whole computer thing. I think the next couple of days are going to be interesting. It's going to be hard on us but this isn't an easy competition.
Neil Sotirakopoulos: Yeah it's been tough. My plan is to pretty much stay awake until Saturday morning and then sleep all day Saturday before the awards. I'm pretty happy with everything we've gotten so far though. We shot some really cool stuff in Norway that I was pretty uncertain about at first and was kind of thinking 'ah we'll get better stuff,' but I guess hindsight kicks ass (laughs).
Darren Rayner: We're not nervous at all though which is nice, and I think part of the reason for that is because we've been having so much fun here. It's kind of a working holiday. We've been playing lots and laughing lots and filming stuff for Chug Life but definitely getting down to business when the time is right. But there's been lots of downtime here and I'm pretty sure Team Canada has had the most fun.
Erik Wibaeus: It's been tough. We've had a lot of rain these last few days in Åre and it's not been good for us as photographers and filmers but our riders have been giving it their all which has helped a lot.
Henrik Harlaut: We've been hitting as many urban features as possible due to the weather in case it stayed bad, which it has. It's been a nice advantage being from here and knowing where a lot of the good urban is but at the same time we haven't been hitting too much of the same stuff I've done in the past, because we've found a lot of new stuff. I think I've only hit one rail that I've done before.
Erik Wibaeus: Yeah our plan B ended up as our plan A. We've done so many urbans that we're at the point now where we can cut back on some of them. We don't want to end up with too much urban material and not enough jump shots. To be honest I'm getting a bit nervous but it's going to work out.
Joakim Aslund: Yeah we need just a bit more material on the jumps but that's pretty much all we need. We've got some great urban but we need some more solid shots from the features here. We got some great shots on the Trick Buster in Norway but I don't think that's enough.
John Symms: We're not stressed at all. We had our video done on day 4 so we've just been sitting here on Facebook and ichat and watching YouTube videos and porn (laughs).
Alex O'Brien: I've been working in photoshop in my photos and making it look like Colby and Symms are higher up in the air. That way our guys will be going the biggest.
John Symms: Yeah he's also been using the liquify tool so it looks like my hand is grabbing my skis in some of the shots, which is epic (laughs). In all seriousness though, it's been super fun here. We didn't come here with a planned out concept and instead just did it on the fly. We almost had a bit of a breakdown around day 4 when we thought we couldn't do one idea we had but we just said fuck it and did it anyway. And the weather hasn't bothered me that much because for us it's made it way easier to do all the non-skiing stuff.
Mike Thomas & Colby West
Colby West: Yeah since before we came here we've been considered the funny group as opposed to the action group so I think a lot of the other guys are more stressed about the weather. We're here to have a good time. I specifically hand picked my team to make the most funny video. Actually I should say the most funniest (laughs).
Filip Christensen: We've got some great stuff so far, but we don't have as much urban as everyone seems to think we have, but we do have a good mixture. The weather has made things more challenging on us of course but we're stoked on the fact that Andreas got a huge flatspin on the Super Combo Kicker which was the only trick done on it, which is a huge plus. We're very nervous though because we have no idea what the other teams are doing.
That's hilarious because a lot of the other teams say that they're not that nervous but they're all scared of you guys. How's that work? (laughs)
Filip Christensen: (laughs) I have no idea. From the very start people have been saying we were going to win and I don't know why. I know people think we've had an advantage because we're from Norway but the truth is we didn't really know where too much was urban-wise before this event, especially in Åre, because we're not from here. We've just been driving around exploring and looking for opportunities.
Jon Håtveit & Filip Christensen
Jon Håtveit: If the other teams had rented a car it would have been equal.
Filip Christensen: Yeah the only big advantage we've had is having a car and being able to get around easier.
Jon Håtveit: Compared to the other guys though I think we've been a bit smarter about how we've adapted to the weather. I think the other teams have had more trouble with that than us because it seemed like some of them wanted to save their bigger tricks for the jumps here in Åre, but the way we looked at it was for our guys to do all of their tricks in Trysil and then if the weather turned bad at least we had them, but if it was good they could just do them again in Åre.
Team Down Under
Rob Norman: It's a bit tense. The weather has definitely been annoying. I mean we've really only killed it on two jumps, and you get sick of watching the same footage on the same two jumps.
Kris Ostness: Yeah going back and reviewing the footage it's almost ridiculous how many shots we have on the Trick Buster.
Tony Harrington: For photos though I think it's been better actually, because shooting all the time in incredible weather bores me to tears. It really, really does. It's so hard to get creative, where as when you're working with bad weather you've got so much more scope to do something totally different and it's challenging, which is what produces good photography. Sometimes bluebird skies just makes it too easy, and too boring.
Kris Ostness: And we're not too stressed because sometimes it's best to go into something just assuming you're not going to win, and then you just can relax and do what you want to do.
Tony Harrington: Yeah I don't think there's nearly as much expectations on us because we're the underdogs. People are going to expect gold from the Norwegians, the Swedes or the Americans, where as I don't think we've got the pressure on us that they do.
Johnny Decesare: We've been working hard as far as getting really pretty shots for the edit but when it comes to getting little things done like the intro it's been pretty challenging because Jon is pretty busy with everything he's been doing with the event.
It seems like a lot of the other teams are feeling a bit threatened by you guys right now because Jon is one of the only guys who's got shots on all the features and you're the only one with heli footage and now you guys have the Red camera. Do you feel like you have a bit of an advantage with all of that stuff?
Johnny Decesare: No not really because I think a lot of the other guys have some really cool stuff and yes we did get a couple of things from the heli, but when the weather turns bad and you only have one crack at it you're not going to get the best shot right away. This year's event for us has been way more challenging. Last year was way easier with one guy, one filmer only because you have some much more to do. You have twice the footage to work with, twice as many things to deal with and of course the weather, which has been super gnarly. This is still an incredible event but it's made a big difference, because when you get bluebird skiers for 10 days like last year it's insane. I mean there's nothing you can say other than that it's the best event on the planet. But when you get rain and snow for 10 days, it makes a difficult one, no matter how well it's set up.
Have you noticed a bit more tension, friction and competitiveness between the teams this year compared to last? Because from my perspective on the inside looking it I've noticed it quite a bit.
Johnny Decesare: Well I think last year super was competitive as well. But what happened last year was that urban was introduced into the event right away and I think this year people realized because Sammy had so much urban in his segment that you needed to have urban. And now that the weather has been bad and there's not that much jump footage and that we haven't been able to hit all the features to their fullest potential, people are going out and fighting for urban, and it makes things tenser and harder to deal with it and it makes it so much more competitive when we're in a little town with only a little bit of urban in it. So I think what that does is it creates friction between everyone, even though we're all still having a ton of fun, but it definitely changes things.
Simon Dumont: I feel like we've had a bit of a disadvantage not being on our home turf because we don't have all our gear and a mode of transportation, so it's been a little bit tough but we've worked out butts off and hopefully we'll come out with a really good edit.
Josh Berman & Simon Dumont
Nate Abbott: This year had been a lot different than last year because last year the weather was so much better so there was a lot more opportunities on the jumps, and this year it's been harder to do that. We had two jumps this year that unfortunately never really worked. And coming into this year I think everyone was motivated by how hard Sammy and Simon worked off the hill and it made everyone want to work harder in that area but this year the event didn't have a car sponsor which made it a lot harder to get around and do that. But we found some stuff within walking distance and took some taxis and did the best we could.
Tyler Hamlet: One thing about this whole set up that's been really cool and kind of weird at the same time is that I'm working with Berman, and Tom and Simon are together, so it's been a bit of a meeting of the minds. In any other circumstance this probably wouldn't have come together, but it's working here, which is cool.
Josh Berman: Yeah like he said it's been a special set of circumstances that we're working together and it's really not the norm. But I've been friends with Tyler for a few years so it's not that big of deal. Whether or not we're on the same team we're still getting along, and it's been great, other than the fact that I'm not going to sleep tonight (laughs), but I know I'm going to have an edit done by tomorrow morning. I know that if I had more time there'd be a bunch more things that I'd like to do editing-wise but this event has been a series of compromises between what you want to do and what you can do, and everybody is pretty much in the same boat.