WTF is Tom’s great white buffalo? Wallisch has been wanting to get this handrail since he first started going to the University of Utah in 2007. It wasn’t brought up to my attention until 2009 and we’ve been trying to get it done ever since. Looking at this thing, (which I will claim right now is the sickest urban handrail ever done on skis) I knew I had to be there, but there was a catch. I’m technically not allowed on the U of U campus. Part of shooting urban is getting kicked out, but sometimes ticketed. The University of Utah is pretty well known for being a great spot for urban ski / snowboard shooting and so do the campus police. The last time I shot at the U of U was in 2006, where I got a $600 ticket and told not to come back. So that’s my back story on myself and the U of U, I didn’t want to go and risk a larger ticket and be thrown in the back of a police car, but come on look at this thing, I had to.
Weather it be lack of snow, lack of timing, patrolling rent-a-cops, or conflicting travel schedules this thing had not come together for the 2 years before. In the late winter of 2010 we got a super late snowfall in the city, AJ (4bi9 Media), Tom and myself were all in town at the same time and there was snow, I was amped and ready to get out there. Yah, there’s a dumpster in the landing coming out of the rail. It snows again, yup, same dumpster. It didn’t have wheels. Then it was spring, game over.
Turn the clock forward to the day before Thanksgiving this past fall. I’m in Tahoe and I get a call, there’s snow in SLC and the dumpster is gone, and turkey day (Thanksgiving Day) is prime time to go after it with a good chance we won’t see any campus police. Perfect. I’m doing a shoot with Will Wesson and Ian Compton with Level 1 Productions 8 hours away. Well, we were close to the end of the trip and I had to get this done when the opportunity presented itself. Fine, started to figure out what is left to do in Tahoe/Reno and when to split up and head back. Another call. Another feature on my 5 year old to-shoot list. Oh, it’s going down at sunrise, Thanksgiving day. Awesome. That means I have to leave now and drive through the night. OK then.
Myself, Freedle (Level 1 Productions filmer), Will Wesson and Ian Compton break up our gear between the two trucks so Freedle can fit those three in his truck and I hit the road. A long overnight drive back home to Salt Lake City, Utah. Needless to say I was pretty tired and had to pull over a few times and sleep. I was pretty determined to make it back by sunrise. Ten hours later I finally roll into Salt Lake City just in time to take a 30 minute nap, then get my shit together and meet up with the 4Bi9 crew at a parking lot step down to tranny I’ve been wanting to shoot on for 5 years. We finished up around 11am and I went home and eventually crashed. I crashed hard enough that I slept through every Thanksgiving dinner party I could have gone to…oops.
At 10pm we head out to the down c down, finally. After a lot of setup of the drop in ramp, snow, lights and my lights, I finally get to my plan. I setup my camera remotely on a tripod fired by a Pocket Wizard Multimax transceiver along with another Multimax mounted to the hot shoe firing my strobes. I did this for one reason alone, so I could appear to be just watching in my truck, in street clothes in the case we get busted, hoping that if we get caught, they don’t arrest me for trespassing since I was just sitting around, in street clothes watching in a truck. After a while and about 4 angles later Tom still hasn’t gotten the rail yet and is getting beat up a bit and the inevitable happens, the campus police shows up. Great, well I guess it’s time to test my plan right? Then the most unexpected thing happens, the cop just drives away. He saw everything going down and just didn’t care. Good thing he was the only campus police officer on duty and we weren’t really doing anything that really mattered, at least that’s a good explanation right? After a bunch more tries, it just wasn’t happening. We gave up and went home. It was the first time in the 5 years I’ve worked with Tom that he didn’t get a feature quit. It’s still not done!
Fast forward again to February, after a few chances with snowfall in SLC came through everyone’s schedules finally lined up again with the weather and we went back for round two. The crew set the drop in a bit straighter (previously was about a 45 degree angle into the handrail) and it made all the difference. It was less than 15 tries and it was done, finally! We weren’t even there long enough to worry about getting busted. Three years and I got my shots, AJ got his shots, Tom got the rail and everyone was high fiving and there was a huge wave of relief that came by me. I came away from the U of U unscathed. All said in done I ended up with an advertisement that I’m happier with than any other I’ve shot and yet for my oldest client. Much like most of my last winter season things just finally came together right.
Check out the ad at the newsstand in the 2011 Freeskier Magazine Buyer’s Guide.