Eric Pollard’s first trip to Idaho didn’t go so well. He arrived a couple days early and rented a snowmobile while friend and filmer Riley Poor drove his new sled up from Colorado. A “new” sled that Pollard bought sight-unseen. After a couple days, one blown out rental, and a POS clearly-not-new sled, Idaho didn’t exactly make a good first impression.
It was hard not to feel the dejavu as Karl Fostvedt started out the trip on a similar note, buying a brand new sled the day before the crew got in. Thankfully, the result was a little bit more positive as the sled was brand new, and exactly what he wanted. This trip would be a little bit different with Karl and other Ketchum locals Banks Gilberti and Collin Collins shedding light on some of the amazing terrain right in their backyards.
Karl has come a long way since building booters in the Sun Valley sidecountry with no avy gear, and no knowledge as a grom to become the unique and powerful skier he is today. The amazing selection of terrain and climate in the Sun Valley area undoubtedly played a major role in shaping him as a skier. Karl and friends have built upon the strong skiing history of the area, and represent a new generation of that legacy. They live and breathe this terrain, and sharing it with a living legend like Pollard for the week was an honor.
Sent by Dakine to share this story, Eric Pollard, filmer Jeff Wright, photographer Jamie Walter, and I rolled into town. I spent my final evening in town talking to Pollard about the way that a skier’s home mountain shapes them as a person, and a skier. “This is an opportunity for Karl to talk about how the terrain here, this environment, this snowpack, this town has shaped him into who he is at this present moment,” Pollard explained, “this is a piece he’ll probably revisit ten years from now because he’ll have evolved into a different skier by that point. Then we’ll be evaluating how his genesis as a skier really affects him at that point because by then he’ll be on a different level. It’s a piece that he’ll likely tell more than once. It affects everything, it’s chapter one in his story.”
We got an early start on the first day, taking a short drive out of Ketchum to a local backcountry zone. It was a cold and clear morning as we waited for Karl and the crew to meet us at the trailhead. We looked to the Sawtooth Mountains down the valley, as the memories came back to Pollard of his earlier days, filming in this same area.
Karl, Banks Gilberti, Collin Collins and some friends met us and led the way to a favorite zone. Looking in every direction, we were surrounded by big terrain, with an amazing assortment of technical lines and smaller playful hits. Being in the backcountry with a big crew can certainly be hectic, but sharing a zone like this with good friends is an unbeatable experience. Pollard reflected on this camaraderie, saying “It hits real close to home for me, having a posse like that. My whole thing has been trying to work with my friends. The fact that he’s surrounding himself with friends like that says a lot to me.” It’s days and friends like these that gave birth to Nimbus Independent.
The first skiing of the day began on long wave shaped wind lip that reached down a ridge. From my vantage point below, I could see the wind lip and the deep blue sky behind. The simplicity of this window and this piece of mountain stood out to me, the almost stark environment allowing for a small snapshot of each of the skier’s individual styles to be taken in isolation. Pollard opened up the session with his classic surf-style turns and clean lines, he later asked for a photo of just his tracks and the mountain, inspiration for his painting. Banks boosted and attacked, popping and airing up off of the ridge and back up. Karl entered with a butter, charging hard through the rest of the feature.
A slew of other lines and feature builds went on throughout the day until the sun went down. After 14 hours in the backcountry we sledded out under the stars and headed back to one of the few places in Ketchum open past 9pm, Grumpy’s, a local watering hole that looks like it hasn’t changed much since my dad lived in town 35 years ago. At Grumpy’s we ran into one of Karl’s childhood friends, who shared stories of the hell they raised growing up, like the time they built a mini ramp in Karl’s room when his mom was out running errands. We all loved hearing these stories, Eric later told me how it all makes sense to him, “hearing Karl’s past, and how he just sends it in life, he’s not just sending it on skis, is awesome… I think personalities like that find identity within a sport and are able to manifest all of their focus to that sport. And creates something that’s special.” Each of these interactions with friends and places built up the context of a person and a skier, in ways that ski modern ski porn overlook.
Another couple of days and the crew found their groove, laying down some nice lines and only getting a few sleds stuck and busted, but that’s how sled trips go. With a smaller crew Karl and Eric really got the chance to work together for the first time, moving from zone to zone with two truly unique minds in skiing expressing their ambitions and finding their outlet in the Idaho backcountry.
Karl spoke to the way that he grew into his own personal style idolizing the skiers of Nimbus and guys like Eric, Pep, Tanner and CR. Taking these influences, this terrain and a personal journey of growth Karl has evolved into the skier he now showcases through the content he produces and the way he skis. This journey creates his “signature style,” as Eric put it. “Karl’s just this kind of guy who’s willing to go big and fast. And that’s rad... It’s standout stuff, he just makes it his. He’s able to elevate to that next landing, or get higher... When I look at Karl I see a very obvious candidate for next generation awesomeness. This dude is super legit, he’s going to carry the torch well for skiing.”