All photos: Chip Proulx
Ever since Level 1 started hosting a finalists' film shoot 4 years ago, it's been a life changing experience for the majority of the riders involved. I was lucky enough to attend as a media partner last year at Mount Snow and have been counting down the days to going back ever since.
In case you've been living under a rock, the SuperUnknown Finals brings 10 athletes from all over the world, knowing little about each other and even less of what to expect from the week, to an insane private park to ski and film. The first 24 hours were a bit like the first day of summer camp with a fair share of awkward silences, but as the 15 or so of us, crammed into a snowcat like sardines in a tin can, rounded the last corner to see a private park waiting in front of us, all tensions, anxiety, and nerves faded right away. There's nothing better to break the ice between a group of skiers than a private park in one of the most beautiful locations on earth and a park staff that is literally willing to build (almost) anything that they ask for.
Within an hour most athletes had seemingly forgotten they were technically in a competition and were cheering on every trick like they were just hot lapping with old friends. But before we go into the shoot any further, let's meet the athletes. I'm sure there are a some names you already know, but as the name of the contest implies, there are probably a few you aren't familiar with.
If you watch edits on NS then you've probably seen Molesquad members Mike Cappola and Sam Zahner tearing Keystone and Breckenridge parks apart to a gangster rap backdrop. Then there's Keegan Kilbride and Quinn Wolferman, both of whom are quickly gaining recognition from their edits full of technical tricks done with almost incomprehensible ease and style. Next up we have Kellan Baker, a North Carolina native with a slight southern drawl that drifts in and out as he speaks. You might recognize him from the Project Flex edits that took us by storm a few years back.
Brody McSkimming (the second Burrrlapz member to make finals in 2 years) shreds big mountain almost as well as he trolls tinder. According to him he's only hit one rail and a handful of park jumps all year. On top of that he just got out of a cast after dislocating his foot in Japan this past January. I joked that he should make a #TinderUnknown edit to match Dylan Siggers' OneFootUnknown performance from last year, but he just lost his phone so I guess he'll have to just rely on his skiing to stand out. #Burrrlapzsuck.
Obviously the North American field is stacked but there is no shortage of European talent either. Siver Voll hails from Norway and has a massive bag of technical rail tricks in his arsenal. Simen A. Gjelsvik, also from Norway, has quickly earned the title of "the Norwegian Mike Hornbeck" due to his effortlessly smooth and consistent style.
Henri Immonen comes from Ruka, Finland. 'nough said.
Last but not least is Jacob Hyllengren Larsson from Sweden but living in Mammoth. He's a veteran from SuperUnknown X and if you ever meet him in person I'm guarantee he'll have some pretty ridiculous stories to tell.
Day 1 Recap
Now where were we? After a first lap through the park to scope the possibilities the athletes talked about a few feature ideas to build over the week, and decided to capitalize on the one nice day in the forecast to get as many shots as quickly as possible. The plan was to spend an hour or so warming up on the rainbow rail before moving on but sure enough we spent a good 2 or 3 hours hiking before the boys ran out of tricks.
Keegan started things off with a clean tail-press on the first hit of the week and things went from 0-60 in no time. Kellan took inspiration from the rollerblade world and did every variation of one-footer and broken slide under the sun. Simen landed a nose to tail tap 5, Brody got a blind 4 nose tap, Keegan hand dragged the thing like it was his job and Quinn got asked by the filmers to do his hand-plant misty 5 a half dozen times until they got the shot just right. The possible highlight of the session, as judged by the fact that Berman himself asked to see it a second time to really nail the shot, was Henri's double broken slide that made you wonder if he was born without MCL's.
After the rainbow was shut down for good and a quick bite to eat it was straight onto the booter. Sled tows made lapping so quick that everyone got at least 20-30 hits in. The feature had one standard step down kicker and a side booter. Jonny Durst (one of the Level 1 Filmers) put it best when he summed up the session saying "I think I've seen every variation of 5,7 and 9 that there is." Immediately afterwards he was proven wrong. Every single athlete brought their own unique flair to the table and landed almost every trick they tried. Jacob stomped a switch 9 that spun so slow you wouldn't have believed he'd set more than a 5. Quinn and Keegan stomped switch 10 and dub 10 (respectively) with such perfect landings you would have thought you were watching Wallisch.
Brody started off with landing a flat 5 to knuckle switch 3 on the side booter then followed that up with a dub flat 7 on the main kicker, his first double on a park jump, proving alongside his rail game from earlier that backcountry freestylers have what it takes to hold their own in the park as well. Simen landed a ludicrous nose, tail, to opp tail 9, Siver made every trick look effortless and Kellan, Mike and Zahner held it down with their own individual styles of tweaked out grabs and shifty rotations.
Henri might have been one of the most fun riders to watch all day. He's a crazy Ruka kid who does crazy Ruka tricks. Having landed some of the the most unique rail tricks you've ever seen he was fast becoming the 'one to watch' and his first few jumps had us pausing conversations mid-word to see what crazy Ruka shit he would do next. Unfortunately on his 3rd or 4th jump he set a switch misty 10 too big and came down hard, breaking his helmet, and taking him out for the day. It was a nervous few hours afterwards but he's back at the hotel now and looking like he might get back on skis and shredding before the week is over. Needless to say we're all hoping for a quick recovery and would love to see him back out there.
The end of the jump session closed out Day 1. There were smiles all round and any of the "first day of camp" nerves were completely gone. The bar for the week is definitely set high and theres guaranteed to be loads more to come, so stay tuned for more updates and follow us on Snapchat (ns_com) for a behind the scenes look.