When it comes to ski culture, maintenance is required by the community to keep the threat of stagnancy at bay. Legends must be balanced by rookies, and for every seasoned name a fresh face is needed to keep things moving forward. In an effort to create a space for the next up and comers to thrive, Level 1 created one of skiing’s most iconic events. They came up with an alternative route for athletes to strive for exposure and opportunity outside the realm of the conventional contests. Beginning in 2004 with Corey Vanular as the winner, Level 1’s SuperUnknown went on to give opportunity to countless others, including but certainly not limited to names like Tom Wallisch, Jonah Williams, and LSM. An unusual format for a contest, hundreds of videos are submitted in the hopes of being selected as a finalist, and attending a private park shoot with the Level 1 crew. With only ten male spots and five female spots in the finals, selection is without a doubt a very difficult process done by the team at Level 1 and through the help of a popular vote wild card poll for two of the spots. In the past, winning SuperUnknown has also meant the opportunity to be in the next annual Level 1 flick, but since the pause on annual ski movie production, the benefits of winning have been changed. The winners this year each took home $2,500, an Ikon Pass, a Soundboks hook up, and plenty of new connections.
This year, SuperUnknown was hosted by Mammoth Mountain. Located in California’s Sierra range, Mammoth is a dormant volcano with copious amounts of terrain and incredible views of surrounding peaks, valleys, and hot springs. Mammoth also has a rich history, and legendary park shoots are woven into its DNA of snowboarding, freeskiing, and whatever other on-piste counterculture worked its way into the mix over the years. The park crew absolutely crushed it on the build for the week. The features were all huge, and dialed to perfection for the riders. Some standout features included a 24” channel gap on a hip, a mega tube, and plenty of weird transitions on cubes and volcanos, encouraging creative approaches on almost everything.
The first day is usually used to scope the features, figure things out, and adjust to skiing in a film shoot setting. A couple sessions will usually go down, and this year the first day was spent on a mega tube and a flat to down transfer. Camden Williams set his pace for the week with a crazy bodyslide down the whole thing, and Sam Lobinsky put down an incredibly clean backslide. Jackson Doremus also 50/50’d the whole thing, but unfortunately took a digger on the flat to down and was injured for the rest of the week. It always sucks to see someone go down, and we are all wishing Yack a speedy recovery.
The weather came in hard on day two, bringing on 14 inches of powder. The park crew generously built a pow jump for everyone, resulting in some of the best tomahawked landings we’ve seen in awhile. As the California sun came back, the fresh snow gradually turned to corn for some dreamy park conditions, and filming continued on an s to down rail combo and a hip with a hitching post.
The next days were packed with people throwing down on the volcano, a massive rainbow rail, and a kimbo up rail. The vibes were an all time high, as everyone found their groove and figured out the routine. Everyone brought something so different to the table, and the sheer entertainment of just watching them ski was such a treat. Sam Lobinsky was one of my personal favorites to watch. His style was supple and graceful, and extremely light on his feet. Cami Williams had crazy approaches to everything, with all sorts of double backie combos and sliding rails on anything but his feet, including but not limited to his knees and even his shoulder at one point. Both Alexa Juncaj and Marion Balsamo came through with the tech on their rail tricks. Benjamin Carlund was also lacing crazy tricks left and right and stomping them so consistently, and his drops were always ones to look forward to.
Off the hill, participants of SuperUnknown always find a way to keep themselves entertained. In the past it’s been hours of Yahtzee, or indoor corn hole, or extremely recreational rounds of hockey. This year it came in the form of homemade Jungle Speed, and tattoo nights for which I contributed some forever artwork on a few of the riders, including my first knuckle tat which went to Dasha. Her journey to get from Russia to SuperUnknown could be a book in itself, and the effort she made to be there is without a doubt worth recognition.
This year The Stairmaster award ended up going to Dasha , not only for the amount of hiking she did, (which was a lot) but for the steps taken to attend SuperUnknown coming from a very complicated geo-political climate. Dasha’s skiing is incredibly creative, and echoes the weirdness of Andy Parry’s style with various ski slide and nugget combinations. Her new flick she just dropped, “Turmoil” is a great insight into her skiing and life, and definitely worth a watch.
The second award to be given out this year was SuperVibes, given to the person who brought the hype all week. This year it went to Nico Bolinger, who was not only going crazy on every feature, but was firing everyone up in the process.
The third award was for Gnarliest Slam, which Marion Balsamo took home after taking a bad spill on the rainbow. She bounced back though, pushing through and throwing down, despite a crash that would keep anyone else off snow for days.
As far as the big checks go, this year’s SuperUnknown winners were well deserving of their awards. As is the case every year, the winners are determined by rider voting. The media team does not get to vote, except in the rare case of a tie. Voting took place at a bowling alley on the last night, just in case a display of additional athleticism was needed to help anyone make their final decisions.
On the men’s side of things, there was one rider in particular who stood out all week long. His technicality, creativity, and consistency was impressive to everyone on the hill. He was the only rider to get a clip on every feature, and that in itself is a huge feat. This year’s male SuperUnknown winner is Mathieu Dufresne. Mat is continuing the legacy of a long line of Quebecois style gods, and his win was a predictable one following the week. "It was fun experience to meet new people from around the world who share the same passion has you and watching them shredding the park with their own style. Huge thanks to the park crew they did a incredible job, a lot of creative features and options. SuperUnknown is one of the biggest video contests and to be part of the finalist was a dream since I started park skiing. I’m super grateful to taking the win and I would like to thanks all my new friends. Jeedemmmm!!"
For the female title of SuperUnknown, this year was a well deserved one. She was super consistent with her tricks, and kept the vibes high all week with gassing up everyone else through a group chant of “JEDEM”, which translates to English from Czech as “LFG”.
Tereza Korabova is this year’s female SuperUnknown winner, and is absolutely one to watch. Her style is sick, and her Jungle Speed skills were also impressive. "This week has been so fun and I am thankful to all the people, the Level 1 team, park crew, the riders, everyone involved. You've made my time at Mammoth unforgettable! I am coming home with a full heart, a new mammoth tattoo (Shonathon), a new bump on my head, and a lot of new friendships." Tereza ended it on one last note, a very loud "Jedeeeem"!
“The tricks are different, but it’s all the same,” said Glen Plake, who graciously let Dakota Cannole and I interrupt his RV dinner to give our praise and thanks to the legend himself. It’s true that more spins and bigger air may be involved than when free skiing was born, but the love for skiing is shared among all of us. An event like SuperUnknown is such a reflection of that, showing that the passion still continues to run deep as the next generation reveals itself.
Thank you to Mammoth Mountain, the Level 1 crew, and all the sponsors involved to make this event happen.