words and photos by Jamey Voss (http://www.redbullskiing.com)
Two planes, three trains, and 26 hours after leaving the comforts of North America; we roll into the station at St. Anton, Austria to join Tanner Hall, who is here filming for his new movie, “The Massive.” The fact few others get off at this stop isn’t suspect at this point. Weary and waiting for a ride, we fall prey to two drunk Germans rocking out to “Bad Boys” echoing around the empty station, blaring from one of their cell phones. They ask for a picture taken and insist on repaying the favor with a shooter of Jägermeister. Mild refusal is quickly overcome by the Duetsch-ers, and imbibing is appropriately set as a theme for this trip.
Tanner has already been in St. Anton skiing with Sean and Callum Pettit. The eve we arrived was also the eve of their one and only day skiing. Tanner is on crutches, Sammy Carlson (on a different film project) is on crutches, and Callum is complaining of a pulled calf muscle. Earlier in the day they went up to St. Cristoff near St. Anton and hit a zone of unreal natural terrain features. Unfortunately the snow was very real. It was surely powder at some point in its life, but two weeks of bluebird skies and relatively warm temps in Europe ensured that time is days past.
Tanner launches off a natural hit to a rollover landing and goes real big. Snow conditions are a few inches of sugary powder on top of a significantly firmer underlayer. Tanner bounces and on second impact he punches through the firm layer. When he finally comes to a stop he’s screaming about his ankle. Photographer Mattias Fredrickson hurriedly packs up his gear to rush to Tanner’s aid. CP looks on calmly. “Tanner always fears the worst about his injuries,” he says. “Give him a minute.” While Tanner definitely takes it easy for the next 24 hours, the next day he is nearly jogging around.
The facts stack up: Tanner is hurt (sort of), Callum is hurting, it hasn’t snowed in two weeks and the forecast is for the next week is great for sun-basking and laying it down on groomers, but there is not a flake of powder in sight for all of Europe. And St. Anton is schralped: in a zone where finding powder days after the storm is normal, the fact that all the hike to stuff is tracked is a bad sign. Take all this and throw in the nagging little fact that the Western United States is set to pop with storm cycles and one thing becomes painfully obvious: it’s time to pull the plug on Austria and turn this show around.
The decision is made: we’re leaving St. Anton. It’s Monday night and we’ll pack up the show and hit to road to Munich at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning. But right now, we’re in Austria, and dammit were gonna have some fun while we are still here.
The crew has posted up in the Funky Chicken. Red Bull and vodka is flowing, C-grade American hits are bumping, and Euros are getting sloppy on the dance floor: most of them still in ski boots. Tanner and Sammy Carlson are hobbling around on crutches, Simon Dumont is keeping his cool, and Jossi Wells and Sean Pettit are straight dancing on the tables with 17-year-old Swedish girls. It’s a miracle the night ends without incident.
The next day, Sean Pettit is the only one healthy enough to hit the hill. We head to Stuben, the “smallest” resort in the Arlberg area, to take a few runs and shoot some B-roll footage for the webisodes. The terrain is out of control, like nothing in North America. It goes from steeps to rolling with wind lips, spines, gaps and drop off everywhere. It’s literally like a natural terrain park. Right now, the snow is super variable. You might have one great turn in some sugary week old pow, only to transition into some windbuff with a thin ice layer on top. If it was a powder days it would’ve been like no place on earth, but the snow conditions make high speed turns risky and jumping out of the question.
Nonetheless, getting up high in the Arlberg is amazing. The sun is shining and the groomers are soft, but not too soft. People are out having a great time and soaking up the rays on the decks. If we were on vacation it actually wouldn’t have been bad, but we were here to make a movie and that was obviously impossible. We make our way down to the road, actually finding some pockets of still creamy powder in the deep, dark drainages near the bottom. We nearly get stuck above some gnarly rocks clustered with Alders, but Sean leads the way and we pick our way back out into the sunlight.
Down in Stuben, we kick off the boards and hightail it to the Sportcafé for some rösti. Tanner couldn’t stop talking about the rösti, so it was an obvious stop. It’s basically some kind of hash brown scramble deal. It was damn good, and for about $20 (confounded weak dollar) it should be. We spent a good two hours basking in the sun, looking at lines, and drinking beer and cappuccinos. Very Euro of us, don’t you think?
Keep checking back to http://www.redbullskiing.com for updates on the journey to create “The Massive.”