Cover photo: Grandfather and grandson shredding Hood 60 years apart
For some of you, Jeff will certainly need no introduction. For the rest: Jeff Kohnstamm is one of the most stylish filmers in the game, with a CV including Glacier Days and Brighton PDF Files. He also produces his own soundtracks to go along with his cinematic work. He recently released a compilation of the songs that so many have asked about in the comments of facebook and instagram edits for your aural pleasure. Check them out below while you read some words. I had a chat with Jeff about skiing, his music... oh and about how his family runs Timberline at Mt Hood.
Yo Jeff, what's up? For those who don't know, tell me about your background and how you grew up skiing?
My grandfather resurrected Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood from a state of despair in 1955. The lodge was created in the late 30s to create jobs in the great depression under President FDR's new deal. By the mid 50s it was mismanaged, bankrupt, the caretaker was a drunk whose dog pooped inside, prostitutes were in some of the rooms, and when my Grandpa Dick (Richard Kohnstamm) showed up there were massive snowdrifts inside the lodge. He fixed it up big time, installing the Palmer Chairlift in '78 starting the first summer skiing in the US in the summer of '79.
My uncle Jeff is now the area operator. The hotel and ski area continue to be a family owned business, meaning, I spent a lot of time there growing up. Being born into such a privilege, I used to take it all for granted. In the 4th grade I just wanted to play basketball all weekend and when my parents wanted to go to the mountain for the weekend I'd throw a fit. In middle school I started to find a love for skiing and realized how god damn lucky I was. By high school skiing is all I wanted to do. I really regret being such a little spoiled brat as a young little guy. However, I'm glad I turned it all around, hopefully. All 4 years of high school I was able to ski every month of the year at Timberline. It is a truly unique place. Being able to ski all year in a beautiful setting, in a place where so many of my fondest childhood memories took place, is an incredible experience. Every time I go back to Mt. Hood from school in SLC or traveling in the summer, I'm instantly flooded with nostalgic feelings. I'm super thankful to have had my Grandfather work so hard to make that place what it is today. Without him, summer skiing on Mt. Hood maybe wouldn't be a thing.
My uncle Jeff does a great job at keeping that dream alive and well. That dream being a place where you can ski all year, take in and enjoy historic Timberline Lodge, and recreate or relax in the beautiful setting Mt. Hood has to offer. I like talking to my Uncle Jeff about skiing because he is able to look at it so much differently than my friends and I do. Sure he is a skier as well, but he has to be tapped into all the different trends and issues of the industry on a managerial level. Talking about things like who Vail is buying next and what to do about all this warm weather is always really interesting when I'm hanging with him. It's a way different conversation than just hating on the weather and what tricks and clothes and video trends look stupid or cool with my peer skiing group.
When did filming come into the picture?
When I was 15 I got a DSLR camera and was initially interested in photography. My Grandpa Dick (Timberline guy) and my Grandma Molly were really good photographers. My Grandma still takes great photos of her travels she does today. She has some very impressive old photos of Oregon landscapes and flora and fauna she developed herself as well. She was able to teach me a few things about how to use my DSLR. I then realized it could shoot video as well. It all started with a video I made of snails in fast motion in my backyard on a Friday night when I was 15, because I didn't feel like going out and underage drinking or smoking dope with my peers at my high school. From there, I was hooked on the satisfying feeling I get from creating videos. As I got more and more into skiing, my camera started being brought along with me everywhere. Now I make it sort of a job every now and again, but it still feels like just a fun hobby or passion- something to keep the brain working and time ticking.
Is there a particular aspect of skiing you want to get into filming or riding more? What gets you stoked?
Making a powder video would be sweet. The only issue is I love skiing powder and I hate filming it and you know I'm not going to make a GoPro video (went through that phase in high school) and I also don't want to make Drone videos. Drones and POV cams are not my current interest. Drones kind of scare me because I feel they could one day make the freelance videographer obsolete.
Making a full length ski movie once I'm done with college at the University of Utah next fall would be awesome though. If I had the opportunity to do that I would definitely sack up and film some powder. Filming urban is something I should do yet it's super tempting in SLC to just go ski the resort when it's cold and wintry and nice and fluffy up there. Which is typically when there's snow on the ground in the city.
Pow is too much fun to film...
I've been on the receiving end of a few of your musical displays, you're pretty much addicted to your Keyboard but has music always been part of your life?
Currently I'm really addicted. If I haven't played any music for a few days I feel a little weird. I started playing saxophone in grade school and was in my school's jazz band from the 6th-8th grades. There I learned to play jazz music which I soon got sick of, mainly because all of the band practices were at 6 am. When I was really frustrated with it, my instructor wrote a song with 9 solos for me to play at the regional jazz band competition so I would practice more. I didn't end up practicing more at all. We went to the competition and I got an award for the solos which I then sprayed with WD40 and lit on fire in my driveway that night. My jazz band experiences still stick with me, I find myself playing off of scales I learned in the 6th grade all the time.
I stopped practicing jazz music and began playing bass guitar. In 7th and 8th grade my mom signed me up for Portland Oregon's Paul Green School of Rock. There I met a lot middle school aged posers who wanted to look cool and play metal and do head whipping hair flipping stuff. However, I did meet a good handful of music-driven kids and passionate instructors. I played bass and sax in a Reggae concert as well as a Talking Heads cover show. I was able to have bass lessons from the bassist of Goldfinger which was really cool, he had some great stories about playing music at the Freestyle.ch ski event in Zurich actually. So he liked to talk to me about skiing too. Then, in high school, I got a keyboard and a loop pedal and have been using those as my main musical tools ever since. I kept my keyboard in a soundproofed closet at my high school, my tie dye wearing janitor loved to stop in and listen and talk about shows he saw in the 70s. I also received some informal music theory lessons from a neighbor in high school who loves 80s music more than anything. He has some albums out from the past couple years that are heavily influenced by that time period. Tyler Burns, look him up, he introduced me to a lot of 80s music. Receiving music theory instruction, despite the casual nature of it, has helped me a lot down the road. It makes it so you can play off pretty much anything you make up on the spot with ease.
What did you grow up listening to?
I occasionally enjoyed radio tunes throughout elementary and high school however I typically sought out my own music or listened to things my dad turned me on to. I initially hated my dad's music, thinking it was for old guys. However, my dad has lived a very cool life and like most dads he is wiser than his offspring due to experience, thus his music is actually pretty good. He gave me a Beatles CD in about the 2nd grade which I enjoyed. Then I began to listen to other bands he liked in middle school and high school. Bands like The Doors, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, etc. I became very fond of...hippy stuff. Then I looked into where the hippies got some of their rock influence, guys like Muddy Waters and BB King are really cool to listen to- to hear some of the source of that stuff, the hippy stuff.
It's good for your ears...
In high school I started digging deep into the internet to find other relatively young people making their own music. Some of it was garbage but some of it I still think is really good. People and groups like Adeodat Warfield and Badbadnotgood influence a lot of how I play the keys or layer up a loop. I kept listening to old music too, I listened to Booker T and the MGs about everyday the spring I was 18.
I also have recently been listening to famous jazz people like Miles Davis and John Coltrane because they're so insanely good and untouchable and one day I hope to be half, maybe 25%, maybe 10%, as good as them. Those people are insane psycho musicians.
How many instruments do you play?
Keyboard, Bass, Guitar, Ukulele, and Baritone Sax. 5.
How did your music start to overlap with skiing? How did that come about?
I always hated listening to music while skiing, it took me out of the moment. I still feel that way today. However, when I was about 15 and started making ski videos, I was all too often very frustrated with not having a soundtrack that worked with the video the way I wanted it to. With my music I've been able to tone down that frustration. I still have a long way to go as far being able to produce exactly what I have in mind, yet, I'm gaining a lot of progress towards making that possible and consistent. I started doing my own music in ski videos when Erik Olson bought me a Brighton pass two winters ago in return for making Yoke videos up there all winter. He was fully supportive of the music going into the videos and helped give me some confidence in pursuing that. Huge shouts to that dude, switch 10 god, the CEO.
Does it help you when pitching your filming skills to also be able to produce soundtracks?
It often helps display creative power yet it hasn't fully come into play yet. However, now that you can't post videos with unoriginal soundtracks on Social Media...maybe more people will want to hire me for audio/video or buy some music? :)
I'm going to keep making music and ski videos whether I get paid or not though. It's what makes me feel good.
How did you end up filming Glacier Days this last summer? Was it your first big filming trip?
That was a self invite. I just talked to Sami on the internet and was like "yo, you guys didn't have a film last summer let me come this summer". Definitely the first filming trip I've been on anywhere outside of Oregon or Utah.
Jeff's tunes in motion: Glacier Days 2.3
What's coming up this winter? Are PDF files coming back?
You betcha. Just going to cruise Brighton ski resort mostly and keep working for those guys. Going to probably film Jack Borland fall asleep while doing some nosepresses, etc. It's nice that he's Ted Borland's brother all the boarders at Brighton give him auto respect if they know that, even if we aren't homies. SLC definitely has its positives and negatives but being able to go to class half the day at a solid university and ski the other half in a world-class mountain range is a huge plus. Lucky to be here and be able to do all of this.
Skiing, filming, and music keep the creative juices flowing all in their own unique ways. Being able to combine all three is a blast. It's super satisfying to me to piece them all together, makes me a happy guy.