Ashley Battersby.Michelle Parker.Words and photos by Ethan Stone
Jason and Matt Levinthal are arguing. It's hard to tell exactly what about, but it has something to do with too much work and not enough time. "Since January, I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t slept in my bed a third of the time!" Matt yells at his brother, who yells back, "I haven't either! ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not my problem!" Michelle Parker and Ashley Battersby try to ignore the confrontation as they slip the in-run and peer over the lip of an unauthorized hip jump that the Levinthal brothers have built in the Hood backcountry just outside of TimberlineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boundaries. The entire Line team, minus Mike Nick, is here at Mt. Hood for a team meeting, product testing, and photo shoot for Line's website, brochures, and advertisements. Right now, the girls are riding Line's brand new women's models, the Shadow and the Celebrity, to be released next winter. If the sun would ever peek out behind the clouds for a good shot, maybe the Levinthals wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be so irritable.
Michelle and Ashley, the two members of Line's "G-Force" womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pro team, are hiking up the in-run, and it seems like Jason and Matt have made their peace after putting the final touches on the lip. A shout echoes down the ravineÃ¢â‚¬â€œ"DROPPING!"Ã¢â‚¬â€œand everyone pauses to look uphill as Anthony Boronowski tucks into a giant hip under the watchful lens of Johnny DecesareÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s camera. Tony launches a rodeoish 7 that clears almost all of the previous tracks. Upon landing, his right ski gets hooked by the slope, and he disappears in a wash of snow, coming up wet and cursing. Not a minute passes, however, before he's back on his feet, hiking up for another hit. We aren't the only ones with work to be done today. Josh Berman is off somewhere filming a step-up with Line riders Craig Coker, Brandon Becker, and other riders. Skogen Sprang, Dash Longe, and Mike Wilson got their shots earlier in the day and have headed back down to the team's temporary home base, the Shamrock Motel, where WindellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first camp has just begun.
The girls have reached the top of the in-run, and we're waiting for the clouds to clear for a sunny shot. As the sun peeks out from behind a thunderhead, Anthony drops again, throwing the 720 even bigger but blowing up again on the landing. I turn back to our jump in time to see Ashley dropping in for the first hit. She throws a smooth 360, but misses the proper angle off the lip and cases a few feet from the landing, then tumbles down the long transition. Michelle follows with another 360, coming closer to the landing but still going down hard. Nevertheless, both girls are stoked on the hit- it's their first photo shoot with Line and their first backcountry booter, and both are ready to show off their skills.
Michelle takes the Celebrity for a test flight.Both girls can barely contain their excitement about the shoot. "I've never hit a backcountry jump or hip before," Ashley says. "It's been so sick." Only 16 years old, she dominated women's competitions in Utah last season, and tied Grete Eliasson at Superpark's Jabra rail jam last week with her polished rail skills. Michelle, 17, is the latest export from Squaw Valley, and both her and Ashley are displaying skills that may revolutionize womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s freeriding.
"[No girls] have had skis made for them before," Ashley says. "ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rad that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re starting all this for us." Michelle adds, "This is our first year on the team, and for Line to be doing something like this for us... for the girlsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ side of the sport, this is pretty sick."
It looks like the Poor Boyz crew is packing up for the day. As the girls hike for their second hit, Boronowski skis down to pick up the shovels we used to build our jump. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pissed off about crashing on the hip. He eyes our modest arrangement, turns to look at the monstrous hip up the canyon, and jokes, "Your jump looks like more fun than ours!" The girls take on the booter several more times as the PBP crew packs up and skis by. Johnny Decesare is last to leave, mostly because he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any skis. He comes stomping by, talking into his cell phone, and complaining about being late for his flight in his best Cartman impressionÃ¢â‚¬â€œ "Goddamn it!"
Jason Levinthal sticks his best switch cork zero spin.The girls take on the jump several more times, going big but spilling hard. Michelle cracks her chin on her knee and earns a bloody nose, and Ashley tweaks her bad knee. "These girls are tougher than I am," Jordan Judd observes as they keep hiking for more with shit-eating grins on their faces. Matt Levinthal lays out morsels of food, trying to entice a circling crow to land on the lip of the booter. After a few more hits, the sun is getting low and the girls are tired. After Jason and Jordan take turns hitting the kicker, we head for the base.
On the way back to the Shamrock, Jordan fills me in on Line's motivation for launching the all-new women's models Ashley and Michelle are riding, due in shops this December. "As a company, we want to be the first to the market to support womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s skiing, because nobody is supporting this side of the sport," he says. "Instead of just having one token girl to say that we support it, we sponsor two girls. We have two girlsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ skis. And," he adds, "we know weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going to stop there."
"WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re usually a few steps ahead of the curve, and the next step in maintaining that is to start supporting the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side of the sport," Jason says. "But keeping true to our roots and our direction, of course they have to be freestyle skis." He admits to not having paid much attention to the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s scene before now. "I always thought, 'Someday there will be girls who ride as good or better than guys,'" he says, "but I just hadn't seen them yet." But after skiing with Michelle and Ashley, wellÃ¢â‚¬â€œ he's seen them, and is stoked on the possibilities for the future. "What theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing is showing other girls out there that this side of the sport is attainable. It's fun, it's cool, and that's what my whole goal has ever been: to show the world that skiing can be fun... that it's the equal of all the other action sports out there."
The team discusses 05/06 gear at the team meeting, as Brandon Becker eyes the PBR on the table.
It's yet to be seen what effect two women's freeride models will have on Line and on the sport, but the effect on two girls from Park City and Lake Tahoe is obvious. Back at the Shamrock, Ashley eyes the sick new models designed for her and Michelle and shakes her head. "I don't even have any words for this. This is just the beginning."