Bud takes on the big mountain in AK
Words – Tess Cook
Images – Harro
Straight from the Olympic downhill to the world’s biggest peaks, The Australian Olympic alpine team of Craig ‘Bud’ Branch and Jono Brauer are in Alaska with all-round photographic genius Tony ‘Harro’ Harrington learning that there’s a whole – big – world of skiing beyond the racecourse.
“What we saw left me humbled, the mountains are five times the size you think they are and the runs are twice as steep as anything you have ever skied. Epic,” Jono said after arriving in Alaska.
Before the trip began Chillfactor magazine exclusive photographer Harro, a man with more photographic awards than is reasonably fair and 15 years of Alaska experience with the world’s best skiers and boarders, said the guys are two of perhaps only four Aussie skiers he’d let loose on these particular Alaskan slopes.
When Jono dropped into the second run with some sweeping GS turns Harro’s faith seemed justified, but a rookie mistake – skiing into his own sluff – nearly meant lights out as the alpine racer was swept off a 60ft cliff.
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“I have no idea how many cartwheels I did but I felt like I was in the washing machine. Cracking my helmet on a rock and thinking I was in another of the many flips I realised that I was no long flipping on snow but high in the air. I had gone off the cliff. Now it was time to relax, say my prayers and get ready for impact.”
Incredibly he not only skied away from it, but after sitting out a run, skied the rest of the day.
“I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear him come over the radio and say he was still alive,” said Bud afterward. “For sure it knocked the wind out of his sails a little but full credit to him for getting back on the horse after a little break and getting back up there to take on some more lines.”
The guys are feeling a bit sore and sorry, but pumped for day two. Jono has assured his girlfriend they’ll be taking it a bit easier for the rest of the week… unlikely!
The full Alaskan Epic story will be featured in this year’s Chillfactor Magazine, out in May.