Words – Reggae Elliss
Images – Harro/wheresharro.com
Rip Curl espouses ‘The Search’, an enigmatic ideal that suggests always going that one step further, so sending Aussie alpine racers Jono Brauer and Craig ‘Bud’ Branch to Alaska, grand-daddy of all skiing locations, seemed like a good idea to Neil Ridgeway, Rip Curl’s Global Marketing Director.
The 10 day trip became the major feature of Chillfactor 2010, with Rip Curl sending not only Chillfactor photographer Tony ‘Harro’ Harrington but also a cinematographer to film the boys ‘searching’ for skiing’s next level with Points North Heli Adventures in Cordova.
Jono and Bud – only the Aussie best will do
Harro has a long association with Points North, he’s been shooting in Alaska for over 15 years with the best skiers in the world. He’s had visions of an Australian Alaska assault for years, but knew the trip would need the best of the best of Aussie ski talent – skiers with the technical ability, all terrain mastery and courage to take on the world’s steepest lines in the world’s biggest mountains. Jono and Bud, as World Cup downhill racers and brilliant freeskiers, fit the bill.
Since the advent of snowboarding and ‘new school’ freeskiing, ski racing has lost its edge but anyone who knows anything about skiing and the mountains will tell you, when it comes to versatility and the ability to tackle anything covered in snow, ski racers will blow anyone off the mountain, especially speed specialists like Jono and Bud. They may not bust a corked 1080, but put these guys on a 55-degree pitch with 2000 feet of vertical below them and they will show you what real skiing is all about – On one occasion Bud outran an avalanche down a 50 degree-or-thereabouts pitch, not many people have the balls, or the ability to do that.
“Light dry snow up to your tits on a 55-degree slope, charging super-G turns at full speed in open powder bowls for two-and-half-minutes…longer than a world cup downhill race,” is Jono’s description; super-G turns would throw most people at 20 degrees.
The ‘Search’ was fruitful
Jono and Bud charged from the outset, so much so that Jono nearly died on his second run of the trip. He was attacking a long steep slope of perfect powder only to have his sluff (the mini-avalanche that follows the skier down mountains this steep) take him out and send him cartwheeling over a 70 foot cliff.
“Mate, Alaska is like nothing I have ever experienced,” said Bud. “It is so big, so steep and so deep with seriously real consequences wherever you ski. I’m not going to lie, it is a pretty nerve racking experience getting dropped on top of these huge mountains and knowing there is only one way down. But, goddamn, it is a sweet feeling when you get to the bottom and look back up at what you’ve just come down. I knew it was going to be a gnarly experience, but it’s hard to explain until you’ve been up there yourself and peered over that edge.”
“If I can recommend anything as a skier it is to get your ass up to Points North Heli in Cordova,” Jono says. “You will not regret it. Only thing that might become annoying is the addiction to come back every season for as long as you can ski because it is just that good. I know I’ll be back, every year!”
Check out the full story in the 2010 issue of Chillfactor , Australia’s best ski mag. On sale Now.