Timeslice • Snowboard Canada 2014 • Back
March 28, 2014– 1:47 am
It’s late, I’m tired, and I should be asleep. So should Marie-France Roy and Darcy Turenne. Tomorrow’s a big day– blue patches in the forecast, temps still okay for a spring snowpack nearing its shed, and the start of filming for Meghann O’Brien’s segment in The Little Things. Marie-France and Darcy have been working on the film for a year and a half, and it’s due to premier in five months. Meghann’s upstairs, sleeping we figure, resting up after welcoming us into her Prince Rupert home. She’s got a few hours of Zs left. Marie, Darcy and I are in the basement, huddled in our sleeping bags, nonsensically riffing on the prospect of an airborne pollutant called ‘dick dust’ and laughing like 14 year olds watching American Pie.
Marie and Darcy have been adventuring together all season. They’re nearing the end of a heavy filming schedule, one segment away from wrapping shoots on The Little Things, and at this point they’re like sisters. Their project is the most ambitious environmentally focused snowboard film the mainstream of our sport has seen, a two- year opus meant to showcase the value of appreciating, understanding, and preserving the natural world. With Mike Basich, Gretchen Bleiler, Tamo Campos, Jeremy Jones, and Jonaven Moore on the roster (in addition to Meghann and Marie) it features some of our sports most intriguing personalities. And, with the participation of thinkers like David Suzuki, it’s been a way for the crew to explore the continuity between their passion for the mountains and the natural systems that surround us. I’m lucky enough to be here on assignment, getting the inside scoop as the girls peel back the cover on Meghann’s program– It’s already way too fun.
Details Go Noticed
We wake to the obtrusive sounds of Marie’s alarm, which lasts only seconds until a flurry of grunts and swishing nylon gets her to the ‘snooze’. In its absence we hear sizzling bacon. Meghann’s boyfriend Alex, a German who lives well beyond the stereotypical Euro efficiency, is already in the middle of a very elaborate breakfast operation, orchestrated with the guidance of an online cook- book called Cooks Illustrated. “A man must know how to cook,” he tells us, “and Cooks Illustrated breaks this down step- by- step. It’s cooking for men.” He’s making waffles as well, which he assures us (watching timers with attentiveness I’d thought reserved to surgeons) will be crisped to perfection.
Details don’t seem to go unnoticed in this house, I think, as I turn from giving Alex due props to checking out Meghann’s artwork, hanging neatly in the day’s first light. Meghann has been exploring her Haida heritage by learning traditional weaving techniques, using materials like cedar bark and mountain goat wool to make things like blankets, baskets, and decorative pieces. She harvests the materials herself, and tells us the weaving process is as meditative as snowboarding. Her humble yet powerful voice is present in each of the works, and through them gives her home a calm and kept air.
Meghann, for any who don’t know, is about as legit as backcountry riders get. These days her snowboarding is largely powered by her own efforts, from her split- access approach to her self- harvested touring snacks. Together with her weaving, it’s a lifestyle dictated by the seasons, requiring the same patience and work ethic that went into filming the raucous video parts that earned her notoriety in the shred scene. It seems, as Alex serves us breakfast, that Meghann’s way of life suits the two of them well; they laugh and smile like the best of them as the morning takes an immature turn towards impersonations of our cook. Still, Meghann can turn us into ready listeners in a second. There’s a perspective in her observations that the rest of us don’t have, something she is finding through her time in nature. Of course, that’s why we’re here– it’s what Marie means to celebrate with The Little Things, what Darcy’s camera has to capture.
A Visual Drive
Fortunately, the forecasted weather is coming through, creeping across Prince Rupert as we load up splitboards and camera gear for a day of shooting at Shames Mountain. Shames is rad– run by a community co-op, it bleeds all of that soul and local flavour you remember from Out Cold. It’s Meghann’s home mountain these days, and together with a pack of underground split fiends she’s been using the top tow- ropes to gain elevation on some of the area’s gnarlier lines. She’s sure she can find pow, and excitement ramps up. We hit the road, stoked to be going snowboarding.
Split by our number and gear load into two vehicles, we set out for Shames. I’ve got Darcy riding shotgun in my CR-V, at the expense of her comfort (the car is camperized, and the length of my bed restricts the possibility of her having legroom.) Strained knees don’t keep her from conversation, which is to my favour– Darcy is lovely company. She tells me how she came to be involved with TLT. Marie approached her after seeing The Eighth Parallel, the 27 minute- and- change documentary Darcy shot as part of a Master’s in Intercultural and International Communications. The film, about female action sports athletes in Indonesia, showed an expressive style that meshed with Marie’s vision for TLT– aesthetically driven storytelling, action with an element of social complexity. The two of them saw eye- to- eye, and Darcy came on board as TLT’s director.
If it weren’t for her matter- of- fact storytelling, I’d be skeptical as Darcy spins me tales of her adventures. A professional mountain biker until her recent transition into film, she’s spent her life on the road. Her résumé is a spackled collection of once- in- a- lifetimes, from bike demos in Japan to music videos in the Kingdom of Georgia. And, with sharp intellect and open eyes, she’s managed a fine outlook of her bizarre and coloured string of circumstances. I’m excited to see her to go work, to see her bring a lifetime of extraverted experience mining to the subject of Ms. Meghann O’Brien. And as the light treats us to gorgeous takes on one of BC’s most beautiful drives, Darcy is excited too. The hues off the mountains and the Skeena River to our right raise in her a fascination. I recognize the filmmaker, the visual drive. Very cool.
Our Luck– Rippin’ Plain and Simple
We’re greeted by a fantastic surprise as we pull into the Shames parking lot, a black bus wearing red and silver stripes, the roaming home of Tamo Campos. Tamo is another rider in The Little Things, a co- founder of Beyond Boarding and, recently, an active land defender working with First Nations groups to protect BC’s wilderness. Tamo is a longtime friend of mine, as is his travel partner Desireé Wallace. The two of them are just waking up, living and loving the shred activist lifestyle and taking a few days off between high- school presentations. Our luck– these guys are a blast to ride with. Though it pushes our numbers, we posse up, agreeing to split up if the big crew bogs down filming.
The shred is good. Meghann treats us to displays of 90s-esque power freestyle, taking inside lines to cutbacks, leaving the moniker of “women’s snowboarding” in clouds of cold smoke– this is rippin’, plain and simple. Marie, Des, Tamo and I have some fun on pat- downs, catching bits of air and quick laps from the sidecountry back to the resort while Darcy films Meghann. It’s great fun, and as we link back up with Meghann and Darcy they’re all smiles. They got shots, it’s a good day. We tour around some as a group, stopping so that Darcy can shoot portraits of Meghann. It earns her some cool lifestyles, and also heckling from the crew. Again, we’re having too much fun.
March 29th- April 1st, 2014
We shoot at Shames another few days, with the same crew and about the same program. Meghann stacks clips, Tamo crushes pillows, Marie and I trade backflips. Des, new to splitboarding, throws herself into the split- ski and pole- boardin’ scene, making for hilarity as we travel around the Shames backcountry. She takes her tumbles like a champ, laughing as she figures out the different ways to bail on pump track traverses. But high temps are setting in, and with them avy danger. Grateful for the good times, we decide its time to re-evaluate.
Tamo and Des have two more days without commitments, and decide to travel with us. We return to Rupert and hit the planning table, hoping to find a good spot to shoot Meghann’s profile, the interview that will tell her story in TLT. Over a top- notch Cooks Illustrated meal there’s talk of a nearby cabin, at the feet of mountains and the head of a pristine lake. Word is if the lake’s not frozen, we’ll have to get there by canoe. As if that’s not dope enough, Alex wants to come along and try his skills in a backcountry kitchen. We’re sold, and after a quick resupply in Rupert we set out.
As I drive, following Marie’s truck up a snowy FSR, Darcy and I vibe on the mid- 2000s bangers on my ancient iPod. The road’s a little treacherous, the spring snow trenching as we climb, and we’re still kilometers away from our trailhead. Still, we press on– until, that is, a weird bounce sends the CR-V left, towards a steep but shallow ditch. I try to compensate, but can’t correct in time. The slide into the ditch feels like slow motion.
Darcy looks shocked. Bloc Party’s “This Modern Love” sets a strangely suiting background as we climb out of the car, careful not to tip it from its precarious 45°. No injuries, no damage. The homies up ahead, after seeing our decline from vibin’ adventurers to stranded suckas, have sprung into action, are helping me try to stabilize the car. Alex scouts ahead, deciding whether this is the end of the road. It is, the snow 100 metres ahead isn’t passable. We turn to scratching our heads, and I’m stressing. Getting the car out isn’t a possibility, but rolling it further into the ditch definitely is… The whole thing looks expensive. Marie finds a spot of cell service, and we call the necessary back- up. Two of Rupert’s finest tow operators promise us that they’ll have seen worse, and that they’re hours away with a truck suitable for bush rescues.
Efforts turn to staying warm, and before long we’ve made fire. Sitting around the flames, with campfire stories and the maxim that adventures begin when something goes wrong, crew morale begins to return. We’ve got food, wine, and friends– things will be okay.
April 1st, 2014– 3:41 pm
As we wait, Tamo tells us about his work protecting BC’s wildlands. It’s hard to focus on much but his words. His lifestyle has changed dramatically over the past years– it’s not long ago that the two of us were roaming from spot to spot, snowboarding, surfing, and partying our way around BC and Washington. We started dipping our toes in environmental projects together, as a way to bring some balance to our shredding. Tamo always said yes to the next project, the next opportunity to stand up for the Earth. Now he travels year round, with destinations decided by the activities of expanding corporations. He works closely with various First Nations Groups, helping them protest the exploitation of their land. We’re rapt as he and Des tell us some of what they’ve seen and learned in recent weeks; his program seems an endless string of adventure.
I think about how Tamo’s path, Meghann’s and Marie’s as well, have changed the way they think about their lives. I think about how each of them are continuing the story of environmentalism in snowboarding– Tamo and Meghann with commitments to their respective lifestyles, and Marie (beyond her own personal eco- initiatives) with the project of bringing them to light. The Little Things is about this, here, snowboarders at a point along the path to sustainable and responsible living. It’s a timeslice of the story Nicholas Müller starred in when he pushed Burton to put out a line of eco- focused products, the story Jeremy Jones tells when he advocates for POW. It’s a milestone in our industry’s shift towards reduced waste and improved efficiency, a shift that is very real, gaining momentum with every rider who’s inspired to live a greener life.
Marie- France Roy wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to make when she conceived of The Little Things. I don’t think she knows now, as her crew sits here on a snowy backroad, giving each other reasons to be optimistic in the middle of what can frankly be seen as a pretty sh*tty situation. What I’m sure she does know, as she asks Tamo genuine questions about the people and places he’s working to protect, is that she’s inspired by the people she’s chosen for the film. There’s something about each of them that she knows the snowboard world will benefit from seeing. The tow truck is going to show up. My wallet will take a hit, but we’ll get out of here. Somewhere in these mountains we’ll find a spot to shoot Meghann’s interview. And The Little Things will do exactly what it should– give us each a chance to celebrate what has already been done, and inspiration to keep going through whatever must be done next.