This is a little story about two ContourGPS cameras, one Liquid Image Summit Series camera and a nasty little weasel named Detox…
It's 6 in the morning and my buddy is right on time to pick me up. I have everything I need to hopefully make a very cool vid, providing the weather is on our side.
So, one thing I have to say right off the bat is: make sure you have enough fully charged batteries if you're filming in the cold!! When you are out in the snow, the freezing temperatures can instantly cut the life of your batteries by half.
The trip plan is to head up just west of Whistler, British Columbia into the backcountry, known as Callaghan Valley. Once there, we are to meet with Blackcomb Snowmobile Adventures and embark on a one day trek into Brandywine Mountain then camp in a rustic cabin and then Cat Ski the following day in the nearby area with 4000 acres of terrain… going to be a few epic days to say the least.
We make it to the our destination in just over an hour and there is a old man huddled in the toll booth with a big grin on his face, “you guys heading backcountry today?" "yup", "good luck then." Ahh good luck? Why was he so chipper saying that? My buddy and me all of a sudden felt a little nervous.
My buddy, Pappas, is a sick little boarder. When I say little, I mean he is about 5'2" and maybe a buck twenty. Anyway, he has never ridden a sled before and I tried to hide my concern for his total lack of experience.
We meet one of our guides, Jeff, who shows us the sleds we will be riding. They are clearly designed for the powder with a high centre and a very long track.
I eagerly start trying to figure out where I'm going to mount both of the Contour GPS cameras. I brought two RAM Suction Cup Mounts and start trying them on all kinds of angles. What surprised me right away is how secure they mounted, even to the cold plastic, they were very solid. The real test will be when we fire up the sleds and plough through some powder.
After an avalanche test and a rundown on how to operate a sled for Pappas, we fire up the sleds, head south and up. I have one ContourGPS filming from the back of one sled and another mounted on the back facing forward on an angle in order to capture part of our guide’s movements. Unfortunately, I was unable to use the Connect View Bluetooth Accessory (wireless LCD display) because I had an older model of the iPod Touch. Oh well, just used the lasers and hoped all is good.
We take Pappas to a frozen lake to get to know his machine and become "friends with the throttle" as Paul, our other guide would say.
After that, we head up into an area called Avalanche Valley… sweet... all of a sudden I have a vision of that old man grinning in the toll booth.
We make our first ascend spaced out 20ft or so apart, so as not to all get buried if a slide does take place.
We make the first climb without an issue. As we reach the first ridge, the view comes in to play. I reach up and press the shutter button on my Liquid Image Summit Goggles and start laughing. I feel like a giddy kid who just found out he is going to Disneyland! Honestly guys, I am born and bred in British Columbia, and there is no shortage of breath taking views, but this was icing on the cake.
The blue light in my goggles is flashing, telling me I’m recording just as a helicopter merges from one of the gnarly peaks and drops a snowboarder right on top! Bastard! I'm filming right into the light, but manage to see him drop down the face of the cliff and disappear behind another. Awesome!
We come to the next climb and this one is much, much bigger.
I stand on the right side of my sled and give it full throttle. It starts to slide away from the direction I want to go, but comes around with a sudden jerk as I shift my weight and manage to hold on. Pappas isn't so lucky.
I get to the top and notice Pappas and both guides have not joined me. Just as I'm wondering what the problem is, my attention is redirected by two guys blasting over the ridge and landing in the deep powder. As they begin to carve their sleds effortlessly through the snow, the whole scene settles in. I start capturing what’s in front of me with my Summit Goggles and do a little narration, "I'm sitting on top of the world right now and having a ‘life is good moment.’" They play around in front of me for a little while and then disappear down into the next bowl.
Pappas finally shows up covered in snow. "You O.K. dude?" "Yeah, fell of the sled." I don't blame him, I have ridden sleds for a long time in the Yukon but never had the opportunity to ride these fine tuned torquey machines in ridiculously deep powder. Pappas has his first day on terrain that is for experienced riders, to say the least.
We pass by a large crew of people with their sleds scattered throughout this small sized bowl. On one side, guys are trying to “high mark” (drive your sled up a vertical hill and try to get the closets to the top) and on the other side half way up this large hill five or six guys are standing on a giant kicker with boards in hand. The whole scene seems like another world covered in snow with the hum of two stroke engines playing the soundtrack.
Jeff and Paul (the guides) give me a little crash course on how to carve your sled more like a snowboard. We take off in three different directions and spend the next half hour surfing through the deep powder, face shot after face shot while Pappas keeps the camera rolling.
Every once in awhile I check to see if the RAM mounts are still doing the job, and just as I expected, they’re sucked on solid! We take a break and I snap a few pics of the RAM mounts caked with ice and snow. Amazing little suction cups, performing beautifully as the wind and cold mixed with powder beat at these mounts - I am truly impressed. With a little flick of the leaver the suction cup pops off and I remount both RAM mounts to the front of the sleds and spin the Contours back in to place.
Note: If you are trying for the self-perspective shot of yourself or a friend operating a machine, bicycle etc… make sure the top of your frame is just above the person’s head. It's much more entertaining when you can see the terrain you are passing over then just half your body and the rest is sky…That’s the shot I ended up getting with these guys because I did not have the Connect View hooked up. I shot a little high on both. With the grey sky it was not the crazy footage I was looking for. Check out the Contour Skidoo vid to see a successful angle I managed to pull off.
The sun is now on its way down and we still need to get all the way back to base to load up with gear and head to this little cabin that John and I have requested to crash in for the night, in order to do a sweet time lapse of the stars.
We arrive at the cabin and I immediately start the little wood stove to get the cabin warming up. Pappas sets up the time lapse outside the cabin and it's finally time to crack a nice cold beer.
It's almost 3am and we have to be up at 7am. We pack up the camera from outside and settle in for the short sleep by the fire. As my mind and body start to slip into a deep sleep I am rudely awakened by the sounds of fierce scratching and grunting not more than a few feet from my face!
I jump out of my sleeping bag and shout, "Pappas! Pappas! Wake up man!" "What?" "Something’s in the wood pile dude" "Probably a field mouse dude" then we both hear this sinister hissing sound accompanied by a series of grunts growls and scratching "If that's a field mouse, he's at least a foot and a half long and very pissed off." Honestly you guys would be laughing your asses off if you could have seen the two of us, grown men tip toeing to the wood pile, clad in just underwear, equipped with a monopod as a weapon and a flashlight.
I yell and bang things around and try as hard as I can to scare the field mouse on crack out of the wood pile. "I think whatever it is, it's is gone dude," "Hope so man. I'm so tired I'll take my chances." Well as soon as we go back to bed, it starts all over again!
Something thinks this is it's cabin and were not invited. It's 4:30am and I am beyond tired, I move my sleeping bag onto the table and hope that keeps me from getting my eyeballs chewed on while in slumber.
A few hours go fast and we manage to drag ourselves back down the mountain half asleep and in desperate need of a coffee. The guides greet us with a "special" coffee and we give them a colourful story of our night tormented by a possessed field mouse. "Oh, I forgot to tell you guys, we have a Pine Marten named Detox that has taken up residence there. He's vicious!"
Later on that day I end up at that cabin again for a food break. I look out the window and I catch movement out of the right side of my view, and who is looking back at me all fuzzy and cute? As if to say "have a nice sleep in my cabin?"
Weasel and all, it was an epic day and thanks to having the proper POV gear, I will be able to revisit this day for many years to come.
Video or it Didn't Happen!