Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jake Moe on Jean Claude Killy

I just received John Fry's sales pitch letter and the reference to Jean Claude.
And, immediately my mind races back to 1969 - a couple of years before I started Powder.  I was one of the professional ski patrolmen on the Sun Valley Ski Patrol.  One afternoon, the patrol director pulled Richie Bingham and me into a meeting and informed us that we were not going to be patrolling the next day.  He had chosen us to do avalanche control workfor Jean Claude Killy in the back country.  Killy was starring in a Disney film and the film crew needed to have some pre-skiers attack the slope to make sure that it wasn't going to slide on him during the filming.  Talk about being honored with a most incredible project - hanging out with Killy for a day?  Obviously, it was impossible to sleep with all that excitement.
We arose early and got all of our gear for the helicopter ride - and, with Olympic Champion Killy on board we were dropped at the top of a high ridge.  Over the radio, we heard the film director say - "send the patrolmen"!  We jumped off the cliff and immediately were shocked to be in the middle of the most impossible breakable crust that we had ever experienced in Sun Valley  The wind apparently had hit the slope hard the night before and turned a perfectly awesome powder field into 'sheet of crust' three inches thick - and a foot of fresh snow stuck underneath.  We would get some speed up and just barely start to make a turn and our skis would break through and as a result the hard crust would just kill our shins like ice driving into our legs and bringing us to a complete stop creating somersault after somersault.  After falling atleast seven times each from the top of the ridge to the specially built filming platform far down the slope, we slid up to the director and announced that it was no use filming because the slope was completely and totally UN-SKIABLE!  "Like @#$%" he said, "I didn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancel this!"  And, with that he waved for Killy to launch into the slope and ordered film to roll.
We had never seen Killy fall in the days that he ripped the slopes of Sun Valley - and, we almost couldn't keep our eyes open knowing that our hero was about to do headers just as we had done multiple times each.  To our surprise, Killy blew through the crust with such power and grace from top to bottom that it left our mouths wide open.  Richie and I turned to each other with the look that said "Did he just ski the slope we skied?"  Later, when reviewing the footage shot that day in slo-motion, it looked as though blocks of snow the size of rail cars were exploding off his ankles and shins.  I have never seen such execution in such impossible conditions in my life.
He is definitely my hero

1 comment:

  1. From Jules Older:

    Had my own mini-version of this experience one dark day on Tremblant.

    I was battering my way through a porridge of glug topped off with random
    chunks of death cookies. I could barely maintain motion, much less move with
    any grace or pleasure. Impossible conditions, I grimly thought. Impossible.

    Then, Ken Read came bopping by. He danced, he carved, he was skippin' over
    the snowscape like a storm. And, in a flash, he was gone.

    In that flash, I had a flash of my own. Never again did I mistake
    "impossible conditions" with lack of talent.


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