Interview by Justin Keppler
Breaking Trail looks to be one of the coolest ski and snowboard films of the season, and if you weren’t already familiar with the backcountry telemark ski scene, once you watch the trailer [above] you’ll definitlely want to get better acquainted.
The PowderWhores, led by brothers Noah and Jonah Howell are known throughout the ski industry for their love of telemark sking and extensive resume of first descents. Their films are filled with beautifully choreographed shots of epic mountain scenery, human-powered ascents, and pristine fields of powder “losing their innocence” to the telemark turns.
The PW Team was featured in The Ski Channel’s 2010 feature film The Story, and since then have been investing their energies in the production of their latest film project Breaking Trail due to release October 1st. I got a chance to catch up with Noah Howell for a quick phone conversation, to talk about the film, the progression of backcountry riding, and a turn that is worth getting passionate about.
JUSTIN KEPPLER: What was your favorite location/highlight in this years upcoming film Breaking Trail?
NOAH HOWELL: There were definitely a couple of unique trips. We got to go to Spitsbergen, Norway up next to Greenland in the Artic circle, and that was incredible. We took two trips, and one where we sailed around by boat. We would come ashore and ski right up to the summits and back down. Visually, it was really fun to shoot and that turned out to be a real nice segment
JK: Tell us a little about yacht-life in Spitsbergen.
NH: Tight quarters but a really fun crew. It was 13 of us on a 60 foot boat with our ski gear. Not much room to hang out below, we had to take turns changing, and would all pack into the galley for meals.
JK: What kind of gear do you typically include in your pack?
NH: We try and keep it light and simple; so we don’t use a lot of dollies or booms or slide cams (we do a little of that when are home). There is not much room for luxury items. It’s kind of simple. Usually a tripod and a Joby, I really like those a lot — it’s a fun tool. You can stand it up or wrap it around tree branches or set it up in interesting places.
JK: On your human powered ascents: Do you feel it adds to your craft as a filmmaker and the overall riding experience?
NH: I think so. We are moving slow and as you’re doing that you see a lot and see the beauty of the mountains and watch the clouds pass and sunrise. I think our audience likes a little of that. We like to include the uphill and the scenic part as well as action and downhill. That’s what sets us apart from many ski related films.
JK: Was there a specific athlete that really wowed you during filming?
NH: As far as athletic ability in this segment I would go with Forrest Shearer, the split boarder. This is the first year we have branched out from just focusing on telemark skiing. Forrest hit us up so we went to his premiere of Deeper, and we just started talking and he was like, “I would love to get out and ride with you guys!” We had already begun thinking about opening the door to other disciplines, so we gave it a whirl. It was really fun to watch him ride, and made me want to start snowboarding [laughing]. But I don’t want to pick up another sport at this time; I’ve got too much gear as it is! But its incredible how they can check speed and really control the slope. As far as being in a tight chute and being able to speed check, whereas someone on skis is kind of commited to a straight run to get out of there. Forrest is very playful and looks like he’s having a lot of fun in the deep snow.
JK: The title Breaking Trail obviously lends itself to the PowederWhore pursuit of fresh backcountry lines — but is there any other significance?
NH: Breaking Trail worked in two ways for us. It’s the back country theme but it’s also about branching in a new direction away from just telemark. We wanted to make that clear with our poster and our trailer that we have multiple disciplines. We had a whole completely different concept for the movie that we were trying to pull off but we didn’t really make that happen — so breaking Trail was somewhat the backup plan. I think it works well, it’s a subtle, simple back country adventure that hopefully inspires people to get out and kick off that line and visit that destination that they always wanted to. That’s why I love ski movies, I always loved getting motivated and inspired, and that’s what were hoping to do.
JK: What was the original plan?
NH: [Laughing] I can’t tell you that.
JK: In your opinion, where does telemark skiing go from here? Will it continue to enjoy a strong niche following, or is there potential for it to become more?
NH: It seems to split, divide, grow and shrink. It’s a hard thing to gauge and with the light-weight gear I definitely see a lot of people as well as myself getting into AT. A lot of those people still prefer tele conditions, but to me it’s a tool and all about using the right tool for the right day and expanding your quiver. It’s hard to say, I think the turn is amazing and I don’t think it will go away any time soon. Its enjoyable and challenging for those that want something new. As for tele in the back country, it seems to get smaller and smaller. We rarely run into people still using telegear. It’s changed a lot in the last 5 years. It seems like tele is growing in bounds with the high performance downhill gear but it’s having a hard time in the back country.
JK: Looks like we’ll have to get the word out to get people to try something different, pick up some telemarks and get out there — and in the meantime scope out the film!
Breaking Trail premiers September 28th in Salt Lake City, UT. The guys have partnered with non-profits and avalanche centers in most of the towns they visit, and last year raised over $35,000. They’ve also partnered with Big Sky Brewery, so whether its your apetite for donating to a great cause or drinking good brews, everyone is invited! Its definitely a cool way to come kick off winter and hang out with your backcountry bros!
Check out www.powderwhore.com/tour/ for the tour schedule, tickets, and additional info on the crew.