A Revelstoke Reunion

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A Revelstoke Reunion

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Among the upheaved peaks of the Monashee Mountains, in the heart of the 390,000-acre tenure of Eagle Pass Heliskiing, a fresh foot of immaculate snow sits atop a 150-inch base. It’s mid-March in Interior British Columbia and lower elevations are exhibiting signs of the impending spring melt, but winter’s grip on the high country remains tight.

From my vantage point next to the chopper landing zone, I watch as pulsating clouds expand, contract and displace across the sky, allowing beams of light to sporadically brighten the slopes—brief reminders of the sun’s presence. Tall, layered mounds of snow are perched atop stacks of metamorphic rock, resembling teetering Jenga towers, ready to collapse at any moment. Skyscraping fir trees loiter next to these multi-story snow sculptures, their branches holding an equally astounding amount of frozen precipitation. Steep corridors painted white with virgin powder separate the trees and rock. It’s a skiing nirvana.

Beams of light press through the clouds at Eagle Pass Heliskiing
Photo: Justin L’Heureux

It’s eerily quiet in this wilderness, but the faint yet unmistakable sounds of cheering in the distance breaks the silence. As the high-pitched, exuberant shouts grow louder, the familiar swish of skis slicing through deep snow reaches audible levels. Soon, two figures burst through the trees with trails of gleaming crystals billowing up in their wake. Tatum Monod circumvents a throng of vegetation before making a quick and powerful right-hand slash, an intentional effort to spray an immense volume of snow upwards into her face. Lexi duPont prefers a more direct approach, straight-lining out of the forest with her untamed, golden blonde locks thrashing in her midst. The two meet in the run-out, slapping five and exchanging bursts of laughter. The cheerful giggles only subside when a recognizable, thundering echo reverberates across the sky. The sleek, metal bird—its rotor blades swirling violently—becomes visible above the trees, then lands, blasting icy pellets in every direction; Monod and duPont hop in and the helicopter ferries them off to the top of the mountain.

Photos: Justin L’Heureux

The two professional skiers are participating in a weeklong photoshoot with LifeProof—the manufacturer of waterproof phone cases—in Revelstoke, British Columbia. The ski town is sandwiched between the Selkirk and Monashee ranges, and thanks to its abundant snowfall, combination of high-alpine lines, world-renowned pillow fields, delectable tree skiing and unmatched access, it’s pure bliss for big-mountain skiers. “Revvy,” at it’s known, is also where Monod and duPont first met, where it was friendship at first sight.

An incredibly close bond has been fostered since then, but each winter the two are pulled apart for various skiing obligations across the globe. The friendship is so strong, in fact, that when LifeProof asked Monod—the first skier penciled in for the shoot—which person she’d like to accompany her on the trip, she chose duPont without hesitation. It’s no surprise that the two ended up in the railroad town in eastern British Columbia. Like clockwork, many of their highlights of each winter come together while in the town of Revelstoke, the place they owe their friendship to. The last time they were here, they were participating in the Red Bull Cold Rush big-mountain competition. But, on this visit, they’re able to share a week of incredible skiing, just the two of them—an encounter they both wish happened more frequently throughout each winter.

Photo: Justin L’Heureux

The AStar helicopter whisks Monod and duPont towards the heavens. Miniscule patches of blue dot the sky, but the clouds persist, shrouding the mountain peaks and preventing access to the high alpine. With upper elevation travel limited, the pilot directs the bird toward a landing zone near another stack of pillows. There’s never a shortage of excitement over the prospect of blasting down powdery marshmallows, but an air of disappointment hangs over the group. The urge to bag the big peaks of the Monashees remains. The weather gods, however, are looking down fondly upon our heroes. As the chopper approaches the drop-off, the veil blanketing the sky is pulled back, briefly, and something catches Monod’s eye.

“I look out and see this beautiful, pinner couloir,” describes Monod. “I ask the pilot if we could fly over and check it out.”

The pilot obliges and navigates the chopper in the direction of the chute. He circles the terrain a few times, allowing the crew to size it up. Neither skier has entered a line this steep and committing in over a month, since Cold Rush. They’re practically champing at the bit to ski it and the pilot’s directive is made clear: Go there, now.

After a spicy toe-in atop the line in question, the two skiers exit the bird and peer down the steep, committing, 1,000-foot descent.

“We’re looking down the barrel of the couloir,” describes duPont, “and I immediately know that it’s go time.”

Monod drops in first. She surfs the couloir from side to side—cold smoke snow swelling over her head with each transition—before speeding through the chasm like a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun. She cleans the run from top to bottom.

“It’s just blower snow, I can’t even see her, just a white dragon chasing her down,” recounts duPont.

With Monod waiting at the bottom, duPont enters the line without hesitation. She follows suit, coursing through the wintry vein with precision and finesse before draining out on the apron, embracing her friend at the finish line.

Photos: Justin L’Heureux

“It’s the best feeling in the world. Surfing down this couloir, getting to the bottom and watching Lexi come down—[watching her] is as much fun for me as skiing is,” says Monod.

The experience, albeit brief, is an extraordinary one. To be able to share in the collective excitement of skiing a steep, aesthetic line in incredible conditions with your best friend is rare—even for these two skiers who log 100-plus days on snow each season.

“It was just soul shredding, the two of us together skiing a big-mountain line like that,” explains duPont, “we don’t get that very much. To see this couloir and shred it with Tatum, it’s pretty special.”

Bagging the couloir epitomizes their whole week, really, as well as the duo’s relationship with Revelstoke. It’s personal, pressure-free, long-lasting and rewarding.

Tatum Manod & Lexi duPont
Photo: Justin L’Heureux

duPont and Monod first met each other in Revelstoke in 2011 at the Canadian Freeskiing Championships. Monod was 19 years old and the talk of the town, thanks to an impressive first place qualifying run and third place overall finish. She walked away from that week with The North Face Young Gun Award for her trophy collection, as well.

duPont, already a seasoned competitor, took note of Monod’s talents during the competition, but it was Monod—on the heels of foregoing a racing scholarship to the University of Alaska Anchorage to relocate to Revelstoke—who was itching to meet duPont.

“She came up to me after [the competition] and said, ‘Oh, my god, you’re Lexi duPont, I saw you in [Warren Miller’s] Wintervention. You inspired me to stop ski racing and chase big-mountain skiing,’” explains duPont. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I did what?’ I was blown away that I was her inspiration to pick this lifestyle.”

The friendship was sparked right then and there and has only grown stronger with time. In one instance, Monod got through an intense moment atop the hallowed steeps of Alaska with duPont’s help. “The first time I ever went to Alaska I was standing on top of some massive spine run and I was super nervous,” Monod explains. “It took filmers a long time to get ready so I just ended up standing on top of this thing shaking in my boots for a long time. Then, I looked over at Lexi and she was just having a dance party on the ridge. I was like ‘OK, this doesn’t have to be so serious,’ and I fully relaxed. She was just dancing and I started dancing, too. I’ll never forget that.”

It’s times like those that stand as the solid foundation of their friendship. The two spend their entire winters traveling the globe to compete and ski for the cameras, but always keep correspondence with each other—whether it’s through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or a good ‘ol fashioned iMessage—as close friends do. And through all of the updates, gossip, banter and trip recaps, the two always make time to rendezvous in Revelstoke.

“Somehow I can always depend on ending up here in Revelstoke with Tatum and vice versa, she can always find me here.”

Photo: Justin L’Heureux

“Somehow I can always depend on ending up here in Revelstoke with Tatum and vice versa, she can always find me here,” explains duPont.

The two owe their entire friendship to the town and landscape of Revelstoke—home to a community that embraces the adventurous ideals shared by mountain folk the world over. The fact that Revelstoke serves up unrivaled access to world-class terrain—whether via the lifts, helis, cats, skins, snowmobiles, etc.—and benefits from massive snow totals is icing on the cake. Perhaps more than anything, the two, as friends, operate on a different plane than most, and Revelstoke is their own stage.

While both have friends they regularly ski and spend time with, her and Monod are unique. duPont explains that, “She’s not just one of my ski buddies, we connect on another level.”

Photos: Justin L’Heureux

“I don’t think I’ve ever had as much one on one time with one person like I have with Lexi in the mountains. That’s really when you see somebody’s true colors,” explains Monod. “[Most people] would be at each other’s throats right now, but we’re not sick of each other at all.”

And never was that more evident than at the apron of the couloir in Revelstoke’s Monashee Range where the two skiers embraced, having just reaped the shared bounty of an incredible line in heavenly conditions.

“To feel that connection with Lexi was extraordinary,” Monod describes. “Watching her ski down that couloir was equally as exciting as when I was skiing it. I understood what she was feeling and how stoked she was. Getting to share that exact same emotion with her was pretty special.”

Sharing such a memorable, emotional ski experience with one another served as an important reminder that trips like those shouldn’t be so spread out in time. Life is too short to not frequently venture into the mountains with the people who make you happiest, because each one of those opportunities is a thing of beauty.

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Photos: Justin L’Heureux

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