Profile: Stept’s Charlie Owens on struggles of shooting urban
Charlie Owens cut his skiing teeth in an unconventional location, the mean slopes of Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. He moved to Boulder, CO after winning the Salomon Jib Academy at his home mountain and catching the eye of Stept Productions’ Nick Martini. Since joining the Stept crew, Owens has made a name for himself thanks to his aggressive, balls-to-the-wall approach to urban skiing. Despite injuring himself seriously while filming in Maine, he was able to gather enough footage to put together his first full segment in Stept’s latest release, Mutiny.
On the phone:
Are you the best skier to ever come out of Boone, NC?
Yeah, that’s a shitty question. [laughs] I would say that there’s a lot of talent that has come out of North Carolina, a lot more than just myself, but a lot of people didn’t really pursue it to the fullest.
Why move to Boulder?
Breckenridge and Keystone kind of got me out there to begin with, and just going to where [the Stept crew] is close by.
Photo: Rail to tranny, Boston, MA. Shot by Christopher Baldwin_Stept.
Where’d you end up filming this winter?
I went to Boston for most of my winter, Maine for a little bit, and New Hampshire, cruising around there mainly. I was in Boston for, maybe three weeks.
You got hurt filming for Mutiny in Auburn, ME, this year after overshooting a huge stair gap. Take us through the decision-making process for an urban shot like that.
It’s definitely a roll of the dice. There are so many factors that go into the decision making. It’s really just all about what you think you can do, the confidence in what you’ve got going on. At the time, I was being foolish and was just rushing around. I hadn’t had a shot, hadn’t even hit a feature in like, a week and a half, and I was just getting antsy, and that’s when you make the biggest mistakes.
Do you have any regrets about going for that shot?
Yes, 100 percent. Now that I look back at it, it’s just a dumb feature for me to hurt myself on. My season was going well, I was choosing all of my features relatively well, everything was going fine and then I got caught in the rush and definitely chose a stupid set of stairs. It was really dumb.
How do past injuries affect your skiing? Is there any hesitation when hitting bigger, more difficult features?
You really don’t think about it. Honestly, you can’t really dwell on an injury. It’s when you start thinking about it that you’re fucked. When I’m hitting urban, I don’t really ever think about past injuries. Sometimes I think, “My knee’s already messed up. I probably shouldn’t be doing this,” but you get back to a point where you’re 110 percent, and it’s not really a concern.
How’s the knee right now?
It’s fine. It’s as good as it’s going to be. I’ve been biking every day, doing a lot of rehabbing for it, and I feel fine. I’m not worried at all about coming back from this injury. As long as I just do it correctly, I should be fine.
Stept’s Mutiny doesn’t leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Where do you think that grit and darkness comes from? And is that something you and the Stept crew look for when filming?
It’s not really that we’re looking for it, it honestly just happens naturally. We’re just a bunch of young guys with not really much money, and I feel like the movie this year really caught part of the realness behind what’s actually going on. It’s definitely not a blast going out and hitting rails, it’s pretty stressful and frustrating. There’s pretty high tension all the time. But life could be worse, right?
What’s a typical winter like filming with Stept?
Normally, out here in Colorado, we’ll get some snow in October, and that’s the first time we get out and actually start doing something. This past year, we went to Salt Lake City right off the bat. They had some snow. We really just hang out and wait for the snow to fall and just cruise around and go wherever it is. If there’s snow in multiple places, we’ll split up sometimes. Honestly, there’s not much of a process, it’s more of a shit show. It all just happens real fast, and before you know it, we’re deep into December just caught up somewhere.
What do you consider to be your style of skiing? Is there a skier or skiers who have influenced you?
I’ve been watching ski movies since I was really young. I don’t even want to start listing off names. I definitely take a lot of what other people do and incorporate that with what I like, and definitely watching more than just skiing. Everything is really an influence for my style in skiing—skateboarding, really any action sport can relate to what we do. Snowboarding is great too. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to go for any particular style though; I’m just kind of cruising around on those rails.
In Mutiny, there’s a scene where you ask the question, “Why are we losers?” Why are you guys losers?
I think everyone has a different perception on the crew than what we actually are. All winter, for a long period, it’s just us together in hotel rooms, sleeping on the floor. It’s not like what it seems, what people probably see us as. We’re just kind of goofballs, especially when we’re around here in Boulder. If people knew what we were doing at night, they’d be like, “These kids are fucking idiots.”
Plans for the future?
I enjoy skiing on the mountain a lot more than I enjoy skiing on concrete. I hope eventually to get into the backcountry a bit and do some real skiing. That would be nice. It would be sick to do it with Stept, but we’ll see what happens in the future. I definitely don’t plan on hitting urban for the rest of my life.
Hometown: Boone, NC
Sponsors: K2, Orage
Film Credits: The Eighty Six_Stept, Mutiny_Stept
This article originally appeared in the 2013 November issue of Freeskier, Volume 16.3. Freeskier Magazine is available via the iTunes newsstand.
About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.