Gallery: Tom Wallisch sends massive airs in Whistler backcountry
I got the call from Kyle Decker in the late spring: He was heading north with Wallisch to work on their solo [film] project, sleds in tow—the necessary tools for shooting around the Whistler backcountry. They had ideas for the style/type of features they wanted to hit, and I knew some spots that fit the bill.
We started off near the Pemberton Icefield, a massive zone that is loaded with features, and obviously surrounded by glacier, making travel a bit easier. We met at the trailhead at 7:00 a.m. to get the morning light, and with a fast road ride we were in the alpine by 7:45. The first natural step-down we got to would make for a good warm up, giving Wallisch a feel for the snow. With some minor shaping, he was ready to go. A few different variations of 7′s went down, all shot from different angles. With every jump, Tom continued to get a better feel for the snow. It did have a breakable crust—which made it a little tougher to land cleanly—but Tom was always on point, stomping everything perfectly.
We headed deeper onto the glacier to find better landings and bigger features—it was time to go big. A few spots looked perfect, but as we checked the landings, the wind had made everything rock hard. I knew of a spot that was fairly sheltered from wind and sun, and with options running out, we headed towards the ice-featured face to build our desired jump.
The landing was almost perfect, but being a little steep, overshooting was a potential problem—something we should have considered before the first hit. As the radio banter went back and forth, Kyle figured, “more speed the better,” and we all agreed. Maybe not the best idea…
Tom came in hot. Really, really hot. With a huge 7 that left him—as he was finishing his second rotation—40 feet above were he wanted to land. Kyle and I were scared. He had enough time in the air for us all to think about it. He was 150 feet from the jump and still hadn’t touched down, with the landing area vanishing quickly. Gravity got him back to the snow, and he came to a violent stop. He was conscious, but in pain. First thoughts were a blown knee, but after a little rest, thoughts were more towards a knee strain.
After a few days rest, the knee was good to go. Another 7:00 a.m. start, and we headed straight to the monster jump. There was talk of hitting something smaller, but T Wall was fired up to step up to the big one right off the bat.
Multiple variations of 7′s and 10′s went down. It was ridiculous. Perfect stomps and style on every hit. This was the first time I had worked with Tom. The guy is smooth. Really, really smooth. He has huge confidence and a great attitude. I knew his park and urban skills were next level, but watching him step up to huge backcountry features, out of his element, with huge confidence, was awesome to witness.
About the author:
Bryn Hughes is a senior photographer for Freeskier. He answers to Bryndiesel, Osama Brynladen or just plain Diesel. Shoots with Canon gear protected in F-stop packs. Visit www.brynhughes.com for more.