Julian Carr recounts massive front flip on Whistler’s famed “Air Jordan”
Below is a photo from just a couple months ago, shot while filming with Sherpas Cinema on the famed Air Jordan cliff.
It all started off with an invite to film an inbounds Whistler Blackcomb segment with Sherpas. I arrived to town fresh off of a less than spectacular snow base in Utah. In Whistler, they had an awesome early season and were still sitting on a great base. It hadn’t snowed in a few weeks in Whis’, and most of the locals were awaiting a new influx of nukage. I, however, was licking my chops, enjoying the great base.
We initiated some filming, right away. I knew we were going to break some new ground in true Sherpas fashion… We were lining up shots that were choreographed to have quite a few people skiing at once: Dave Mossop of Sherpas, said, “Ok guys, I’m going to count down from 20. Julian, you’re in the air at 8, Matty you’re skiing into frame at 5, Austin you’re jumping at 3, Tatum you’re skiing through the foreground at zero, rest of you guys—just be skiing the whole time on the sides, and it’ll all work perfectly. Can you guys do that?”
Hah! We gave it our best shot, in some truly classic Whistler zones, over the next couple of weeks. Most of the time I think we walked away accomplishing what we intended. Some shots maybe not.
After a couple really fun weeks, I headed home for a break ’til the next storm and break in weather came. It ended up just being a few days, and I headed back up to Whistler. It snowed quite a bit, about 50″, but the weather wasn’t quite cooperating for filming. On one of the days we were cruising around (well, most days cruising around) my eye would always go towards the Air Jordan zone. I fantasized about singling the entire zone. I’d keep the thoughts to myself though, because the ability to ever take that fantasy seriously, the zone would need 100″ of snow and closure of the landing zone while it nuked. Not going to happen. And I didn’t think there was a suitable take-off up there. Regardless, it was fun to fantasize.
On one of the days we got skunked on weather, Stan Rey was up there on Jordan, while I was over in another zone with a different air lined up—they were going to bring in the heli equipped with Cineflex. Unfortunately, neither of us had the chance to hit our features due to weather, but after he came down and we all met up, he said to me casually, smiling, “Julian, there was a rad diving board platform up there you could send the whole thing from.” He said it very passingly and was laughing. Little did he know I was listening very intently, and I immediately looked at the zone and recognized what he described as the diving board. Noted. Very noted, my friend.
At this point, it was a Thursday. Weather was calling for some serious snow to fall for a couple of days, then it was going to clear (maybe). Sherpas had another project lined up out of town on Monday. So it was looking like our only day to hopefully get another shot was Sunday. I took off to Vancouver while it nuked. The whole upper mountain was closed and it was raining like crazy in the village of Whistler. The sun was shining in Vancouver, and I was lucky enough my girlfriend had a layover in the city. We decided to have a great Friday night and chill all day Saturday before her flight up to Nelson, and my shuttle back up to Whistler in the evening.
After a killer time decompressing in Vancity, I hopped on the shuttle back up to Whistler. The snow reports I was hearing were 100″ storm total, 50″ more inches in the last 36 hours. Wow. Weather report was also saying: “clearing on Sunday AM and sunshine.” Were the stars really aligning for me to take a look at this Air Jordan air? It certainly seemed that way.
I rolled into town Saturday night. I called one of the people I had become friends with during the shoot, Christian, who picks up the phone and I tell him, “You down to wake up early with me, go have a look at Jordan? I’m thinking about singling it. You got my back, be my wingman?” He immediately is game on. Christian was one of those guys everyone knew up there. Everyone gave him respect and he and I connected on a cool level throughout the days filming up there. I knew I had to access the zone before anyone else and assess the diving board to see if it could in fact get me over the whole zone. Then go down in the landing and probe. Then come all the way back around to the takeoff after another chairlift ride. All the while, I knew I could trust Christian to politely ask any locals that wanted to punch Air Jordan—the proper double stage way—if they wouldn’t mind waiting til I got back, and to let them know I was considering hitting it as a single stager.
Christian and I wake up early and meet the Sherpas crew. It’s a glorious sunny morning, the entire upper mountain had been closed for two days. Unbelievably beautiful. We loaded the gondola and when we got up to the base of Peak Chair, holy crap the line was long. Everyone made their plans of attack. Hoji was heading there, Matt Elliot was headed there, and so on and so on. I told Mossop I was headed to inspect the Jordan zone for potential single and told him I’d radio when I had a yay or nay. It’d most likely be over an hour before he’d hear from me. Game on.
Christian and I head down to Peak Chair, where the line up is massive. We head to the liftie and we mention we’re with the film crew and we’re hoping to snag early chair. He says hold up, goes into shack, comes out in a hurry and says, “You guys hop up there!” Holy shit, OK, we hop up in front of first chair and before we know it he lifts the closed sign and we’re all loading and have the first chair! Haha!
We head up, and the mountain is unreal. No tracks. Beautiful sunshine and thousands of hungry skiers ready to take no prisoners.
We unload and rally to the Jordan zone. I had never been there before, so Christian shows me the way. We roll up on the spot. I look down and see a really obvious diving board that shoots you off into the oblivion, off what I instantly knew was the famed double stager called Air Jordan. So far, so good. Intense.
I ski carefully down to the take off of the diving board and have a look over the edge. Oh boy. I knew that in order to air the whole zone it was not going to be a sheer cliff, but when I first looked over the air, it was far from sheer. It appeared, to get over the rocks and cliffs below, I’d have to travel very far to get out to the landing zone, way down there. Instantly, my gut reaction was gripped with fear and a fleeting mentality. Nope. No way was this cliff doable. Dang. Oh well. Holy shit it was terrifying. I’m out of there. Too bad.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait a minute,” my inner voice was saying to me. “You don’t know it’s not doable.” I realized I had to make absolute certain, with my intellect, not my fear that the cliff wasn’t possible.
After I got comfortable and found my footing underneath me, I took it all in. Was it impossible? No, it wasn’t. In fact, it looked very potentially doable. Dang it! I studied it intensely for 10 minutes. It was doable. The take-off would take some time to stamp out and manicure, but it was doable. I looked up and saw that Christian had made friends with a handful of hungry locals wanting to hit Jordan as a double. They all told me to take my time. They wouldn’t hit it. What a bunch of basasses. I told them I was going down to inspect the landing, probably for 30 minutes, then hustle down to catch another chair—and hopefully not have to wait in line.
I went down to the landing zone. Probed. Landing was great. I could penetrate the snow with my entire pole, then my whole arm to my shoulder. Perfect. The only way I’ll jump off 100+ footers is to have snow like this. I was stoked. But also not sure about the air still. I like to hit sheer cliffs. This cliff was not sheer, any mistake on my speed calculation would be certain death. And I not only couldn’t under-calculate the speed necessary, I couldn’t over-calculate, for there were trees past my preferred landing spot.
I headed down to the chairlift and knew I’d stare the dragon in the face and make a decision once I got back up to the take off. Breathe. Let the calm and meditation start to seep into my being. For I was going to need it. I could not simply make a mental “choice” to hit the air. I knew that. I was going to need to make a full body meditational, universal, present awakening of intent up there. I knew that. Breathe. It’ll all unravel in the way it should. Whether it works out or not for me to take it down. Breathe.
I was lucky enough to cut the line again. So many people! Wow, I was treated to a show on my way up the lift. Matt Elliot nailed a super impressive air and stomped it. Same with Hoji and a handful of rippers. Whistler was going off. Peak Chair represent!
I cruised back over to the top of Jordan and in classic Christian form, he tipped his cap to me. No words were spoken. None were needed. Quite a few people had gathered at this point. Everyone gave me all the space I needed. I skied back to the take-off and had another look down to my landing zone. Holy smokes this was a spicy endeavor. I still couldn’t gauge my yes or no, so I simply decided to start making my take-off and while I did this I knew my body would start to make sense of the energy around me and in the feat.
As I sidestepped up and slid down time and time again to form my take-off, it literally became a booter off the diving board. The in-run was about 50 feet long with a steep down ramp—set back about 30 feet from the actual take-off. On top of the steep down ramp was the deck where everyone was hanging out. I knew I would not only need a well manicured 50 feet of in-run, but another I’d need another 50 feet to pole push my way into the steep in-run if I were to have any chance of needed speed. No games here, kids. Any miscalculation would have me coming up short. I immediately thought of 90′s deceased cliff jumper, Paul Ruff—RIP. He miscalculated a 140 footer, came up short and passed away due to internal injuries—he ruptured his aorta on impact. I would not have this happen.
By now, Stan Ray pulled up and asked if he could hit Jordan as the double while I hit it as a single. Of course. He got into position. Lots of people were showing up now. All the other skiers had nailed their lines and now it was my turn. The attention of the Sherpas magic Peak shoot was now on me.
I still didn’t know. Breathe. Breathe. Meditate. Think. Don’t think. Be. Free. Be free. Absorb. Be the in-run. Be the air. Be the landing. Breathe. Breathe.
I made the in-run picture perfect. It was solid. I couldn’t run the risk of having any of the in-run become “soft” as I railed into it. I needed to have it fast and ready for me to pop like a champion off the end of it.
I still didn’t know. Breathe.
I stood at the top of the in-run, all 50 feet of it. Even with a really steep ramp and a massive booter, it wasn’t fast enough yet. I stamped out the snow leading up to the down-ramp. It was a blind rollover situation, so I marked the snow where I needed to be aimed in order to have me squarely coming down the ramp with maximum speed. Point of no return situation on my hands. Instense! Breathe. I still didn’t know. Damn this was rowdy. A very tremendous energy field had formed in the area. It was thick. Breathe.
I backed up all the way to my start point, a good 150 feet away from the booter. I mimicked my pole push into my ramp. I had a fair amount of speed that would lead me into the point of no return, steep ramp directly into the booter. Ok, ok, ok, I’m getting a grasp of this…
I did that a few times. Then skied down to my take-off again. I began to have body affirmations all was good. I like that. It was not 100% yet.
I sidestepped back up, on the steepest part of the in-run. I really became the in-run. I felt an authentic connection between every cell in my body and every particle of snow that made the in-run and shared a vision of exactness together. It was total unique affirmation. It wasn’t a choice, this was the meditation I was awaiting. To become hyper-aware of all things in my vicinity. I am the vicinity. Breathe.
I started to sidestep up to announce I was ready. But I had a powerful voice come from somewhere inside me, and it said, “Julian, you just had one affirmation, and that is great—you need to step back down to that exact spot back there and think this through with your intelligence to back up your meditational affirmation.” Indeed, it was my body checking in with me. It said, “That’s fine and dandy that you’re in a profound state of zen right now, but you are a living, young healthy human right now. If you make any mistake right now, right now, this exact moment, it will be taken from you.”
I stepped back down. Closed my eyes. Had a complete visualization of the physical aspects of the feat from start to finish. I liked it. Then my whole body took over my thinking self. I was now again part of my surroundings. I was seeing and being from the cliff’s perspective, the snow’s, my skis, the air, myself, my ego, my detachment from self, from the atomic level. It’s really a magical transmission.
I opened my eyes, I now was 100% certain in my pursuit.
I hiked up to the top of the in-run. I took in all the people that were now up there with me. We had a lot of “extras” for the shot to be skiing in the background while I aired. Stan was in position. What a pimp. He’d been hanging out for a good hour now.
I announced to all the extras that under no circumstance were they to make a right hand turn once they started to descend in their respective paths. If they made a right, they may just have my skis chopping their head off as I land on them, killing both of us. I heard a little bit of chitter chatter as I announced this. I had no problem asserting myself and clearly announcing again until I had every single person nodding their head in understanding.
I stepped back to my start point. Crazy thing is my heart rate—after the transformation to pure confidence—takes out the intensity of the situation. For I see it for what it really is: it’s a sharing of my energy field with the energy field of the in-run, take-off, air, cliff, and landing. I was in harmony and had achieved equilibrium with the frequency of the feat between all these components. So I do not have a fast heartbeat. I do not have any need to yell or scream into the air and bump my chest. I am not here to dominate my surrounding, I am here to share with it.
I radio I am ready.
Sherpas radio back. They’re 1-minute out.
I am in-air on their 5 count. Stan drops into line at 8 count, and the extras start to ski at the commencement of the 10 count.
Focus. Maintain the equilibrium.
Momme with Sherpas starts the count: “Ten, nine, eight!” I start to push with my poles. “Seven!” I pick up speed towards my blind rollever to my down-ramp. “Six!” I crest my blind roll-over and am hauling ass, perfectly, down my steep ramp. As we’ve all experienced with going fast on firm groomers when your skis chatter a bit, I experienced a bit of chatter on my down-ramp—I was moving, I internally smiled to myself, I was going fast. As fast I needed to. Nothing more, nothing less. “Five!” I pop off the booter and I am now airborne, and moving fast. I love it. Usually I have some time to take it all in, but this time I’m moving so quickly that things are moving fast in my peripheral vision. Last thing I see is that I am beyond the bottom of the cliff as I begin to flip my front flip over. What a feeling to swan dive off a cliff going that fast. I was now into the safety zone.
I switched gears mentally to have total relaxation upon impact with the snow. I breathe out and go limp entirely. This is all instinctual. I have thoughts react and catch up to what my body already knows and is executing on meditation-wise. I am still not me. I am everything around me. But I still have vision and internal dialogue of self. Very interesting. I am the observer. Even though I am the subject.
I make impact as the observer and feel the interaction of the energy of body and snow. It melds together seamlessly. I don’t feel a thing. Pure energy sharing. Amazing. I’m a spectator in awe. I have no explanation. I have no way to attach meaning to it from anything I’ve read or studied. It’s pure. Transcending boundaries of human supposed limits. With no abrasiveness. It’s all the same frequency. There is no way to define the difference in energy in myself and energy in the snow. It’s one.
Julian Carr’s frontflip and Robert Aaring’s backflip: Air Jordan in Whistler
In a continuous motion, I am back on my feet skiing away out of my dust of smoke. Magic. Haha! Breathe. Laughing. High fiving.
Yelling with happiness. Yelling again from charged particles in my body.
I loved my time in Whistler, what an amazing opportunity.
A big thanks to the Sherpas crew and Whistler Blackcomb. And all my old and new friends up there. Be on the lookout for the new movie, Into The Mind, releasing in September. Watch the teaser here.
About the author:
Freeskier Magazine—This is skiing.