WORDS • DONNY O’NEILL | PHOTOS • WILL WISSMAN | LOCATION • HAINES, AK
Although their career overlap has only spanned the last decade or so, the skiing lives of Henrik Harlaut and Tanner Hall will forever be intertwined.
Tanner Hall has managed to stay at or near the top of freeskiing’s conscious since 1999, an almost-unmatched longevity. His near two-decade pro career has enough plot twists, drama and redemption stories to fill a 400-page novel. But, through the ups and downs, Hall’s brand of skiing is a story of consistency. He’s managed to blend every type of freeskiing there is—park, street, powder, backcountry, big-mountain—throughout a career that’s earned him icon status, while his larger-than-life personality has always drawn attention like a magnet from core fans to those on the periphery.
Harlaut, nicknamed E-Dollo, first burst onto the scene in 2008 with an appearance in Level 1’s Turbo. In the decade since, he’s captivated ski audiences in contests, on the big screen and in internet edits played on desktops and mobile devices the world over. Harlaut has six X Games gold medals in slopestyle and big air, and has competed in two Olympic slopestyle events. His Armada pro model ski, the Edollo, graces the top of magazine gear guides perennially. Yet, with the high-profile status he’s earned, he’s remained true to his unique essence—which he displayed for the world with his dreadlocks, Hip-Hop inspired, oversized threads, nose butter triple cork and proclamation that “Wu-Tang is for the children” at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The skiers are two of the most influential men in freeskiing’s two-decade lifespan—Hall since the beginning and Harlaut for roughly the past 10 years. Despite the gap in time between their come-ups, they just so happen to be incredibly close friends.
“Growing up, he was my very favorite skier and today he is still one of my very favorites to watch,” says Harlaut. “We’re very close friends that feed off each other at all times. We both really love skiing, so everything we talk about and do is somewhat a way to better our craft. I am so thankful for all he has done and is still doing.”
Their converging paths can be traced back to 2011, when Harlaut and close friend Phil Casabon decided to film exclusively with the Hall co-founded Inspired Media Concepts for a web series dubbed The B&E Show, rather than continue filming a segment for Level 1. That same year, Harlaut joined the ranks of Armada, also co-founded by Hall. In 2012, Harlaut, Casabon and Hall appeared in the Inspired flick, The Education of Style. And when the greater consciousness of humanity first took notice of Harlaut at the 2013 Winter X Games, they witnessed his greatness alongside X Games legend Tanner Hall. Moments before Harlaut stomped a previously unimaginable nose butter triple cork 1620 that won him big air gold and launched him into superstardom, Hall can be heard via GoPro footage encouraging him to go for the previously unseen trick.
“Let’s put it in the history books, son,” he says. “Let’s take skiing to the next level.”
Harlaut has since won seven more X Games medals, five of them gold while continuing to film on the periphery of his competition schedule. In that time he’s progressed his skiing outside of the terrain parks and streets, now complementing those skills with a rising comfort zone in big-mountain terrain. The debut of Harlaut as a true savant of the entire skiing spectrum comes in his 2018 film, The Regiment. Hall’s 2018 film, Here After, premiered 10 days after Harlaut’s, and is thematically centered on his career status at 34. The consensus? Hall is still worthy of his “Ski Boss” name and Harlaut deserving of a seat at the table of freeskiing’s greatest.
In just the latest crossover of their careers, Hall and Harlaut appear in each other’s films, with footage from a trip they took to Haines, Alaska, in March 2018. Hall is an Alaska veteran, but Harlaut had yet to be introduced to skiing in America’s 49th state. The skier known for his out-of-this-world park trickery has been venturing into the backcountry following his competition schedule in recent years, which readied him for what awaited in The Last Frontier.
“Tanner’s been talking about going up to Alaska for about 10 years and this year the opportunity presented itself,” says Harlaut. “It was amazing. For most people, Alaska’s conditions weren’t the best but for me it was perfect. It was really a perfect way for me to get introduced to it and see, experience and get a little taste of it.”
In The Regiment, Harlaut skis the first spine line of his life, a descent called “Sexy Spines,” with a raw tenacity and beautiful fluidity that you wouldn’t expect from a first timer in Alaska. It’s a reflection of Harlaut’s hunger to make his own unique mark in every aspect of skiing and a validation that he’s no one trick pony.
“To me it meant a lot to see him up there wanting to keep expanding his love for skiing,” says Hall. “His mind is fully open to all aspects of skiing ‘cause he loves it just that much and today that’s rare to want to do every aspect and enjoy them to the fullest.”
Harlaut shrugs off the notion that the experience should change him as a skier and cause him to pack up his bags and move to the backcountry. For the Swede, freeskiing, and, specifically, his own unique brand of it, isn’t as segmented as many make it out to be. All of its forms are welcome under the Henrik Harlaut umbrella.
“Yes, I think everything I ski, all different aspects are ‘gonna help and influence the way I ski,” he says. “And this [experience] is definitely a huge confidence boost that I will take with me.”
For Hall, the release of Here After comes at a new chapter in his career, at a new starting gate, specifically. He is joining the Freeride World Tour circuit as a wild card and, at 35, he’ll be dropping into a competition looking to add to his trophy collection for the first time in five years.
In a way, both skiers find themselves at interesting points in their careers. Harlaut looking to continue carrying the freeskiing tradition that Hall himself was instrumental in building; and Hall searching for the one accolade that’s escaped the grasp of his crowded resume. The one thing we can rely on, is that both will put everything they’ve got into flipping the page to the next chapter. There’s a good chance they’ll do it together, too.
“‘Dollo keeps me hungry and wanting to shred,” says Hall. “That’s a priceless gift to get from someone. It’s a feeding ground when we get to shred together.”
This story originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of FREESKIER (21.3), The Backcountry Issue. Click here to subscribe and receive copies of FREESKIER Magazine delivered right to your doorstep.