Karl Fostvedt’s Idaho roots have positioned him at the top of the freeride world
WORDS • GABE SCHRODER | PHOTOS • NOAH WETZEL | LOCATION • SUN VALLEY, ID
The radio cackles to life, signaling a break in car traffic on Galena Pass, Idaho. On a slope high above, Karl Fostvedt informs everyone that he is good to go and drops in down the 200-yard-long in-run. The top pitch is flat, and it takes a while to build speed. Gliding down this gentle grade, Karl’s mind has time to wander as he goes through his final pre-flight checklist. Although he has jumped this highway on two previous occasions, there is always uncertainty when a gap of this size is involved. With two lanes of highway to clear, Karl knows that coming up short is not an option. Sixty feet before the lip of the jump, Karl spots his takeoff for the first time. The in-run becomes steeper and his speed rapidly increases. As the wind howls in his ears and he approaches 40 miles per hour, all fears fade away as he pops off the lip and floats a smooth 1080 blunt, 50 feet over the asphalt below. While this session is one of the standout segments in Matchstick Production’s (MSP) new movie, Return to Send’er, it’s simply just another day in Idaho for home-grown hero Karl Fostvedt.
Born and raised in Ketchum, ID, Karl and his friends had a lot of freedom as kids, with the skate park and ski hill acting as their babysitters. This independence fueled a rebellious attitude amongst Karl and his crew, which led to plenty of confrontations with authority figures such as ski patrol and ski coaches. Skiing fast, throwing snowballs, skipping out on mogul practice and defying rules—good clean fun from a group of mountain town boys, a tendency Karl still sees in the younger generation today. “It’s just a rite of passage out here to enjoy your time of doing no good before you’re too old,” said Karl.
As Karl and his friends grew into teenagers, their passion for skiing continued to evolve. “Collin Collins was our gateway into the freeski community,” Karl remembered. “As a kid, he was the one showing us the Poor Boyz, Level 1 and Matchstick flicks and just getting us stoked on freeriding. We just wanted to freeski and express ourselves and not be told what to do. Collins was definitely one of the most influential riders growing up here.”
From an impressionable grom who looked up to Collins’ every move, to now being his peer, Karl appreciates having such talented skiers to mob around Sun Valley alongside. “Collins is the most fun to roll around with. We have been skiing together so much and [make] so many of the same line choices. Whenever the faucet turns on out here, we know how to work the mountain together,” described Karl.
Sun Valley is known for its long, consistent piste that churns out world class directional skiers such as US Ski Teamers Picabo Street, Zach and Reggie Crist and film star Griffin Post. It is not known for pillow lines, natural features or consistently deep snow, all necessary components to maximize Karl’s unique style. While Karl can bend a ski and arc turns with the best of them, he is more likely to find himself mid-trick rather than simply skiing forwards or backwards. It is this uncanny ability to maximize the terrain by consistently incorporating nose butters, hand drags, spins and grabs into every run that sets him apart from others. He is the true definition of a big-mountain freestyle skier. On paper, it seems like the Sun Valley area doesn’t check all the boxes for Karl’s ideal mountain playground, but life is not lived on paper and it is the people, community and endless mountains that keep Karl close to home.
On good winters, when the snow stacks up deep in the town of Ketchum, Karl and his roommates, Sun Valley natives C. Gordon Knight and Wing-Tai Barrymore, can be found hitting pillow lines off the multilevel house they rent or getting towed-in to sculpted snowbanks in the neighborhood streets via snowmobile. C. Gordon, who Karl refers to as “the town gossip king and future mayor” snowboards every single day on nearby Baldy and is always a source of motivation to get on the hill. Wing-Tai, who is known for going bigger than anyone else at X Games and Dew Tour halfpipe contests circa 2011-15, is also the grandson of legendary ski filmmaker Dick Barrymore (The Last of the Ski Bums). “Winger” loves his throttle and is always keen to go snowmobiling in the nearby backcountry.
Barrett Cincotta, also known as “Gimbal Guy” for his follow cam filming talents, has been Karl’s friend since they were seven years old, and has played a big role in his skiing. “He’s someone I have learned a lot from. I’ve developed my style skiing with him. He just has this prowess and he hauls ass and gets so many faceshots. Barrett is the nastiest fuckin’ powder ball out there,” said Karl.
Together, these friends and roommates hold it down with a bigger crew of hard-charging locals and are living the ski bum dream that is becoming increasingly more difficult to pull off. “We have a pretty sweet house out in Warm Springs, right by the base area,” said Karl. “We are lucky to have a place that’s semi-affordable for a bunch of us low income folk. We have great landlords and get to live a pretty nice life that’s barely within our means.”
Despite having a great spot with ripping roommates, Karl spent most of last winter in British Columbia filming with Matchstick Productions. After converting a custom trailer into a plush house on wheels—complete with a fireplace—he got “the call” from MSP’s Director Scott Gaffney and hit the road to stack footage for the latest film, Return to Send’er. No stranger to filming standout movie segments, Karl’s appearances in Poor Boyz and Good Company movies in the past helped establish his brand of skiing and is what caught the eye of Gaffney in the first place. “I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time; he’s been on my radar for a few years,” Gaffney recalled. Despite being an established film skier, being cast as one of the four stars in Return to Send’er was the opportunity of a lifetime for Karl, and he was eager to take the bouncy, trick-laden style he had mastered on smaller terrain to bigger lines with more consequence.
Once MSP’s cameras started rolling, it did not take him long to leave his mark on the film crew. “I was honored to be shooting him,” Gaffney remembered. “When we started filming, it was full entertainment top to bottom. He’s a restless skier who always has to be doing something on the way down. He is so creative and versatile; he can make so much happen with so very little.”
Even while creating his dream segment in B.C., Karl could not stay away from Idaho for long. After nearly defending his 2018 King of Corbet’s title and placing second to Travis Rice at the 2019 Jackson Hole huckfest, he got word it was dumping in Sun Valley so he and fellow Idahoan Sander Hadley made their way home to the Gem State to sample the goods during the mountain’s 109-inch February. Karl was fired up to show his old friend (the two had met while playing sports in high school) Sun Valley in prime conditions. “Sun Valley’s best terrain is south-facing so it’s pretty rare when that stuff turns on,” Karl described. “But, when you get the right line up of back-to-back storms, everything is firing. When you can ride all aspects at all elevations like that, it will make you never want to leave.”
After a couple of all-time days at Sun Valley, Karl had to leave for B.C. again, where he finished off his MSP segment in grand fashion, riding and tricking big lines on an eight-day heli-skiing slaughterfest. With tons of footage in the can, he headed home to Sun Valley to celebrate with friends for closing weekend. “That’s the best feeling, coming [back] to ‘Idahome’ in one piece, still breathing, knowing you filmed a segment and now it’s time to kick back, relax, drink some beers with the boys and ride some lifts.”
While satisfied with his season and the experiences he had, Karl is not one to sit still and his abundance of energy and passion for skiing cannot be contained within the typical November to April ski season. Taking advantage of Idaho’s deep late season snowpack, Karl, Wing-Tai, Collins and fellow Sun Valley pro Banks Gilberti kept it pinned through the entire month of May, sledding into the alpine, building kickers and milking an epic Idaho winter for all it was worth. With a crew of childhood friends who motivate him to get after it, endless backcountry terrain and a house near the chairlift, Karl has found the sweet spot in life and realizes there is no place like home.