As seen in the February 2012 issue of Freeskier. This article is drawn from a five-part feature story on the Utah ski scene. Words by Steve Rozendaal.
There are few people more qualified than Steve Rozendaal to tell the stories of the legendary gap named for Chad Zurinskas. Over the last 10 plus years Rozendaal has been at nearly all the most groundbreaking sessions in freeskiing history, eye to camera, filming for his own 14 issue Volume video magazine, as well as Poor Boyz Productions flicks. And his contribution isn’t just connected to his camera, it’s quiet inspiration, rallying the troops, organizing and putting in hours of sweat equity hiking, setting up jibs and digging on big jumps including Chad’s gap. Here are some of his memories:
Before Chad came up with the idea, it was a double hit. People would hit the first little knoll, land on that and go right into the second one. Pro snowboarders, like Jason Brown back in the day, had sessions where they doubled it. But once Chad opened everyone’s eyes to it you could see the potential. Chad told Kris Ostness about the idea and Ostness basically became the pioneer of the Utah Gaps, Chad’s and also Pyramid and Leviathan, further up Grizzly Gulch. I had started working alongside Ostness and I was shooting other guys at Red Bull Huckfest, so I went out to shoot.
The first session was a little weird because it was basically just Chad. Candide had been shooting further up the canyon. It wasn’t until Chad had tried it a couple times and he thought he couldn’t make it that Candide came down and asked Ostness for permission to hit it. That’s when Candide cleared it the first time. I was pretty surprised when he cleared it, that’s for sure. That gap doesn’t give anything easy. Anyone who’s cleared it or gotten tricks on it, they’ve definitely earned it.
Tim Durtschi shot by Brent Benson.
The following year Candide came back with the mindset of D-spinning it. The Collins brothers got involved too. People probably don’t remember Chris Collins. The first day that year, Candide was unable to clear it. But the Collins brothers, they were teeing off on it. Chris did a huge frontflip and landed it perfectly smooth, deeper into the landing than anyone had ever gone.
Obviously Tanner’s session was a highlight. Unfortunately people don’t really talk about the tricks that Tanner was doing over it before his injury. 'Cause the crash is so blown up. He did cab fives and the cab nines, but the cab fives were just mind blowing. That was definitely a highlight.
There’s a lot of crashes that stand out in your mind too. I remember Eric Pollard came down and he thought he was gonna just throw a 180 over it. That was right when he got really fat skis, if I remember correctly. First hit the wind caught those things and he got thrown onto the back of his head. That was a one hit and done situation.
The build is one of the major things that’s changed over the years. When the Collins brothers hit it with Candide they actually built the jump and hit it all in the same day. From there, it’s progressed to where when we did it with Tanner we built for over five days before they hit it. We did a totally different in-run for Tanner and Jon because they wanted to hit it switch. We built it from a slightly different angle so they had more flat before the lip. With Durtschi, we had a crew of about 15 guys building for four or five days to get it right. If you want to get a big trick on it nowadays, I would say it’s at least five days of construction. The construction is very involved, there’s no question about it, and you need a lot of people.
That’s why Candide’s D-spin is so amazing. He just went up there by himself with an avalanche shovel and threw a bunch of snow up. The Collins brother joined him and helped build it up a little bit, but I don’t remember it being more than a few hours of digging before they started hitting it. The fact that they were clearing it and then ultimately, Candide got that trick, with the size of the jump, was pretty surprising.
We were hitting it for a TV show on Mike Wilson, but you just can’t do it with a small crew. Wilson was cool with Tim hitting it ‘cause it’s easier to session together. It was the only time Chad’s has had no tracks in the middle of the gap. We had to talk to every backcountry tourer that came up and ask them as nicely as possible to go around. Shockingly everybody did. We went up for sunrise and Tim got the trick, but he wanted it cleaner. He ended up getting pretty badly concussed and having to go to the hospital. He’s got a double over it and that’s something pretty impressive.
I’ve been honored to watch all these guys hit it. To see their reactions when they get over it is really rewarding. People probably don’t know that Charles Gagnier cleared it on skis he’d done rails with for a week. No one thought he had a chance in hell of getting over it, but he got a three over it. There are a lot of good memories there. — Steve Rozendaal
Want more? Check out A Hotbed for Talent—How six of Utah's best skiers made it to the spotlight
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