AS SEEN IN THE JANUARY 2012 ISSUE OF FREESKIER. WORDS AND PORTRAITS BY NATE ABBOTT.
Perched on a sketchy hillside in the middle of an avalanche path, Adam Delorme, AD to his friends, is waiting to drop in. He was shuttled to the top of the gnarly in-run by Level 1 Productions filmer Kyle Decker, who then snowmobiled back to his camera, set up in the trees some distance from the jump. No one else is around. No crowd, no production crew, no other skiers, no photographer, no safety net. It is snowing hard and visibility is questionable at best.
“We were building the jump with the idea the sun was going to break the next day,” recalls Decker. “It was just something to do and he was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna start hitting this thing.’ He never even told me he was going to do a triple. He started with dub back. That’s his test trick. I feel like he’s as comfortable doing a dub back as a straight air. Then he was trying some dub tens that weren’t really coming around for him.” For someone who is so passionate about his friends, it’s surprising to know that AD did that triple back, one of the most impressive moments in After Dark, in near solitude.
Photo: Bryan Ralph_Level1. Monashee Powder Cats, B.C.
What makes someone hang out here and push the boundaries under these conditions? It’s certainly not money. By the end of his month long trip filming in Montana, AD was borrowing money just to cover living expenses. “Josh Berman [Level 1 founder] was fronting me money in Cooke City, and then you’ve got to come back and beg for more,” he says before explaining why he would be in a whiteout doing a triple backflip with an empty bank account. “It’s the best thing I’ve found to do with my time. It’s what makes me the happiest—traveling around with your buddies chasing snow, getting to see new places. I can’t imagine a better lifestyle. Even if you’re broke at the end of the day, who cares? Look at where you are.”
AD has put together top-level segments with Level 1 each year since his sponsor Jiberish helped him get an invite to a shoot at Keystone for Real Time. Even as assured as he is with skiing, someone at his level isn’t usually complacent with a financial situation like that. “I’d like to have heli-budget. I’d like to have money to not work in the summer. I’d like to have money to live a little more comfortably or be able to take a week off if you need to. There are definitely tradeoffs for that,” he says. “I don’t think it would be worth it to nickel and dime the relationships that I’ve created. I’m friends with everyone, and I don’t want to go out of my way to, like, fake friend anyone for anything. Relationships are more important to me in our short little existence here than making an extra five, 10 grand.”
Photo: Nate Abbott_Level1. Cooke City, MT.
The relationships within the Level 1 family don’t flow in just one direction. Mike Hornbeck spent a significant amount of time traveling with AD last winter and tells me, “My sled was broken most of the year and he was always down to double my broke ass out there. Adam is just down to have fun with the homies.”
I ask AD if he dreamed of being a sponsored skier, and a lopsided smile grows and tries to defeat his square jaw before he answers. “Just being able to ski every day is a dream come true, no matter if you’re at the top of the food chain or at the bottom. As long as you’re doing what you love.”
That attitude and philosophy towards skiing comes from his roots. AD left West Palm Beach, Florida when he was nine and moved with his parents, sister Lizz and older brother Mark to Whitefish, Montana where his grandfather lived. As he grew older, AD followed up his distant exposure to skiing by mixing in with the people who rode on snow, whether that was the mogul team or his brother’s crew of friends. “I got on the mogul team ‘cause hockey was too expensive. For racing you needed three pairs of skis. Moguls you needed one. And I had watched mogul skiing on the Olympics and knew that it was the jam, pretty much.”
As our conversation continues, AD is constantly adding to a list of talented skiers and riders who pushed or helped him along the way. He recalls each name with a smile and tags them with a tidbit of why he looked up to each person—Pep Fujas, Sean Pettit, Mike Hornbeck, Tanner Rainville from recent days. Kelly Morgan, Andrew Crawford, Jason Robinson, Aaron Robinson, Donovan Powers, Mickey Price, Tony Gilpin from his Montana past. Even when describing his mogul skiing start, AD talks less of himself than about his mentors. “As far as young guns, it was T Hall and me, and one or two other kids, just following the big dogs around—Troy Denman and Jason Hanshit, two awesome skiers that loved bumpin’. It was loose at first, following those guys around. Steve Knox came in as our main coach and put some structure into it, got us involved in competitions and made it more of a team and a sport rather than just babysittin’.”
Another frequently cited influence is AD’s brother Mark and his circle of friends. “There’s tons of talent as far as snowboarders and skiers. My brother and his crew, they had their little gang called Snow Mafia Network. It was a ton of rippers. Those dudes were fast, so they were fun to follow on days we didn’t have moguls,” he recalls.
Photo: Nate Abbott_Level1. Cooke City, MT.
This community, diverse and passionate, is clearly the foundation for AD, but everyone grows up and moves on. His contemporary, Tanner Hall, left Montana at a young age. “He went to Park City to ski moguls. He was not only my dog, but it’s good to have competition no matter what level you’re at,” explains AD. “Kelly Morgan, Tanner and I, at every mogul contest, we were one, two and three. Kelly got in a gnarly car accident and passed away. And Tanner left. There were still good skiers, but we had been good homies.”
Delorme migrated south, to Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat, but he was disenchanted there. “No one was passionate about shredding at all… the kids I lived with in the dorms at least. Everyone was on spring break the whole time.” For the 2004–05 season, he moved to Breckenridge where he’s since lived off and on. In spite of the years in Breck, AD is still non-committal about his home base, quick to cast his mind to the next spot. When I ask if he thinks of leaving Breck, he quickly responds with a laugh, “Yeah. A lot. It’s so comfortable here, and I have so many good friends. That’s literally the only thing that keeps me here, my friends. I feel like I have the best group of friends that I could find. But when you’re 28, you don’t want to start over again.”
Photo: Nate Abbott_Level1. Breckenridge, CO.
It takes a while for AD to open up about his own skiing. When asked about the sport, much of what Adam talks about are his memories. “I remember living in Florida and listening to my dad talk about Mach 1 in Breckenridge—steepest course on tour. I didn’t even know how to ski and I was so into it,” he says before continuing to unconsciously relate his skiing to his father. “He just always had the style. And loved moguls. He came to Breck when I was three or four and paid to have a video made. I still know the song from it. I don’t know the name, but when it comes on the radio I’m right back to the video of my pops shredding. Insanely stylie, no hat, aviators, the sickest zip-up pullover coat. We would watch it over and over because your dad is the coolest thing ever when you’re growing up.”
Our conversation eventually circles around to his own life in skiing. He constantly cites mogul skiing with reverence, yet when asked specifically about the best mogul run around he says, “Growing up in Montana, I didn’t have the mogul runs you guys had here, top to bottom, hundred yards wide, all moguls.” It seems that moguls is his code for skiing, for turning on and jumping around the terrain that a mountain provides and these days pillow lines and big drops are what get him fired up.
Regarding his plans for the coming winter, AD talks of a line in Canada he didn’t get to ski last season. “It’s in this amphitheater of pillow lines in Shandyland. It’s the most epic line I’ve ever looked up at—the line you look at that just, all of a sudden, has golden light on it, the Chevy Chase Christmas tree thing.” Yet the crew had to work their way up to it. “I felt confident. Kind of into it. The guys were like, ‘You’re not ready for that. We’ll come back to it.’ It was January first, the first pow trip of the year, and you’re not on your ninja balance like at the end of the year. You can’t make that call. You’re with Bibby, a Canadian, and Tanner Rainville, the best skier alive. You can’t one-up that shit. When you’re a rookie you don’t get to make calls like that.”
I remind him that he’s been around the block, but he draws a line in the sand, “I’m still the rookie. Even in Level 1, I’ve had what, two, three parts? These guys have been with Level 1 for like 10 years. Been to Alaska. Been to the hairiest shit. Know more about snow than I do. Maybe it’s good to get sat down sometimes. Get a talking to, ‘Not now boy.’”
Yet he’s gained the full respect of everyone involved in Level 1, from the skiers to the filmers. “For most of the people we work with, Delorme is one of the favorite skiers to watch or ski with,” claims Decker. Just because people appreciate his skiing doesn’t guarantee Delorme’s company, even for filmers and his peers. Decker continues: “His edge control is on a completely different level than anyone out there. Delorme skis full speed all the time. Anyone who tries to shoot with him or any of the people that ski with him, he pretty much skis by himself, and if you can keep up with him you’re skiing with him. Otherwise he’s just skiing, and he’ll say ‘what up’ if he happens to see you.” That full-throttle nature somehow combines with an effortless, yet precise, style.
Tanner Rainville picks up that theme; “AD is always skiing real hard and fast. He’s a super technical skier. I’ve seen him do crazy pillow-poppers and crazy taps where you can’t understand how he did what he did.” His attention to form, whether voiced or subconscious, comes out in a variety of outwardly effortless movements on skis. In the air, his legs, arms and skis take different angles that seem like sculpture as you look through photos. In motion, it’s a tweak here, a pop of the skis in midair and a slight touch of the skis to the snow or a rail before he lands.
I ask AD how he chooses to ski during film shoots, where so many pro skiers have a list of the tricks they want to get on film and so much of that is standardized. “Maybe I don’t take it as serious as those guys do. I don’t know what prompts me to do different stuff. I guess I just like to have fun, to break out of that mold of the people that are that serious and want to put that label on it. We want to show kids that’s not what it’s all about. That you can just be you out there and still make it work. I’ve gotten stubborn as skiing’s gotten less freestyle. As it’s gotten more tailored, I feel the need to push further outside, more free, more old school as cliché as that is.”
Photo: Bryn Hughes. Rutherford, B.C.
Even during film shoots, Hornbeck says it isn’t uncommon for AD to be doing something different, “You’ll see him off in his own zone really focusing on something. He’ll work on a jump for a while ‘cause he knows he’s gonna charge a triple back or some shit. It’s pretty crazy seeing him in his element going to work.”
That idea manifested during a spring shoot in Breckenridge for After Dark. The crew was hitting a jump, surrounded by three photographers and four filmers. Rainville, Wallisch, Hornbeck, White, Logan and Bellemare were doing the tricks you’d expect. Then there was AD doing straight air after straight air. Was he scared of doing a big trick? Not capable? Certainly neither. But his focus and joy, for that hour at least, was on a trick that can’t be done justice without seeing it in person. “The straight air shuffle he was doing at Breck, you know how many kids would blow out their shoulder doing that trick? A little snappy, shuffley move,” recalls Decker. He was perfectly composed as he floated a straight air and dropped his skis to the knuckle of the landing. Subtly, just as you expected a painful impact of landing, his skis shuffled, tapped the snow and his body shifted to carve away switch.
And that is how Adam Delorme seems to float through both life and skiing.