After three full days of action at Retallack, British Columbia, the Pirates—a team comprised of Tatum Monod, Wiley Miller, Tanner Rainville, Chris Logan and Banks Gilberti—have defeated the Superheroes: Lexi Dupont, Parker White, Alexis Godbout, Duncan Adams and Joe Schuster. And quite frankly, the Pirates crushed ’em.
In fact, it became somewhat of a running joke by day two: the Superheroes couldn’t win anything. Knife throwing? Nope. Party challenges? Nope. Poem writing? Nope. Broomball? Nope. Online edits up for public voting? Nope. In time, the Superheroes did end up with some “flamingo points,” but in retrospect, it seemed many of ’em were awarded out of pure sympathy. But Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman and Colonel Rhodes, they didn’t mind much; they openly accepted their role as losers. It’s hard to get too worked up when you’re at the famed Retallack Lodge, the snow is deep, the schedule is packed, the crew is chock full of eccentric individuals, and together, you’re encouraged to party your damn faces off. Time and again, we’re reminded: the Orage Masters is a beautiful thing. As one declared this week, “The best event to happen to skiing.”
Unlike years past—we’ve seen the contest swing through Mammoth, Whistler and Sun Valley—the Masters IX took place in a backcountry setting. Also new this go ’round, the event was held over the course of three+ days (rather than one day), providing for more skiing and more shenanigans. Also, competing teams this year did not represent ski manufacturers or film crews, like before. Instead, the motley crew of skiers was largely selected by you, the public, and on the first night, the two team captains—the Pirates’ Tatum Monod and the Superheroes’ Lexi Dupont—engaged in a dagger tossing battle to determine the roster break-down.
Then, with the teams set, it was go time. Ahead: skiing challenges, off-hill challenges, and “personal challenges,” too. The idea being, every waking moment was a time to compete. Pirates, Superheroes, all-out war. The Rumble at Retallack.
Overheard: “Sit down, hold on and shut the f#ck up.” – J5, Retallack cat driver & guide
Wednesday, March 26. Time to ski. Three snowcats between us. The proverbial dealing of the cards had me riding with the Superheroes. Thus, I formed an allegiance for the squad from the get go. Bumping our way up into the hills, I soaked in the scene: five athletes, hungover, their cheap costumes tweaked in such a way as to mesh well with skiing gear. The pace of the cat is slow, of course. It felt something like a march into battle. It was a march into battle, set to the beat of rock and roll music blaring from the cabin’s speaker system.
Also in the Superheroes’ cat, Freeskier’s Zach Berman, SBC’s Jeff Schmuck and Leantu’s Neil Sotirakopolous. Our guides: Mike and Andrew. Our driver: J5.
Dressed as Colonel Rhodes, Schuster kept asking for Advil, as he’d been dropped on the floor the night before, resulting in a pooping of the pants and a sore buttocks. Mind you: This was no ordinary battle.
En route up to Hollywood Ridge, we paused to engage in beacon drills, and to go through the standard safety protocol. The idea of mixing a Masters-esque contest with backcountry skiing was perhaps a bit unsettling, to some.
One of the guides said to P-White, “Don’t embrace your inner Batman too much, eh?”
Honoring the rules-don’t-apply nature of the Masters, Parker responded, “I can’t make any promises.”
Hollywood was littered with mini golf features. The snow was plentiful, with more flakes falling throughout the day. Though we took a while to wave the green flag on the session, once underway, things escalated quickly. Atop the ridge, Luke Van Valin called the shots on the radio, giving filmers and photogs their queue to start rolling.
“Rainville is dropping in 10,” Luke’s voice blared. “Hang on, he might puke first.”
Despite lack of sleep and the lingering effects of heavy drinking, the skiers powered through, driven by the lure of logging a great video clip, and earning flamingo points, too.
I noted that day, “There are too many standout moments to recount them all. Rainville is so, damn, good. Duncan Adams: so, damn, good. Godbout sent it huge. Wiley sent it huge. Banks said, “That’s the biggest backflip I’ve ever done in my life.” C-Lo crushed it. Parker: the usual hard-charging antics made so much better by virtue of his wearing a Batman costume. Lexi: sending it off of the biggest drops in sight. Tatum? Damn, she’s so good, too. The only one who didn’t kill it: Joe. He received plenty of lip for it, too. His ass hurt too bad.”
For each worthy stunt or line, massive cheers erupted. A skier would drop, ski his/her way down to awaiting high fives, and when ready, jump on a sled and head back up to the top for more. A few of the guides were graciously running shuttle service between three snowmobiles.
The Hollywood session yielded two edits, one per team. The edits were posted to YouTube later that day (some mighty quick turnaround by the film crew), and pitted against one another by means of public voting. The team with the most votes would earn 10 flamingo points—a considerable sum, with 89 points on the line in total, a nod to the year 1989, in which the Orage brand was founded.
Days later, we’d come to find the Pirates had won. The edits are embedded here:
Team Superheroes: Hollywood Ridge session, Orage Masters at Retallack
Team Pirates: Hollywood Ridge session, Orage Masters at Retallack
Following the madness on the ridge, it was time for Chinese downhill. We headed for a new zone. The teams would tackle a pow-filled pitch up top, and ultimately ski the long, winding cat track back to the lodge. I cruised alongside the mad-dashing-skiers down that nice, steep pitch. The light was flat and the snow continued to fall. At one point, Logan went down hard and lost a shoe; I thought, surely, that’d equate to certain victory for team Superheroes. Logan assured us, “It’s no problem,” as he got up and dusted off the pow. Sure enough, we saw him just minutes later hop on a snowmobile that was parked alongside the cat track, and off he raced. We lost ’em all at that point, but once down at the bottom, we discovered Logan caught up with the crew quite quickly. He blew by ‘em one by one. He finished first. The Pirates won, with $300 and flamingo points to show for their efforts.
Later, Logan would recount, “It was awesome, I’d just roll up behind someone, I’d say, ‘On your left,’ and they’d move to the side, thinking I was just one of the guides, and let me go by.”
After skiing, we arrived back to the lodge where scrumptious snacks awaited. Bread, soup, etc. This would happen each day of our stay. Between all of our meals during those first 24 hours, it was quickly apparent: the Retallack crew works some real magic in that kitchen of theirs.
That night: another knife throwing contest. The Pirates won. Then, dinner. Again, it was amazing. Lasagna.
Later, we took to the mini “ice rink” outside of the lodge for some good ol’ fashion broomball. The ice hadn’t set, so we were running around on the snow. Body checks. Flying snowballs. Cross-checks. Goals. Epic saves. C-Lo, in particular, showed tremendous skill as a goaltender, diving around like a maniac, determined not to let that ball cross his goal line. The Retallack guides ended up winning. $500 was the prize. All Canadian, the bunch were also pleased to have defended their nation’s claim to being the true hub of hockey.
Post-puck, again, the party raged. The drinks of choice: Tequila. Lemon Drops. Irish Car Bombs.
Overheard: “I don’t have any money now to go heli skiing this spring, because I spent two thousand dollars drinking Car Bombs at the Retallack bar.” – Parker White
On Thursday, I made a note to say, “Rough morning. 4:00 a.m. bed time didn’t mesh well with 6:45 wake up. In the night: Schuster mistook the room to his dormitory for a toilet. This, of course, comes merely 24 hours after he pooped his pants.”
On the docket that day: the 818 contest and backcountry booter sessions, too. Again, tired souls rallied.
First, the 818s. Five skiers. Two pairs focusing on figure 8s while another straightlines down the center. Pirates won.
Next, we headed to a zone where three pre-sculpted jumps awaited, pushed by the Retallack crew in the days leading up to the event. Each jump would host a session. The team that wins the majority takes the associated flamingo points.
In regards to the first jump: one athlete called a trick, then, a member of the opposing team agreed to also perform said trick. Whoever executes the stunt the best—as judged by a panel that included Luke Van Valin, Mike Nick, Zach Berman and Jeff Schmuck—wins a point for their team; most points at the end of the session wins.
The stuntin’ was amazing. White challenged Logan to a first-hit double flip contest. Logan took a nice slam into the pow. P-White, meanwhile, put a massive double front flip to his feet—his cape waving behind him—skiing away with a defiant hand raised; that outrageous double set the tone. In the end: the Pirates won that first showdown; it came down to the team captains. Monod stomped a massive backflip, while Dupont over rotated a flat 3 attempt.
The second of the three jumps was the largest, bar none. She was a true beaut’, complete with a nice shape, good air and a long, steep landing. There was a tree smack in way; skiers had the option to go left, go right, or bonk. This time, riders would perform whatever trick they wanted to. Again, they’d pair off. E.g. one would jump for the Pirates, and he/she would be facing one of the Superheroes. Judges would determine which stunt was better for each pair. Most points at the end wins.
After another insane showing of aerial mastery (video coming soon), the Superheroes bested the Pirates. We were all even heading into the third and final jump session.
The Pirates took the win on jump three. Wiley Miller’s switch backflip pretty much sealed the deal. There was simply too much amazing skiing happening to recount all of the highlights; again, I’ll stress: stay tuned for the impending drop of the video recap. To have seen the 10 skiers, though, stomping huge, smooth airs in the backcountry, whilst sporting those dang costumes: this was Masters competition at its finest.
I won’t soon forget the look of excitement on the face of Karl the Gnarl. A legend in those parts, Karl is a long standing cat driver at Retallack. Owner of a distinguished beard and a thick Canadian accent, Karl has certainly seen his fair share of antics over the years. Having the honor of chauffeuring the Pirates, Karl was openly rooting for those talented buccaneers; though, his show of emotion was in favor of both teams that afternoon.
Later that night, when the jumping was done, we headed to the lodge to continue the fun. After forking down steak, and potatoes too, a poem recital was the natural thing to do. Logan went first, representing the Pirates, and after days’ worth of yelling, piped up his poem as though with Laryngitis. P-White went next, his words short and sweet, it was then up to Karl as to who’d won the meet. Continuing their winning ways, the Pirates reigned supreme; the Superheroes made for the bar to blow off some steam.
The challenge was inspired by the Gnarl himself. Each day, Karl records observations and crafts those thoughts into a short poem. With dinner each night, he would share his words, providing a special moment and a laugh for all.
On the first night, Karl shared a poem written by his 14-year-old daughter; the piece was written as a tribute to one of her skiing idols, the Pirates’ own Tatum Monod. By the time Karl reached the end of the poem, tears welled in his eyes. “That’s real shit,” he exclaimed, once through. A raucous “Cheers!” was shared by all, followed by some hearty shouting.
Again, more Irish Car Bombs. Logan got his hands on an air horn, too, which was used generously throughout the early morning hours.
Friday, March 28. ‘Twas another 4:00 a.m. bedtime for many. For others, there was no bed. Kia, one of the Retallack staff, could be heard screaming at the top of her lungs through the entire night, running around the grounds with a couple of partners in crime; C-Lo and Rainville among them. Come breakfast, she was still going strong.
The daily schedule read: “Just for the love of it, fun run Friday.” It was a chance for us to shred Retallack’s stomping grounds without paying mind to flamingo points.
After eating, we split up between the three cats and conquered. It was my best day of the season, without question. Freeskier’s Zach Berman went so far as to say it was the best day he’d ever had on skis. The Stove Pipe run stands out in my mind as a winner: ultra steep, with insanely deep snow to boot.
Towards the bottom of the run, P-White, who’d ditched his poles in favor wielding a giant knife (the runner-up prize in the knife throwing contest; the winners received axes), hoisted the blade skyward, dropped a cliff, stomped, and followed up with another sizable air off of a natural kicker. Safety grab in one hand, giant dagger in the other. Also stomped. A few of us looked to each other in bewilderment.
“I’ll be honest,” said Mike, our guide, once back in the cat, “I’m not super comfortable with the whole knife thing.”
“I’ll be honest,” rebutted White instantly, jokingly, “I’m a professional skier, so there’s absolutely nothing that can go wrong.”
Mike accepted the debauchery, although hesitantly. While he and the other guides certainly did their best to mitigate our risk, certain elements and instances, like the knife-wielding-White, for example… there was simply no stopping it.
“Remember, safety third!”
White tumbled a few times that afternoon, and I think everyone looked on anxiously, wondering if perhaps he’d fallen awkwardly onto his knife. But no; he’d be quickly on his feet again, ready for more. By the way: after having received that knife as a prize, I’m not sure there was a single moment I saw White without it in his hands.
We spun a handful of blower laps. In the cat cabin, and on the slopes, too, the general discussion was such that most everyone was laughing non-stop for the duration of the day. The kind of laughter that genuinely hurts. Like, you can’t breathe. Again, I say, best day of the season. One I’ll carry with me for a long damn time.
Come Friday evening, it was time to depart. We said goodbye to Retallack, and made for Nelson, BC, to the historic Hume Hotel, where we’d post up for the night. After a nice dinner in the hotel’s pub, we headed down to the Spirit Bar, located in the basement, for a Savage Blade concert; the show had been arranged by Orage.
Motorboating. Mosh pits. Metal. Money. $10,000, actually. The Pirates were declared victors at midnight, on stage, amid a break in the music. Along with the mula came the white dinner jackets and some mighty cool trophies, as well, complete with the pink flamingo. Celebrating a win like true rock stars; not a bad way to close out the Masters IX.
Following the conclusion of the concert, we rolled around downtown Nelson for hours; we roamed the streets for miles. Sotirakopolous, I believe, with no socks nor shoes. Many more with shredded t-shirts. It was cold. Somewhere along the way, we crashed a hippie household’s drum circle, and we also paid a visit to Karl’s house, where White impressed us (I think?) with his piano skills.
That morning, the police knocked on Schuster’s door. His snowmobile had made its way onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel at some point in the night. He’d have to move it, pronto. But, of course, the keys were missing. White’s doing. It seemed the antics just wouldn’t end.
Back on the 25th of the month, we wrote, “Two things [are] certain: this year is going to be different, and it’s going to be totally, insanely, amazingly fun.” Both rang true.
With an athlete roster comprised of some of skiing’s smoothest, most heavy-hitting backcountry shredders, we bore witness to some mind-boggling skiing antics. The party off the mountain was top-notch. Orage has blown us away once again: for the athletes, for the media, for the sponsors, and for the staff at the lodge, this was a week to remember; a chance to let loose, a chance to celebrate the sport that drives us.
For those of you who have followed along, I’m sure you’ll have been impressed by the performance put forth by Monod, Miller, Rainville, Logan, Gilberti, Dupont, White, Godbout, Adams and Schuster; I hope you’ll have been inspired, and reminded of one very important thing: have some f#cking fun out there.
In closing, I’d like to extend an enormous thanks to Orage, and to Mike Nick, in particular, for pouring blood, sweat and tears into producing this event; thank you to Orage for believing in good ol’ fashioned fun, and for its commitment to providing an outlet for the athletes to express themselves.
Thank you to the athletes for inspiring us.
Thank you to Retallack Lodge for hosting us, and for taking such fantastic care of our crew. Thank you to the wonderful staff for your abundant energy and commitment to building a great experience for your guests.
Thank you to Outdoor Tech, SBC Skier, Hitcase, Red Bull and Basecamp X. Freeskier is always excited to be a part of the Masters sponsor list, as well.
And lastly, thanks to you all for tuning in, and for supporting this extraordinary event.
Recap Video: Orage Masters IX from Retallack