AS SEEN IN THE 2012 FREESKIER BACKCOUNTRY ISSUE. WORDS: ALEX O'BRIEN
ON DAYS WHEN MANY OF HIS PEERS ARE SCOURING the streets of Salt Lake City for the next handrail, Collin Collins is skinning beyond the Alta boundary, headed to Rocky Point, Wolverine Cirque or Grizzly Gulch to build a kicker or flatten out a takeoff. Collins has a passion for the Little Cottonwood side and backcountry that I haven’t seen since Kris Ostness and his crew helped make the area world famous for its backcountry jumps.
(PORTRAIT) ERIK SEO
As a young racer in Sun Valley, Idaho, Collins grew up on skis, but it wasn’t until he was 15, when he started riding powder and sending it off cat tracks, that he found his passion for skiing. He moved to Bozeman, Montana for college, but ended up skiing more than studying. Collins won a video contest that landed him a Saga outerwear deal, just as he was hired by Windells as a ski camp coach at Mt. Hood (where he’s been coaching for the last four summers). While on the glacier, Collins met Brady Perron, Witt Foster and Steve Stepp, who convinced him to move to Salt Lake City. “I started hanging out and filming with 4BI9 and life has been really fun ever since,” says Collins.
The crew turned media company started by Tom Wallisch, Steve Stepp, Tim Maney, Andrew Napier and AJ Dakoulas as University of Utah freshmen, included a Collins segment in their movie “So Far So Hood” (2008). Since then, he’s become a fixture in their edits and films.
Collins spends his summers dialing his tricks in the park at Mt. Hood, then takes them to the Alta backcountry as soon as the snow piles up. He’s focused on jumping whenever he can. There aren’t too many parks in Little Cottonwood Canyon, so if he wants to learn a new trick, he builds a jump.
He usually hikes up from the parking lot across the street from Alta to access Grizzly Gulch, the most popular area for jump building in Utah. Although he’s been hitting a lot of the famous jumps, he’s usually seeking new jump spots where no one has built before. When the conditions are right, he finds cliffs and bigger lines by skiing out the Alta gate from the Supreme lift and hiking to Wolverine Cirque.
(RIGHT) Collins in Alta, UT shot by Alex O'Brien.
His film segments and big mountain contest appearances show a smooth style he’s developed in the backcountry. At the Freeskiing World Tour stop in Revelstoke last year, Collin threw a massive 720 over a 50-foot drop. He says being an athlete at the 2011 Red Bull Cold Rush was the coolest experience of his life.
After more than a decade shooting photos in Utah, I’m surprised how many of the park skiers who have moved here have yet to make the transition into the backcountry. Collins figured out once you invest in a few pieces of gear, it’s the cheapest way to score some of the best ski days of your life.
On storm days, Collins builds jumps by himself so things are ready to go when the sun and cameras come out. Most of the time, he calls me when a feature is ready, and all I have to do is show up.
Anyone who has tried to film in the backcountry knows how much work and effort can go into a single photo or a few seconds of footage. Collins’ film parts over the past few years are a testament to how hard he’s willing to work.