Intro by Henrik Lampert | K2 recap by Damian Quigley
The Return of Road Trip Challenge
Based on Thrasher’s popular King of the Road series, FREESKIER’s Road Trip Challenge debuted in 2007. That summer, many of you followed along with the video series that showcased two weeks’ worth of shenanigans all across New England, with Team Völkl’s Scott Hibbert and Ahmet Dadali battling Michael Clarke and Andrew Hathaway of Team Salomon. The basic premise being: complete challenges, earn points, acquire the ultimate bragging rights.
Those web edits are the best. I love to watch ’em time and again. The content is absolutely hilarious, and the skiing is top-notch. The RTC of ’07 is also dear to my heart—I hold fond memories of tagging along for the ride as Hath and Clarke were among my closest friends at the time. We were all involved with a freeride program at Waterville Valley, NH, then.
I recall jibbing dumpsters, jumping over cars, bagging double-kink rails in the streets (at the time, a feat in itself) and so much more. My best buds were going to be featured in FREESKIER magazine—a multi-page story, no less. There was a huge coolness factor involved with the whole thing.
Yet, among all the ups, there were downs. I won’t soon forget an incident that occurred at Okemo Mountain Resort, March 16, 2007, during a training session for the Fischer Super Slopestyle Open, where big points were on the line.
Hathaway hooked an edge on a sticky down rail, ultimately whacking his head on the rock-hard ice and suffering a traumatic brain injury. He was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, just minutes from his home in Norwich, VT. We spent a number of tense days in the waiting room before Andy was finally released after surgery—he had the same shit-eating grin on his face, as always.
Despite the setback, the RTC rolled on. Clarke actually went on to take third in that contest, while one Willis Brown served as Hathaway’s substitute. Team Völkl would eventually earn the win, and the RTC was inked into freeskiing’s history book as one of the all-time road trips.
Alas, hard drives went missing, along with much of the priceless film footage. The web series never aired in full, and combined with the Hathaway scare, the blunders were enough to put the kibosh on all future editions of the Road Trip Challenge.
From the moment I came on board full time at FREESKIER, the return of Road Trip Challenge was oft on my mind. That adventure of ’07 was just too damn fun—we had to bring it back. It took a fair amount of lobbying on the part of the edit staff, and by February 2014, the stars had aligned. Team K2 had signed on, as did Team Nordica. I could taste it. Once again, New England would be the stomping grounds. The hair now raising on the back of my neck. And from there, it was down to the finer details.
Of three things we were certain: we’d arrive in Boston on a Tuesday, we’d rent RVs and we’d depart the following Monday. On second thought, that third point was never a given. No telling where the road would carry us or bury us. Arrangements, plans and team members shuffled right up to the last minute—and I mean minute. With the flip of a coin, though, in the back of an RV parked in Cambridge, MA, it was game on.
Representing Team Nordica: skiers Ian Compton, Kieran McVeigh and Dale Talkington, along with cinematographer/Nordica team manager Evan Williams, photographer Peter Cirilli and FREESKIER editor, Henrik Lampert.
Representing Team K2: skiers Maks Gorham, Sean Jordan and Clayton Vila, along with cinematographer Kyle Decker, photographer Christopher “Topher” Baldwin and FREESKIER managing editor, Damian Quigley.
The rules were simple. Keeping with the theme of the original RTC, each team would be given a packet of challenges; the tasks included skiing stunts of all shapes and sizes, plus off-hill antics. Challengers would travel around New England via motor home, with the goal of completing as many challenges as possible, each goal corresponding with a certain point value. Whoever racked up the most points in the allotted time period won. Eternal glory, plus an invitation to defend the title during next year’s showdown, was the prize. Pending, of course, we don’t take another six-year hiatus.
Would we remain injury free? Would the RVs be returned in one piece? Dive in; enjoy our accounts of the 2014 Road Trip Challenge.
Team K2: Life’s a Party
It’s about 5 p.m. as I weave my way through the streets of East Boston. I’m heading toward the DoubleTree hotel, overlooking the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It would normally be an easy destination—just off Storrow Drive—but the overpasses here weren’t meant to accommodate an RV, and so I’m relegated to navigating the narrow, inner-city streets during rush hour from behind the wheel of a Ford Econoline that spans 30 feet and handles about as well as a construction dumpster with four wheels and a V-10.
With the sun low in the sky, I pull up to the hotel, and once the whole crew is assembled, we get down to business. In one of the RVs, we lay out the rules and hand out the highly anticipated list of challenges for everybody to pour over. We decide which team Lampert and I will be on with the flip of a coin. Heads it is, and I’m with Team K2—a rowdy bunch for sure. Laughing and hypothetical planning of the week quickly turn to trash talking, and we swiftly kick Team Nordica out of our RV so we can get started.
Gorham volunteers to get his ear pierced in the RV so we can put the first points on the board. Decker furnishes a bottle of whiskey while Vila “sterilizes” a paper clip with a lighter. After taking a sizeable pull of the brown water, Gorham grits his teeth and endures multiple unsuccessful jabs at his earlobe before the dull metal tears its way through. We all bang on the window, yelling at our opponents who are still parked beside us. “Alright let’s go get fucking drunk,” says Vila.
With the first points on the board, we’re all amped, but I get the feeling that Team K2 won’t exactly be losing sleep over point totals this week.
Each RV has a burner (flip) phone on board that people can call and offer to help out with challenges or just chat with the team. Just a few minutes after sending the number out to the World Wide Web, it’s starting to ring pretty frequently, and “K2 douchebag hotline” is Vila’s preferred way to answer it.
“Is this Clayton?” ask most of the people on the other end.
“Really. We’re looking for a party. You got one for us?”
Not having much luck with our random callers, the group puts the phone down for the night and in some regard, for the week. We decide it’s time to park the beast for the night, but finding a place to do that in Boston isn’t very easy. After driving in circles for a while, debating the legalities of passenger drinking, we end up on Commonwealth Ave., in Allston, where we decide that it’ll be a good enough spot. Sandwiched between a Planned Parenthood and a Dunkin’ Donuts, we lock the rig up and head down the block to a dive bar for a few drinks.
It’s 50 degrees and drizzling rain the next morning as we cruise through the suburbs of Boston. With little to no snow on the ground, we scope out a few rails, but the motivation to put on ski boots in this weather is utterly low. We know there’s a serious snowstorm forecasted for northern New England, and we swing by Topher’s parents’ digs just outside the city to shower up and debate our next move. While we’re there, we get hit up by “Digi” Dave Amirault, ex-FREESKIER staffer and East Coast native, who urges us via Twitter to head towards Sunday River.
The resort’s team quickly jumps on board, offering to help us with various challenges. The mood among the ranks takes a turn for the better and seven hours plus one surf stop after waking up, we arrive in Bethel, Maine. It’s dumping snow.
Lucky for us, the journey has ended with a spread of appetizers, cold beers and boiling lobsters provided by our friendly hosts from Sunday River. The feast gets us some points, though not everybody has a taste for lobster. “Look at it. It’s an insect!” says Decker as he puts down his lobster cracker and picks up his camera.
A quick load of laundry and a post-dinner bathroom cleaning get us some more points, and after accepting an invitation to join them in their local TV studio the next day, we bid farewell to our gracious hosts. We head up the road to the Snowcap Inn where we play a little ping pong and discuss plans for tomorrow. Team K2 is feeling pretty good, but it’s anybody’s game at this point.