As seen in the Volume 14, October issue of Freeskier Magazine.
Words by Shay Williams | Photos by Nate Abbott
There isn’t much under the freeskiing sun that Simon Dumont hasn’t accomplished: multiple X Games medals in multiple disciplines, a world record-setting quarterpipe session and endless film parts. So when he decides to put another notch in his career belt, he has to dream up something that no one else dares to dream. In this case, that was just the start.
The dream was simple enough. Find the sections of a perfect 22-foot pipe that Simon actually uses to land and take off during his competition run and lose the rest. What’s left, he came to find, were ten blocks of snow perfectly placed for him to execute a full halfpipe run.
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Sounds easy, right? Well, Simon thought so. And what he discovered during his two-day crusade against this cubed halfpipe was that it was anything but that. It didn’t just challenge his physical gifts, it attacked him mentally. To overcome those obstacles and succeed took every ounce of his being.
We could give you a play-by-play. We could claim to tell you how Simon felt during the project. But with a feature so singularly and unequivocally his, it’s only appropriate that he explain things. Here is how it all went down, in the words of Simon Dumont.
On the test day, not too much was going through my mind. I was just skiing. That’s all I had to do. I had to make sure I stuck to my line, dropping in as fast as I could, making sure that I was getting rid of variables because either way, there were going to be a lot of them. It was windy and super slow the day I was testing. I’m glad it was on the smaller side rather than going bigger on the test day. It would have sucked if we cut the gaps too big.
Measurements in hand, the team from Snow Park Technologies spent six days battling a spring blizzard while meticulously cutting channels, pushing snow and hand shaping the pipe into those ten blocks of snow ready for him to shred.
Before I saw the pipe cubed, it seemed so easy. I just had to ski my line and that was pretty much it. Yeah there were gaps there, but it’s exactly how I skied it—they aren’t even going to come into play, I thought.
As soon as I saw it, I was like, “Whoa.” It was a lot bigger than I expected it to be. The gaps were really big. There wasn’t as much room for error as I thought.
Usually the back of the halfpipe rolls away so you don’t see how tall it is. It just looked big and crazy and fake. I didn’t quite envision it like it was. But it was… scary. That’s a good word for it.
I didn’t have any warm up—just had to drop in and go like 18 feet out. I hit it, thought I was going to deck the entire time and went way bigger than I wanted. I just clipped the deck but made it back in and that’s pretty much where it started. I’d been doing those runs all year so I figured, what’s the difference in doing that run in a halfpipe with gaps compared to a halfpipe without gaps? I wanted to do a switch double but the last cube was a little bit smaller than I expected. And it was way harder than I expected.
I was going way bigger on the first hit, which meant I went way bigger on the second hit. It got worse and worse. So I didn’t even make it to my fourth hit on the first day. I was scared to begin with, then after I crashed a couple times it was like, “Why the hell am I doing this?” It felt like the quarterpipe, you know? But I probably could have still gotten shots on the quarterpipe [if I didn’t get the record]. The cubed pipe had to be completed the exact way I wanted or it wouldn’t work. Even though I made it to the third hit, the feature wasn’t completed. Each gap was created for a certain reason and it was the whole feature as one.
Things weren’t quite right and I just had to call it quits for the day. I knew if I kept skiing that day I would force something and it wouldn’t work out. I needed to think about it so I could show up the next day and follow that line we set.
After that, it was still kind of a shitty night. I just kept thinking about my whole run: dub twelve, right nine, dub nine, alley oop seven, switch seven. It was hard to visualize since I hadn’t made it past the third hit yet. I was nervous and a little scared. The potential for getting hurt was pretty high. I fell asleep no problem but I woke up around four in the morning. It was like a code to me: dub twelve, right nine, dub nine, alley oop seven, switch seven. I couldn’t sleep and I pretty much saw myself crash every single way you could crash on that thing.
Faced with the burden of expectations, a throng of media and the enormous resources already invested—all with his reputation on the line—Simon returned the second day with renewed focus and drive.
I had to do it. So many people put so much work into it. There were like 40 people watching, heli in the air, perfect sunny day and I had two days to do it.
I think there are other skiers who might be able to understand what was going on. I tried to bring Peter Olenick, but he had some knee issues and was too busy with physio. It would have been nice to have somebody else to feed off. I think having a lot of people there who weren’t really athletes… it was hard for them to understand what was going on in my head. Except maybe me being pissed off. But, you know, it happened that way and it still got done.
If you do badly at a contest there’s always another contest. But this pipe wasn’t getting built again. It was a one-time thing. The snow was perfect, the mountain was willing to let us do it, Red Bull threw down a lot of money, there were probably 20 filmers shooting, the entire Snowpark crew was there. After everybody did their job, it was all on me.
And I claimed it and let everyone know I was doing it and this and that. I just need to keep my mouth shut, I think.
The first time I made it through the pipe, it was an amazing feeling. I got to the bottom and everything was great. I’m thinking, “Screw it, I’m done. I stomped everything.” It was perfect. I grabbed everything, I hit every transition perfectly.
I get a call over the radio saying that the helicopter didn’t get the shot the way they wanted, so if I don’t mind going up there and doing it a couple more times… which are some of the most frustrating words you’ll ever hear as a skier. This wasn’t something you session. It’s something you get once or twice and you’re done.
I think that I can really channel that pissed off energy. I ski really well when I’m angry.
I didn’t want to ski at all, I was so over it, everything was hurting. But Red Bull put a lot of money into it and they wanted to get some good shots out of it, so I did it for them. I mean it felt good for me, that I could get it once then not think I was going to get it again. Then to get it four more times. And get it pretty well. I think I benefited from it. The filmers benefited from it.
I wanted to do something really different. I have only so long I’ll be able to ski, so I want to leave my impact as much as I can and hopefully this cube shoot will be something people remember for a while.
My confidence got me into the situation and it seemed way easier than it turned out to be. Even when I watch it now, it doesn’t look that gnarly. But when I really think about it, the things going through my head were a whole new level.