“Put your fucking costume on!” belts someone from the back porch. It’s dark outside, and the party is raging full force inside of the 11,000-square-foot Retallack Lodge, a timber frame structure situated in an old growth forest in the heart of British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains.
It’s Tuesday, March 25, 2014, and Orage Masters IX is officially underway. It takes but a matter of hours before shit hits the fan. Almost literally.
Overheard: “I’m gonna go puke out a couple organs, I’ll be back in five.”
Originating in 2003, the “anti-comp,” as it’s hailed, got its start at Mammoth Mountain, CA. Through the mid-to late-2000s, this wild and wacky event grew to become a favorite among athletes and fans alike, ultimately taking up residence at Whistler Blackcomb in conjunction with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. For those who are unfamiliar with the Masters showdown, the quickest way I could think to describe it would be an absolute ripper of a Halloween party meets beer Olympics on snow, with a guest list that includes some of the world’s most talented skiers.
Following a two-year hiatus during 2011 and 2012, the Masters made a triumphant return at Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort in the spring of 2013; this marked the eighth edition. With teams previously representing ski brands, Orage stirred the pot and announced it would be film crews battling against one another on the slopes of Dollar Mountain. I was psyched to attend as a media man, and covering the antics stands out as one of the more outlandish weekends of my life. I won’t go into details, but the group was more or less asked not to return for a 2014 edition which should give you an idea of how things went down. I expected nothing less.
A potential ninth installment of the Masters was up in the air. I wondered if the event had been blacklisted. Word had inevitably spread of The Kids (Sean Pettit, Max Hill and co.) dousing an entire Dollar slope in gasoline, setting fire to anything and everything in their path—a resort management team’s dream. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when an email popped up in my inbox on November 15, 2013, authored by Mike Nick, co-owner and VP of sales and marketing for Orage:
“Boys and girls, I’ve been talking with Phil up at Retallack, and we have a ridiculous idea to do an event at the lodge this year. Ski contests, après drinking contests, hockey tournaments, end-of-day Chinese downhill races to the lodge, side events and chaos. It’s seriously going to be seriously ridiculous. The Rumble at Retallack.”
Leave it to Mr. Nick to scheme up yet another mind-bogglingly fantastic idea. After all, the guy’s a former athlete, credited as a true innovator of the sport, and he’s been working with Orage for fifteen years, fostering the brand’s dedication to keeping things fun. The man knows a thing or two about how to inspire good times.
But wait, the backcountry? Really? A world-class cat skiing operation, Retallack says openly, “Safety is always our No. 1 priority.” A controlled environment is critical in upholding this core value. And if there’s one rule that dictates the happenings of Orage Masters, it’s this: there are no rules. Control? Yeah right.
The stars aligned, though. It was on.
A mishmash of top-name pros had been selected to compete via public vote. And rather than one day of competition, as was the norm historically, this rodeo would span three full days, complete with an action-packed schedule of events, each valued by its worth in “Flamingo Points.”
￼That brings us to the beginning of our story. At some point during this opening night celebration, someone removed their costume which was a real no-no, apparently, given the screaming match that’s happening outside. In this moment, the bar is set for the days to come: 100 percent costumes, 100 percent of the time. Pirates versus Superheroes in an all-out war.
Hours earlier, team captains Tatum Monod and Lexi Dupont—the only two female competitors of Master IX, representing the Pirates and Superheroes, respectively—had determined each side’s roster by hucking BCX throwing knives at a wall full of balloons. Inside of each balloon was a name, and for each pop, one of the other eight competitors was designated to a squad.
Joining Monod as Pirates were Banks Gilberti, Chris Logan, Tanner Rainville and Wiley Miller. Representing the Superheroes, along with Dupont, were Duncan Adams, Parker White, Alexis Godbout and Joe Schuster.
The opening evening whizzes by—a blur. Drinking contests. Pissing contests. Irish car bombs.
Between the spacious living room, the equally expansive dining room that seats 40-plus and the bar area, folks are running amok. Batman (P-White) pours drinks on himself; Godbout dons a set of plastic breasts. Schuster, who has transformed into Iron Man’s Colonel James Rhodes, falls from his perch atop Godbout’s shoulders, slamming butt-first into the floor, resulting in a pooping of the pants. We’re off to a good start.
Overheard: “Yeah, I pooped my pants but I’m back now, what you know about that?”
It’s morning. Day one of competition. The staff works some magic in the kitchen and we chow down on some delicious breakfast. A short time later, we load up the cats. We’ve got three between all of us. The proverbial dealing of the cards has me riding with the Superheroes, and I thereby develop allegiance for this squad.
As we head for Hollywood Ridge, a zone that’s littered with mini-golf features, we make a stop to engage in some safety discussions and beacon drills. Perhaps wary of what’s to come, one of the guides says to White, “Don’t embrace your inner Batman too much, eh?”
Honoring the rules-don’t-apply nature of the Masters, Parker responds, “I can’t make any promises, bud.”
Bumping our way into the hills, I smile wide. Eighties music blares from the cabin’s speaker system. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman and Colonel Rhodes—their outfits retrofitted in such a way as to jive with ski gear—are either hungover or still drunk. Regardless, they’ll have to bring their A game today if they hope to secure some of the 89 available Flamingo Points, which are a nod to Orage’s founding in 1989.
“Rainville is dropping in 10!” blares Luke Van Valin’s deep, animated voice through our radios” The former pro turned television personality and event host is calling the shots this week. “Hang on, he might puke first.”
The Hollywood session is absurd. This is Masters competition at its finest. Still feeling the effects of last night’s festing, these 10 skiers manage to put on a show unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. That is to say, the level of skiing is extremely high. Spines, pillows and cliffs—demolished. All the more impressive given the current conditions: heavy snowfall.
I write in my notebook that day:
Too many epic moments to recount. 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 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.
The Hollywood showdown yields two video edits, one per team. The clips would be posted to YouTube later that day and pitted against one another by means of public voting. The team with the most votes would earn 10 Flamingo Points.
Between the on-hill activities and plenty of off-hill pursuits, too, there’s not a moment to rest. Flamingo Points are available around every corner. Later in the day, we see a Chinese downhill, a knife throwing contest and a good ol’-fashioned broomball tournament. Excessive drinking occurs all the while.