Downhill skiing – without snow?
Typically a sport built for white, snow-filled landscapes, a new video is inspiring adventurers to think about skiing along entirely new terrain: the lush forest floor.
At first glance, Valhalla, an unexpected and imaginative film from Sweetgrass Productions, seems to offer a glimpse into the alluring world of warm-weather forest skiing. The film’s teaser has been getting attention for its mind-boggling displays of athletes gliding across tree branches and shredding across moss-covered stumps without any snow in sight.
But is snow-free skiing even possible?
Technically – no. Or at least, not entirely. The footage captured in this clip of well-known skiers Zack Giffin and Eliel Hinder was filmed in Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, next door to Washington state’s North Cascades range.
Every year, large snowfalls coat the mountains’ higher elevations in January and February, but as the temperatures begin to rise in March and April, the snow melts, and the resulting water rapidly trickles down to the forest’s lower grounds, creating a wet, lush environment that is often slick enough to support skiing.
“In the springtime we have these large climax slides where literally the entire snow paths let loose and slide into the rainforest, where you ski and it’s really a surreal thing,” said Giffin, an area local.
It’s a unique environment that North Cascades National Park Reserve’s public information speaker, Joe Herzig, said is unfamiliar to many. “Cross-country skiing does happen in the lower regions at times in the spring, but [downhill skiing through the forest is] rare to see, as not too many do it,” Herzig said.
This is why Sweetgrass wanted to bring the experience to life. But in order to show Mount Baker’s green forest at its most verdant, in true Hollywood style, the crew shot the video in summer, over a period of two years in June 2012 and July 2013, manually bringing in snow from a nearby glacier and filming before it could melt. But every stunt performed – including an awe-inspiring jump across a 30ft waterfall at 2:28 – is completely real and edit free.
To experience the beautiful environment of snow-light skiing first hand, aim to visit the Cascades next year, right around this time.