By Mark Ortiz
So let’s rewind the clock about half a lifetime ago to the year 2004, the year MSP’s flick Yearbook came out. There’s quite a few notable moments in the film–Candide’s cork 810 to rail, Mike Wilson’s legendary undershoot, overtones of misogyny, Hugo Harrison’s proper tomahawk near the end of the film. Above and beyond, the movie really highlighted the existence of ski-BASE in its own element with McConkey and JT Holmes expanding the horizons of what was thought possible. A common criticism of the day was that the BASE jumping segment droned on a little more than most skiers appreciated but for me it was entrancing and prophetic. To think that 18 years later I could be a part of hosting an event to bring together some gnarly humans and give ‘er a rip is pretty much a culmination of every feeling that film inspired.
As with many things in my life, the entire premise of this event was a joke. I have the fortune of knowing Jesse Hall (a veteran of the ski-BASE world) and he has the misfortune of having the handle @jessehallskibase. Often we fanboy about when he walks in, yelling at @jessehallskibase in lieu of his real name. Being that he pays me to pack his parachutes in the summers, we naturally talk shit behind his back. I can’t recall the exact premises–who, what or when (another recurring theme in my life)--but the end result is that we were whispering around the hanger about having an event called the @jessehallskibase Invitational but had no intention of inviting Jesse Hall. Naturally, he caught wind of this. And one thing led to another and boom! The @jessehallskibase Invitational came into being, the second ski-BASE boogie ever. Following some scouting, a few phone calls, and some really stoned snow shoveling later we had a legal ski-BASE jumping event and I invited some friends. And boy howdy!
It goes without saying that not everything went according to plan. BASE jumpers are, as a community, flakier than a sunburnt scalp and the rate of attrition at the event was no different. People no-showed, people bailed last minute,¹ people did not show up for the course briefing beforehand. I should have known. The people that I absolutely did depend on were there – Jan Verhan, Everett Schwartz and Evan Welsch. Because pics or it didn’t happen.
When the rubber met the road everything and everyone was on point. Grand Targhee provided discounted tickets for the participants, Krista Receis inadvertently took a group of spectators to the viewing area, Eric Doyle hauled sound systems when Taylor Sparks (the announcer) was somehow lost on the course, Orion Remaniak hauled the deceptively heavy shade structure into the canyon, Al Morelli and Anna Singletary drove sleds laps to shuttle us to the parking lot. After the pre-game hassle and stress, the jumps were on point. No one had a wall strike (my money was on Rich Servantes but his van broke down en route and he couldn’t make it), Chris Morelli and Kenny Frank skied some stupid French-ass-bullshit line underneath the exit points and 4 jumpers got their first jumps–Austin Hollingshead, Logan Johnson, E-Rach, and Orion Remaniak.
One of the major conflagrations I was trying to avoid was blowing up ‘The Spot.’ I must pay homage to the local dogs as they’ve been riding this terrain for years beyond measure. Local habit aggressively prohibits posting photos of ‘The Spot’ on the internet and I certainly do not want to earn their ire. The quiet truth of the matter is perhaps I’m bringing a little too much publicity to ‘The Spot’ and consequently I’ve vetted the photos pretty heavily to alleviate said concern.
With hindsight being 20/20, there are certainly some improvements to make on my end (sorry Skylar). That said, we’ll see what the future holds because the gathering of the community–a pretty small, specific community of considerable talent–was an incredible experience and it would be a damn shame if it wasn’t to happen again. One final note to round out the piece: Austin Hollingshead, the sole snowboarder of the crew, took home the prizes for Best Overall Impression. Congrats, ya filthy animal!¹ Please shame the following individuals until they can redeem themselves: Clark Robinson, Ryker Wallin, Keston Wallin, Jeffery Popko, Trevor Brott, Dave Munoa, Hayes Majerus. That said, BJ Graham, Daniel Mau, Kris Munkel, Jake Price, Tyler Burrows, and Kristian Geissler get a pass. Rich Servantes presented a dated receipt and is excused from any wrongdoing.