Photos: Torey Piro/Xodus
The capacity for sleep is general among animals. Even invertebrates usually have a period of torpor at some stage in their daily cycle of activity. The pattern of sleep in mammals tends to be related to their feeding habits and dominant senses, but some (e.g., lions, horses, sheep, and snowboarders) show no clear-cut rhythm and may sleep at any time.–Oxford English Dictionary
Torey Piro is a photographer, but for anybody who has ever had the opportunity to snowboard with him, or watch him snowboard, it is understood that he is on the fringe of the far side of crazy. At a young age, his mom would look for him in the backyard and find him at the top of the tallest tree, swaying back and forth in the breeze, oblivious to the effects of gravity, or more importantly, the effects of the ground. He would never ask any of the snowboarders to hit a jump he wouldn’t have hit himself, pre-knee surgery.
As his riding days shifted to photography, he came up with ideas so bizarre, even the most gung-ho snowboarders had to pull up the reins. One such idea consisted of hovering in a helicopter over a peak located in a state park where landing the heli was illegal: Torey envisioned a squad of snowboarders rappelling SWAT style onto the peak as he captured images from below. When he found out that a hover below 200 feet is illegal, he looked into the possibilities of parachuting in. But the winds are so erratic in this mountain zone, even a semi-safe drop is impossible, and no magazine was willing to fund the skydiving lessons. Back to the drawing board.
At some point, a reverse day of snowboarding sprang to his twisted mind. The first shots taken at sunset, the final shots taken at sunrise–a doable endeavor. In the days prior, it was understood that training would consist of all-night games of Monopoly. Sleep by day and train by night. Sleep, day. Train, night. By the time the moment of truth came, everyone would be alert and ready to go. Of course, nobody ever finished a game of Monopoly, but they did scout the town for potential fun zones. Torey hoarded film and rented special flash-photography extras. The sun edged toward darkness on April 13, 1999.
A ragtag group of vehicles full of kerosene, tiki torches, snowboards, lanterns, and a few-thousand dollars in fancy photography equipment creeps through Mammoth, California. Josh Chauvet, the man who runs the Outbound Snowboard Park, is grooming up the place for the beginnings of our evening session. The sun starts to dip, and we hitch a ride in the back of a Mammoth cat. Our workday begins. Dinner will be at dawn.
Luke Wynen, Tommy Czeschin, and Chris Nelson are hitting the east-facing pipe wall while the sun creeps to the horizon, and slush slowly freezes. Tommy pulls out some stalefish, and Luke and Chris take turns warming up to the night with Indys and methods. The sun dips behind the jagged teeth of the Minarets in time for Luke’s perfect lazy-man boardslide, hands relaxed at his sides, and board sweeping off the last remnants of daylight.
Silence sets in. Gabe Taylor hikes up from the base area. A long trail of grooming machines start their nightly rounds–corduroy cocktails with packed-powder chasers. Dr. Mott, resident slope groomer and pipe shaper, gives our sluggish crew a lift to the upper reaches of the park, where mailboxes, lunch tables, and rails reign. The snow has firmed up. Gabe slides from one surface to the next–fiberglass nollie on the picnic table to 50-50 on the kinked mailbox to boardslide on the handrail–all smooth and rhythmic. Josh joins the picnic-table session, clearing the entire table with little regard for the dozing riders who sit and contemplate the stars. Josh and Gabe rule the picnic table with well-aimed 50-50 rides down the bench, risking hyper-extended knees in the quest for new sliding suaces. Gabe eventually hooks a rail and gets pitched a good twelve feet to flatbottom–ribs, head, and shoulders impact simultaneously on the unforgiving frozen-solid landing ruts.
The resort in our wake, we stop at someone’s house to pick up a ladder for roof access. A gas-station pit stop for burritos with mustard turns into an after-hours Golf N Game visit, where, star-employee Matt Kass raids our pockets for dollars and bellies up to Ms. Pacman. First game–68,000 points. We play a round of golf, shoot some hoops, Donkey Kong, and then back into the darkness of the night.
McDonald’s has a suspicious-looking ladder on the left side. The A-frame is snow free, the landing is twenty feet below. Luke says that it’s gnarly, just gnarly from up top. He has to balance his board perfectly; if he slips, he’s rolling down the side and impaling himself on the drive-through menu. If he falls forward and lands uphill, he’ll bust through the windows and end up in the dining room. If he clears the meager tranny, he’ll fly across the pavement doing 90. Torey gives Luke last-minute instructions to try and get a nice stylish grab the second he clears the roof. Luke stands atop the A-frame at exactly midnight and proclaims himself a pussy.
Shortly afterward, a cop pulls us over on Forest Trail Road. Everyone was taking a little nap during the past hour, and suddenly this cop starts accusing us of walking around on the roof of the Chamonix Condo during that very same period of time. Coincidence? In all honesty (though the manager of the condo swore he saw my truck in the vicinity), I was never on the roof of the Chamonix Condo, so that’s what I tell the officer of the law. It’s late, and I’m a little sleepy–I can’t recollect what went on during this nap. I guess it’s possible that our crew did some sleep riding.
We are now where Pipe Dragons sleep. We poach a shiny new rail that was intended for Snowboarder magazine’s superpark session. It was our duty as friends to test it out in advance for safety concerns–the neighborly thing to do. Tiki torches light the way. Gabe is feeling the effects of the picnic-table jib to flatbottom rib crusher. Steve Brown and Matt Downey join the crew. Billy Anderson and Joe Weniger are somewhere nearby but never hit the rail.
Three hours after Luke proclaimed himself a pussy, Gabe suggests tiki-torch slides. Matt Kass does a single tiki-torch grab slider; this accelerates to a double-torch grab slider by Steve. Kass follows with a single-torch ball grabber. It’s getting stupid. We stagger through a coffee load-up at the 24-hour gas station as some old fella who works at the power plant down the road is heading for work. He comments on how he just had the most painful bowel movement of his life. He proclaims, “I don’t eat enough salad.” It’s 4:30 a.m.
In the darkness, I can barely make out a run-in to a big green utility box. Matt Hammer and Aaron Bishop just woke up. They scouted this the night before. It’s sandwiched between the golf course and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Yawns reek of coffee–muck-mouth central. A light blue hue to the east crackles and sputters over the White Mountains. The sound of icy snow on P-tex interrupts the silence of dawn. Hammer’s 180 to nose slider is met by an explosion of coyote howls, causing him to land with a thud. Supposedly, Kass almost hit a coyote a few days before. He thinks an alpha male is lurking beyond the jib, waiting to snatch him and eat him up.
Conversation deteriorates for those of us who haven’t slept in close to 24 hours. Talk of champagne for dogs, called Champ Pagne segues into restaurants in L.A. with a menu for dogs. Kass brings up China, where there are actual dog restaurants, as in on the menu. Hammer realizes every jib on this box is changing stations all across Mammoth; of course, no damage is done to the actual box. This is not destructive jibbing, this is art in its purest form.
It’s way too late. Cars are starting to pass by on the roads. The glow in the distance hypnotizes us as our crew gathers on the road, walking toward the sun as a last tribute to the night. Our eyes are bloodshot. Our stomachs ache from too much caffeine. We stagger into The Stove at 7:15 a.m. for breakfast. Actually, dinner. A headcount finds Luke, Josh, and Gabe missing! Too tired to give a damn, we order. Torey’s camera holds the secrets of the night. People look at us and see our worn and wrinkled riding gear at the beginning of yet another day on the mountain. Little do they know, we are on our way to bed.s box is changing stations all across Mammoth; of course, no damage is done to the actual box. This is not destructive jibbing, this is art in its purest form.
It’s way too late. Cars are starting to pass by on the roads. The glow in the distance hypnotizes us as our crew gathers on the road, walking toward the sun as a last tribute to the night. Our eyes are bloodshot. Our stomachs ache from too much caffeine. We stagger into The Stove at 7:15 a.m. for breakfast. Actually, dinner. A headcount finds Luke, Josh, and Gabe missing! Too tired to give a damn, we order. Torey’s camera holds the secrets of the night. People look at us and see our worn and wrinkled riding gear at the beginning of yet another day on the mountain. Little do they know, we are on our way to bed.