Squaw Valley—Extreme, Part II of II
"The atmosphere at Squaw Valley has always equaled a penchant for risk. It is matter of fact," explained the late Norm Simmons, who became known in the sixties for his epic leaps off KT's Eagle's Nest.
Here is the balance of the seven events that helped propagate the Squaw Valley legend.
HOT DOG. The Chinese Downhill (see Part I) was eventually glamorized years later in the feature-length motion picture, "Hot Dog." Filmed at Squaw Valley and written and edited by Squaw Valley native, Mike Marvin, the film hired several local athletes for ski sequences and stunts.
Though Playboy's Shannon Tweed received most of everyone's attention, it was local Robby Huntoon, doubling for the film?s hero Patrick Hauser, who stole the picture. His most uncorked stunt came during the filming of the climatic Chinese Downhill when he swept through Gold Coast on skis and through a huge glass window to get back on course.
"The stunt coordinator and I dreamed it up," recalls Huntoon who has done stunt work in other films such as "Back To The Future" and "Greatest American Hero." "The Gold Coast Lodge configuration was a lot different then than today. The building was a lot smaller, especially its upper deck. I knew we could pull off something special."
Removing an uphill window and installing a door, Huntoon constructed a strip of snow three feet wide through the building and off the floor to the height of the window.
"We took out the plate glass, but could only replace it with real glass," remembers Huntoon. "There was not time or budget to send for candy glass."
With five cameras rolling, Huntoon, on long, downhill race skis, began his run from the top of the East Broadway lift terminal. "I needed a bit of speed, enough to clear the Plaza Deck and hit the ramp I made at the bottom."
Huntoon was informed he had to do it in one take. The former University of Vermont grad hit it perfectly. He smashed through several panes of glass he'd organized to soften the blow, and he flew below onto the narrow ramp situated near the Gold Coast chairlift.
"I learned one item a bit later. There was a girl, an extra who was acting as a cocktail waitress, who was supposed to open the door for me to sail through. As it turned out, she just happened to open the door accidently as I screamed into the building. No one inside had a radio to say exactly when I was coming. Someone looking out the window noticed me coming and yelled to her to open the door!"
WAYES WICKED WANDER. In his first Big Mountain extreme competition, Tom Wayes brought new meaning to the word "big air" when he uncorked an epic 100-foot leap in the Tram Bowl chutes during the 1996 All-Mountain Extremes. "I wanted to do something huge. I'd had a poor first run. It was hard not to go for it," recalls Wayes, a Squaw Valley resident and Alaskan heli-guide.
During the morning's course inspection he had noticed a chimney of rock near the Medusa Chute, above Ladies Lunge. He discovered a small stair of steps into the buttress where one could still see the landing from the top.
"I wanted to do it the first time, but a cameraman on the spine had forced me to go around," says Wayes. Strapped to a pair of K2, 215 skis, he sailed off the cliff, using two little trees as reference. "I remember praying about clearing the second pad, but I believed I could do it. My mind was clear. I was in the zone," he says.
With several hundred spectators gasping, Wayes cleared the precipice. Though he extended to get full absorption on impact and kept on his feet, the landing looked and sounded like the detonation of a building. The landing chipped his elbow, but he managed to put his boards back on and ski down to the applause in the finish.
The crowd loved it. The judges couldn't buy it. Wayes was disqualified for skiing through a roped section that had been earlier declared off-course.
"I knew it was reckless," admits Wayes. "But Im super-competitive and was really reved up. I have to admit there was a lot of hang time."
ALL-MOUNTAIN EXTREMES, 1995, FINAL DAY. "Everybody knew this was the day to show off and go big," remembers Chaco Mohler, an organizer of the event that first year. "I don't think there has ever been a day we've had with such ideal conditions for big air."
All week long a spring storm had socked into Squaw Valley, interrupting and delaying the five-day competition. On the last day, however, the sun broke out, the winds died, and competitors discovered ten feet of new snow waiting.
"I was initially disappointed," says Mohler whose filming of the event would earn him first place at the International Ski Film and Video Festival and the Far West Bill Berry Award. "We had scheduled the competition originally for the Tram Bowl Chutes, but there was too much avalanche danger. Once I got up to Granite Chief and saw those conditions, however, I knew it was going to be far out. The anticipation, the energy up there was amazing."
The women won the battle of air. Morgan Lafonte pulled off a backflip from the buttress. Kirsten Kremer flew off the nose of Granite Chief. Chuck Patterson hiked the peak four times and won the combined in skiing and snowboarding.
Overall the gods created an ideal scene," Mohler explained. "The cool thing was everybody let go of the fact it was a competition and got into this showboating thing. With the audience and cameras watching, it was Squaw Valley people going big off the mothership, Squaw Valley."