Cody Townsend Talks "Conquering the Useless"

Because Conquering the Useless is showing tonight at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, we figured it was high time to share with you some of the thoughts that Cody Townsend shared with us on his new project with Dave Treadway, Chris Rubens and Elyse Saugstad.

I had been obsessing over going to some wild places and climbing and skiing big lines, and it got to a point where I was like “I can’t ignore this.” It was going to be really hard to do with a traditional film company, and I just had to do it on my own. I had to put together the crew, put together the mission and make it happen on my own. 

It stemmed from wanting to do something different. I’ve been doing the ski movie, ski porn stuff for ten years now, and while it’s still what I love in so many ways, I also find—like a lot of skiers—I get obsessed with something. If I’m not obsessed with it, then I don’t really put all of my effort into it.

I came up with the name. Actually, I can’t say I came up with it. It comes from a Reinhold Messner quote. It’s essentially talking about climbing and alpinism as an act of conquering the useless. You’re essentially doing something where you’re conquering something in your own mind, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s a pretty useless feat. 

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Party Wave. Photo: Dave Treadway

Dave Treadway was the inspiration for it. Watching him and the Pemberton crew go super deep on sleds and then ski mountaineering some huge lines out in the middle of nowhere—that opened my eyes to the possibilities. We usually use snowmobiles to get out to a zone and lap one mini-golf zone and film, but now it was like, “Wait. Now we can use these more for going as deep as possible, towing out gas, towing out all of your supplies and camping off of them while climbing and exploring from there.”

I’ve know Chris Rubens for almost 10 years now. Over the last five years we started skiing together a lot. He’s just one of the best mountain men I know, has some of the best mountain sense and knowledge and is probably the most well-rounded when it comes to pillow skiing, booters, powder skiing, big lines and ski mountaineering. He does everything and has good foundation of knowledge in it all. So he was first choice for the trip for me.

With Chris and Dave, you’re always joking around, fucking around and making sure you’re having a good time. We made sure to capture that. That’s normal for us. It’s not like it’s forced or anything. 

What I love about Treadway and Rubens is their resourcefulness and ability to make shit happen. There’s no downtime to sit on the computer and dick around on social media with them. It’s more like, “We’re going to build a sauna in the backcountry”—which we did. “We’re going to work on our snowmobiles. We’re going to hike somewhere. We’re going to always be doing something and be very resourceful.”

We were looking at these massive glaciers and very few people had been up there that year—very few people have ever been up there ever, so we’re asking locals [about navigating the glaciers] and they’re basically like “Ah?” So how do you know how to get up there? So we’d sit there at the bottom and say, “Well, where do you think we should go?” And we’re like, “Maybe left then maybe right, but whatever you do, keep the throttle pinned.”

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A useless sunset, if we've ever seen one. Photo: Cody Townsend
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