HEAD FREESKIING’S KORE STORIES – TAKE TWO WITH JESS HOTTER
The latest episode of Head Freeskiing's Kore Stores, Take Two, follows the journey of professional skier Jess Hotter as she makes her comeback on the Freeride World Tour.
The third installment of Scott Sports’ Freedom To Explore series features Sam Cohen and Michelle Parker and the former’s long-planned project: Mount Fury. Deep in the heart of Washington State’s North Cascades lies the sub-range of the Pickets. The jagged and remote nature of the Picket Range takes just the right group of nut jobs to even attempt an expedition deep into these mountains in the hopes of skiing its beautiful peaks. While the mountains in the lower 48 are more and more accessible, the Pickets, which lie within North Cascades National Park, have remained as the most remote and inaccessible range. Due to rules and regulations in the park, you can only access these peaks by foot. The struggle and effort it takes to just approach these mountains has kept skiers out throughout the years. Sam’s goal was to make a modern ski expedition in order to ski the northeast face of Mount Fury, as he discusses in the Q&A below.
Produced by: Verb Cabin
Presented by: Scott Sports
Supported by: Mountain Gazette & Red Bull
The original name of the movie is “Finding Fury: An arduous journey into the North Cascades”. How arduous was the journey?
I had never attempted to ski one single line with such an approach. 55 miles round trip, heinous bushwhacking, post holing. Arduous doesn’t even begin to describe it.
In the film, we learn that you have been looking to climb and ski this face for more than six years. How did it feel to finally accomplish your goal?
Skiing that line in decent snow was incredible and still has me buzzing when I think back on it. Over the course of the next few months it really set in though. The vision completed was ultimate satisfaction for me.
On a five-day expedition in which you walked through the forest, toured for hours, climbed an almost vertical face and then skied it down, how important was your equipment choice?
Equipment on a mission like this is so crucial. The weight of your gear is a huge factor of how quickly you can move and how big of a toll the weight will take on your body. Plus, if anything breaks you are turning back and having a VERY rough time doing so. Ideally, you make it as easy on yourself as you possibly can.
You mentioned that most people would not give this mission a chance and how it was not easy to find people to go with. How much convincing did it take to get Michelle on board and how was sharing the adventure with her?
As mentioned, I’d thought about this trip for many years. When the time finally came my original partner and longtime friend, John Collinson, had a major injury and couldn’t join. I happened to be on another trip camping in Alaska with Michelle a week prior to leaving for Mt. Fury. I kept telling her about it and she was intrigued so I pushed a bit harder. Eventually, we were seated next to each other on the flight home from Alaska. I showed her the route more in depth and she said she would think about it. A day or two later we talked on the phone and she was in. Honestly, I couldn’t believe she wanted to go. For me that spoke very highly of who she is and her willingness to try something for fun and not just for cameras which is very important to me. She kicked ass.
How much preparation went into the trip? Did you stick to the original plan or made changes along the way?
Years of preparation went into this trip. Training mentally and physically to ready yourself for the expected and the unexpected. The route was planned out and seemed straight forward enough. A couple days in one of the team members, Shane Treat, had an idea to take a different, more low angle route with a little more mileage which ultimately was the best choice. Calling that audible midway through the trip was a great factor in the overall success I’d say.
Why did you decide spring was the right time to tackle this adventure and how were the snow conditions?
Spring is typically when the most snow has settled in and the snowpack has healed from weak layers. Typically this means less likelihood of instability and avalanches.
Many do not realize the extra effort of doing such an expedition while also filming a ski movie. Which were the biggest challenges you faced with filming Finding Fury?
I have to agree there haha. People are always overlooking the challenge of bringing cameras on an expedition. Going on a mission like this while filming adds another element that is so tricky. Your team can go from 2-3 people, to 6 people so easily. Trying to keep everyone stoked and on the same page is tough. I would say that alone was the biggest challenge outside of hiking, climbing and skiing. Just more communication needed.
Now that almost a year has gone by, what do you think you will remember the most about this expedition?
Looking back on The Pickets and Mt. Fury the biggest take away for me and what I’ll remember most is the hard work and dedication it took to finally go and ski Fury. The research, training, planning and then finally going out there and successfully skiing Mt. Fury is something I will always remember. Also, the good times we had out there while getting our asses kicked. The laughs are what got us through.
Finally, would you encourage people to follow your lead and take on the mission of visiting Mt. Fury? What advice would you give to someone really wanting to go?
Yes, 100%. That was one of my main goals with making this video. Showing that there are amazing descents waiting for you to go ski. That having fun with your friends is what skiing is about. Plus, I would love to hear about people’s trips out there and how it goes for them. Advice from me would be to bring some good partners you like to suffer and have a good time with. It’s too easy to get sucked into the misery of the beat down. Also, pack as light as you possibly can without cutting yourself short on food. You’ll be hungry. I can guarantee that much.