photos & words / sean kerrick sullivan

The snowboarder’s dream is a winter with a consistent cycle of huge storms followed by sunny days, followed by more huge storms. This past winter, that dream was realized in Northern California, and it was especially sweet after the decade long drought that drove all but the most hardcore snowboarders and film crews away. The prolonged dry spell meant that when it turned on, what was old became new, and an entire generation of riders was able to appreciate Tahoe and the Sierras for what they really are when it’s pumping.

I was one of the lucky ones, I grew up riding the Sierras, so I knew what to expect when a single storm would drop ten plus feet, and I’ve been going home consistently despite the drought, so I knew exactly what features I wanted to shoot and hit once the tide finally came back up. But I wasn’t the only one who knew what was up; a lot of people showed up, but those who knew how to navigate the crowds and traffic scored the hardest. Absinthe Films rolled into town and laid down the law, fielding a crew so thick with talent and local experience that nobody ever beat us to a spot. Lead cinematographer Shane Charlebois was there when the freestyle potential of the Donner Pass/ASI Zone was first realized, decades ago, and he was tripping upon his return. The terrain here is so good that it rivals anything else in the world, but as people are always hunting the new new, sometimes they forget the goods that are right under their noses. In front of Shane’s lens were North Lake Tahoe locals Brandon Cocard, Brenden Gerard, and Christian Conners along with recent transplant Hans Mindich. Cocard and I used to ride together when we were like 10 or 12 years old on Alpine Meadows’ snowboard team, and we’d always look out the window of our parents cars on the way to Boreal for contests, looking at the tracks on the “I-80 Drop,” aka “Mini Half Dome.” When we were little groms, that was THE jump where every pro came to test themself, the history and importance of trick list on that jump runs deeper than any other spot in snowboarding. It’s huge, and it has what Cocard called “the best landing in Tahoe.” It had not been hit in nearly ten years and we finally fulfilled a childhood dream, rolled up at dawn, and broke her off proper. Hans especially, stomping a FT BS 7 Japan, a never-been-done trick on that feature. The rest of my time with Absinthe consisted of destroying a bunch more Tahoe Classics, as well as a brand new feature that was literally six-feet from the bridge parking lot on Old 40.

Surprising to all was that the Warp Wave crew, some of Tahoe’s most local local’s didn’t make much of a splash despite a good winter it was. This is my favorite crew in Cali, they all ripped the land to shreds last winter and we saw it on social media, but the prior season their film “Aurora Boardealis” became an instant classic. This year, THE year, for reasons unknown, the crew essentially disbanded, with everybody soul boarding and working on their own projects. Ah, that makes sense, these guys have been waiting for this winter for years, and soul boarding is the best, so I’m stoked for the guys to have had more riding time and less time waiting on cameras. The WW leader, Gray Thompson was spotted everywhere last winter, but sans camera bag, soul boarding at its finest… Hell yeah broey! Here’s to hoping for another WW movie, our sport desperately needs movies like theirs, insta-edits and insta-stories are worth nothing, and only serve as a distraction. Warp Wave please, get the gang back together, and make another movie, the people need your art!

Another crew that shut it down was the Snowboarder Magazine crew while filming their movie “Pepper.” Bode Merrill let me know he was headed out with Garrett “Worm” Warnick and Chris Grenier. With dual filmers, Kyle Schwartz and Jon Stark, we headed out to a zone that’s as legendary as Donner Pass, but via snowmobile, and this one I will not name. Imagine ancient old growth trees, looking nearly like skeletons, scattered around playful jump terrain, with a mini Alaska wall up around the corner. And when I say mini, I mean, it’s man-sized shit, spines and drops galore rolling out into a perfect meadow. No crevasses, no bergschrunds, basically a rippers dream. We racked so many shots on that wall that it took me days to organize all their photos, and to top it off Chris Grenier sent his snowmobile off the cornice on the shallow end. I’ve never seen so many clips stacked in two days, and in the words of Bode, “Those were the best days of my season.” And if Bode says that, you know it was really fucking good!