Squallywood - Not just a book!
It’s every day life in Squaw Valley: ‘Hollywood for Skiers and Boarders’
Squallywood - The term first came from the cult guide book to Squaw Valley’s most exposed lines, written by pro skier Rob Gaffney in 2003. Quite possibly one of the greatest literary efforts ever produced in the ski world! It was accompanied by the raddest ski movie ever created- GNAR the movie, and incorporated Shane McConkey’s epic game of G.N.A.R. where points could be gained by undertaking daring activities on and off the slope.
However, after hanging in Squaw Valley for a few seasons, I’ve noticed there’s a double entendre with this word. Like Chamonix in France, I’ve met more than my fair share of winter sports ‘legends’, whether it be around town, on the lifts, or at the local (and world famous) watering hole known as the ‘Chammy’ (Le Chamois Loft Bar). I’ve discovered there’s always an opportunity to bump into a friendly legend ski racer, pro skier, famous mountain guide, polar adventurer, and world class winter photographers and cinematographers.
Stoked to be able to honour them in this blog, the list is long and distinguished. Here was my take:
Jonny Moseley- the face of Squaw, 2 times Olympic World Champion and honestly, charming, all round nice guy. I was getting my skis out of the boot (trunk) of my car in the Squaw parking lot and Johnny mosies on past (pardon the pun). I comment: ‘Hey Johnny, I just heard you on the radio’ (I did as I’d driven up to Squaw). Johnny replies ‘Hi there, oh really, what was I saying? ‘ I said, you were recruiting lift operators for Squaw Valley. He chuckled, introduced himself, and walked with me to the lifts chatting about skiing Squaw, and heli skiing, and we swapped cards. He’s a lover of the heli too.
Travis Ganong- Fresh from his World Cup downhill win in Beaver Creek, he’s Squaw Valley talent through and through. I was sitting outside in the sun at the Chammy having a cold one after a lovely week-day skiing, and in comes a noisy entourage that was Travis’ victory party complete with Swiss Cow Bells. Like the pied-piper he had every little Squaw Valley Mighty Mite (the kids ski school) following him, and proceeded to sign every kid’s poster, helmet, skis, etc (and one for yours truly, which was later stolen in the bar upstairs!). What’s special about this is that not so long ago, Travis was one of these Mighty Mites and the town showed up to honour his win. This 24 year old champion is a power house both on the slopes and off. We chatted about his racing career and his racer friends in the UK (Chemmy and Doug) who I’ve worked with at Total Heliski, and about his love of powder skiing. He’s going to become one of our Total Heliski Legends soon.
Dirk Collins- Co-founder of Teton Gravity Research in Jackson, a veteran filmmaker and entrepreneur. He is known for his work as a Producer, Director, DP, Photographer, Brand Marketer and Content Strategist. He was over in Squaw visiting his friends and presenting a workshop on Flow State thinking at the Squaw Valley institute. We hung out one evening discussing flow state, skiing, travelling and partying.
Keoki Flagg- Famous ski and nature photographer, Keoki’s gallery is situated in the base of Squaw Valley. His pictures are to die for from not only Squaw but all over the world. Is there a winter sports star he hasn’t photographed?
Kevin Quinn and Jessica- Both known for their skiing feats in countless Warren Miller movies, as well as their Alaskan heli ski operation (Points North). Jessica and Kevin are just like any normal Squaw Valley skiing family bringing up their two young children, except once a year the whole family transplants up to Cordova, AK and runs the adrenaline on tap for the world’s most adventurous heli skiers, yours truly included.
Doug Stoup- If you want to ski traverse un-supported to the North or South Pole, he’s your guy to lead you. One of the world’s most recognised polar explorers, ski adventurer, inspirational speaker, and owner of Ice Axe Expeditions, Doug pioneers trips to places that no one ever has. He lives 200 feet from the ski lifts at Squaw, and in his spare time he’ll drag car tyres up to the top of Squaw on a rope for training. I met him in the Chammy and had the pleasure of skiing a pow day with him. Solid!
Lynn Hill- World’s leading climber. She did a talk this winter in Olympic Valley. She’s widely regarded as one of the leading competitive sport climbers in the world during the late 1980s and early 1990s, she is famous for making the first free ascent of the difficult sheer rock face of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, and for repeating it the next year in less than 24 hours. A total legend!
Jamie Burge- Pro Freeride World Tour Athlete. She’s simply the raddest thing on skis under 5 foot 3. Word on the street is she’ll fly by you down the mountain light as a feather, but I enjoy Apres with her at the Chammy.
Daron Rhalves- Is one of America’s leading World Cup alpine ski racer and freestyle skier. He retired from World Cup racing at the end of the 2006 season with 12 World Cup victories and a world championship. He famously won the 2003 Hahnenkamm Downhill race in Kitzbühel, Austria: becoming the first American champion on the prestigious Streif course in 44 years (Buddy Werner in 1959). He also runs the Banzai race and I met him with Travis. He’s rad.
Kent Kreitler- The famous pro skier who hails from here. Shane McKonkey’s college room mate and best friend. I first met Kent at the Total Heliski Show in 2010 where he spoke about his world extreme skiing adventures and ripping Squaw days with Shane.
Jeremy Jones- Officially I didn’t meet Jeremy in Squaw. I met him at a movie event, but he’s an ambassador for Squaw and for Protect Our Winters. I won a snow board of his at an Alaskan brewing competition in Valdez, and I fully plan to cross to the other side now and shred!
There are others who I haven’t met yet, who I’m on the look out to say hi to one day if I get the chance: JT Holmes, and Ingrid Backstrom among them.
My take: This place only rivals Chamonix in terms of its famous legends who frequent Squaw Valley. So next time you’re in Squaw Valley (Or Chamonix), take extra care to look around you at the faces. And for every famous legend you meet or see, there’s gonna be 100’s maybe 1000’s of other soul skiers who have that same twinkle in their eye that gave these legends their inspiration.
If you’re interested in boarding or heli skiing with legends like these, please write to me and we can get back to you about our world renowned Heliski With Legends Programme available in Europe or North America.