Location Mammoth Mountain, California
Skier Jesper Tjäder
Photo Christian Pondella
You wait decades for a Pondella WTF?!, then two come along at once.
Or it certainly feels that way, with another of the California-based photographer’s Mammoth shots having appeared earlier this winter here at Fall Line.
But this was simply too much fun, and too perfect, for the piste issue not to include. Because, well, how often do you see a skier boosting a chairlift as magnificently as this? I certainly can’t remember a time in my 15 winters editing the section.
Then there’s the Red Bull backstory, with this a still from their attempt to create… The Best Party Lap Ever!
If that sounds worryingly like an awful Ministry Of Sound compilation , fear not, and watch the three-minute clip. Helmed by Legs Of Steel supremo (and long-time Fall Line friend) Paddy Graham, it’s rather good and, at the time of writing, was racing towards a million views in its first week on YouTube:
As to the talent, it’s a refreshingly motley mix of old and new, so you get veteran freeriders like Arianna Tricomi and Logan Pehota, together with current FWT champ Max Chabloz.
“That was the most surprising thing,” says made-in-Sheffield skier Paddy when we catch up via Instagram.
“It wasn’t the amazing park, amazing camera work from Alex Meliss (doing follow-cams on snow and drone shots), tricks or choreography… It was the fact that Red Bull had gotten 90% of their snow team together in one place for a whole week of skiing!”
As to the roll-call for the 72-hour shoot (part of a seven-day performance camp), think Max Moffat, Nico Porteous, Hunter Henderson, Mac Forehand, Walker Woodring, Birk Irving, Nico Vuignier and Kirsty Muir, plus the aforementioned big mountain royalty. And we mustn’t forget Mr ‘I’m just popping out to do the world’s longest railslide’ Jesper Tjäder, as the Swedish X-Games winner and Olympic medalist is the frequent flyer in our picture here.
In terms of where and when, Mammoth Mountain in May is the answer, with this particular gob-stopper shot under (or should that be over?) Chair 20, as the likes of Henderson, Tjäder and Meliss whistle through (check the video!), left to right.
“It was not a bad one to organise,” says snapper Christian, “as the idea to jump the chair was the athletes’, and the Mammoth crew built aproper take-off and landing”.
As to the mechanics of the image, think a fairly wide-open aperture atf 5.0, coupled with fast shutter speed to freeze the action at 1/2500 of a second.
“I had another camera on remote so I could cover two angles,” says Mr Pondella, before confirming he chose to pre-focus on a certain spot, then fire off a sequence.
“There were a lot of pre-runs and calculations before it was hit,” he confirms of the 20m or so gap, “with speed the biggest issue”.
As to the risk of getting things wrong and hitting the pylon, cable or Yan-built chair, he was less worried, admitting he would have been ‘shocked’ if anything like that had happened.
“If you shoot this sort of thing enough, you get a bit numb to it,” he says. “Crazy for a normal skier, but just another day in Red Bull land.”
And the precise moment he knew he had a banger?
“It was just one of those situations where anyone with a camera was going to get something cool,” he says.
“It’s a pretty unique experience to have someone flying over you on a chairlift.”