All images: Martin Clay
Conor Pelton has spent the better half of a decade traveling and competing on the Freeride World Tour. These days, the Michigan-born pro skier is traveling North America coaching the Telluride junior freeride program as well as putting down a few of his own backcountry lines in front of a camera. Most recently, Pelton sent it up to Sentry Lodge in Golden Alpine Holidays—a backcountry hut system in the Selkirk mountains of British Columbia—with a crew of friends last January. Eager to capture the bottomless powder and notorious Canadian pillows, Pelton and his friends took turns operating GoPros and drones to document the epic trip. What came to be is ‘Golden Days,’ a short film chock-full of hard-charging skiing. We caught up with Pelton to talk about the film, life as a new dad and what the pro skier has planned for the coming season. Keep reading for the full interview.
How are you? Have you been able to take advantage of the early season snow we’ve had?
I am doing great! I’m happy to be chatting with you. I was lucky enough to go down and chase the first storm Colorado got at Wolf Creek and had an epic day with a bunch of Telluride friends. I just got back on the slopes [in Telluride] for the first time on Sunday for a couple cruiser runs but otherwise that’s been about it. We got a good amount of snow in early November and then nothing. We did just get five inches last night and we’re supposed to get more snow this weekend, so we’re stoked, but the backcountry is completely screwed for the season, unfortunately, with that early season snowfall.
You’re a new dad, congratulations! What has it been like adding a little one to the mix?
It’s been crazy [laughs]. Awesome, crazy. Everyday is different. I feel very lucky and thankful for the family that I have. My wife, Elaina, is amazing and to now have little Gunnar a part of our life is a total blessing. But there’s no down time anymore and there’s no free time, you’re learning every minute as you go. It’s wild [laughs].
Have you taken him skiing yet?
I did! I took him skiing at Wolf Creek, he was almost four months old. I hiked up a little ways after the mountain was closed and skied down with him in my arms and then he liked it so we had to go up for one more lap. November 4 was his first day on snow. He liked it and nobody yelled at me for having a newborn on the mountain, so it was great [laughs].
You were able to make it up to Golden, British Columbia last year. How were the conditions?
I had a friend, Eliot Rosenburg, from Crested Butte invite me to join a Crested Butte crew up in Golden and I was lucky enough to have two buddies from Telluride come with me and share the ride. We kind of just jumped on the opportunity to have a spot at Sentry Lodge in Golden Alpine Holidays. It was the first week of January and it was insane. Mind-blowing conditions, fun crew, I couldn’t ask for a better trip.
And now you have a film about it, ‘Golden Days.’ What is your favorite part about the flick?
It’s super short, just under three minutes. I didn’t want to bore anyone with too much POV but my favorite part of the film is how my editor integrated the stoke that I was feeling after every run. That feeling you have when you’re skiing bottomless powder with your friends.
Any big challenges you had to overcome while making the film?
We went up there on a whim and there was two guys in our group who had drones, so we just did the filming on our own. We took it upon ourselves to put a GoPro on or get a drone in the air and got shots of each other and shared the load of carrying around the equipment everyday.
You’ve spent a lot of time on the Freeride World Tour, so what would you say is harder: competing or filming?
I would say competing. You’re definitely super bummed when you don’t stomp something and people have to wait around for you and then you get in your head while filming but competing was just a huge mental challenge. The nerves, the build-up to each event, trying to pick your line, conditions. When you’re filming, normally it’s pretty good conditions and you’re skiing something you want to ski. When you’re competing, you don’t ever know what the conditions are going to be and you may not want to ski the face but you gotta figure out a line down it.
What is one thing you always carry in your backcountry pack, aside from the essentials like a beacon [on your chest or in a pocket], shovel and probe?
Extra lenses because I tend to fall [laughs]. Water, for sure. It’s usually just an extra buff and extra lenses because once your buff is soaked, it makes your goggles fog and when you fall, your lenses are torched.
Any big plans for this season?
Biggest plan yet is to continue being a dad, focus on splitting my time to get out in the mountains without leaving anyone hanging at home. And then working with Dynastar on a film project that we’re doing as a team this year. I’m really excited about it and I think it’s overdue with the amazing crew that we have at Dynastar, from the team manager down to all the athletes. I’m excited to work together and put a film together this year.
What does the perfect ski day look like to you?
The perfect ski day to me is the right group of people feeding off of each other’s energy and it doesn’t even have to be the best snow. Just that shared excitement and every run the confidence is building and the stoke is building as the day goes on. Instead of getting tired you just feel more energized.