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Stories with Stone: A Day at Brighton with Brandon Davis and Gabe Ferguson

On the @girosnow Instagram account, we share a lot of gorgeous imagery of jaw-dropping mountains, perfectly styled tricks, and of course next season’s Giro helmet and goggle releases with fancy new technologies and colorways … But there’s so much more that goes into these shots that you would never know about with a milli-second view, quick double thumb tap, and a swipe. That’s why we teamed up with Ethan Stone Fortier (a.k.a E-Stone, a.k.a. Stone), to get a deeper sense of what actually happened at the time he captured his rich photos last season. And although it’s true that a picture can tell a thousand words, it’s also true that a thousand words can let your imagination take you to places you’ve never ridden, make you feel like you were right there making conversation with the pro athletes who are progressing the sport as we know it today, and give you a sense that the camera is right on you, too, waiting for you to drop in. So, drop in …

Words: Ethan Stone
Photos: Ethan Stone

I woke up early and saw Brighton’s Instagram feed claiming 10 inches of fresh on top of the previous night’s storm. The day’s forecast called for clouds and snow, not ideal for shooting jumps in the backcountry (flat light). But we still needed to get out there and try to make something happen.

I had the Snowboarder Mag movie crew crashing at my crib. They were working on a new movie called Beta, featuring snowboarding’s next generation of talent. It was up to me to find them a good jump for the day, so they could stack some much-needed powder kicker shots for their video parts. Today’s crew: Gabe Ferguson and Brandon Davis as well as filmers, Mia Lambson and Leland McNamara.

I needed an atmosphere that would shoot well in bad weather, which meant heading into the trees. I also needed somewhere where Gabe and Brandon could stomp some solid tricks.

We were really itching because the previous day at a different jump, there wasn’t much powder, a flat landing, and dust on crust conditions. The boys had a really hard time landing and came home with no shots. Just plenty of hot tops and bomb holes.

Luckily, it was a new day, at a new jump, with fresh pow.

The crew was a little out of their element because most of the jumps they had hit before were perfectly crafted by a snowcat, and they were still getting used to landing in pow on good sized jumps.

“One thing I did know was
both of these guys were put on
the Beta crew for a reason,
hand-picked by Pat Bridges of
Snowboarder Mag.”

I had shot with these two for years at events like The Launch and Super Park and had seen them both throw down insane moves on huge jumps with incredible style. I had never been out in the backcountry with them building jumps though, a whole different animal. One thing I did know was both of these guys were put on the Beta crew for a reason, hand-picked by Pat Bridges of Snowboarder Mag.

I wasn’t worried about them performing, I knew they ripped.

It was more about making sure they had a sick and safe day under my guidance. I was the one bringing them to the spot, so it was all on me, which comes with some added pressure. I was not going to let anyone get hurt on my watch, and I wanted to make sure we went home with photos and video clips in the bag as well as smiling faces.

The problem was, when I selected the spot, I was thinking more about the shot it would produce and the day’s conditions—not the set-up from the riders’ perspective—which can be a huge mistake.

The first day, we traveled to the Goodale jump, just out of bounds at Brighton Resort. The jump was named after a fallen soldier, Scotty Goodale, who is not with us anymore, but who pioneered Goodale and many other amazing jumps at Brighton in the early 2000’s. Like many of Goodale’s exploits, this jump had a full list of things you had to think about while building it, and even more important while hitting it.

For starters: speed. To get the right airtime, we had to build up a huge lip that when finished almost looked like a quarter pipe from the drop in. The natural dip in the hill before the jump blended up to our jump that sent you perfectly to a six-foot long and six-foot wide tranny that rode out onto a frozen lake below.

Too fast or too slow and you were landing flat. And if your spin was off, you were for sure going to hit a tree—while being boosted 20 feet plus, straight into the air.

“We even had a snowboard fan
pop out of the woods and grab a
shovel, offering to help…”

As we built the jump, the crew was way hyped. Good times listening to good music, thanks to Bluetooth-enabled portable speakers. We matched the trannies up and kept stacking on the lip until it looked ready to go. We even had a snowboard fan pop out of the woods and grab a shovel, offering to help just to watch all the action.

"Any miscalculation would
toss you into a tree or jam a knee
to your face."

I don't think it was until Gabe and Brandon got to the top that they realized how fast they’d needed to go to keep speed right off the lip to make it to the small tranny finder landing. Any miscalculation would toss you into a tree or jam a knee to your face. You had to be as precise as a surgeon to hit this jump perfectly.

If they were going to get some shots today, they needed to dig deep and get their speed dialed. It was a super poppy jump so landing gear had to be on point. Luckily it was all powder, and just as the session started we noticed some nice windows of sun opening up. This would make a huge difference for my photos.

Brandon went first. We all watched as he popped a sick mute straight air and perfectly caught the landing. It was on! The riders went to work tossing down a handful of tricks until they knew they had one or two solid keepers for their video parts and a hammer photo.

The windows of sun were far and few between, but on one particular go for Brandon, he got up to the top and was ready to drop just as the clouds opened up to the sun. Just for the photo, he tossed a classic method. A poppy jump like this with a method between the layers of trees and light is the perfect recipe for an A-grade photo.

"Jumps like this will just
toss you into the perfect rodeo if
you’re a rider like Gabe who knows
what he is doing."

It’s so rad when riders understand what a difference the trick and the lighting can make for a photo, and they know just what to toss at you when the opportunity presents itself. After Gabe got a couple tricks under his belt with Leland, doing these really cool follow cam shots, he decided to bust out the perfect trick for any poppy feature. Jumps like this will just toss you into the perfect rodeo if you’re a rider like Gabe who knows what he is doing. The jump was perfect, and he instantly started popping higher and higher, stomping the trick, and riding out to the lake through the narrow landing in the trees.

The crew was stoked. Everyone had shots in the bag, and the riders would be able to add one more shot to their video part shot list, getting them one trick closer to locking down a full part Beta.

It’s not easy for riders to put together a pro-level video part, and you have to take the good days with the bad, hoping at the end of the season you have at least 20-30 A-grade clips to put together a full part.
This was one of the good days, and it’s days like this that provide a positive mindset for the days to come. Days of no clips can have the exact opposite effect on a rider, but days like this are everything.