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Stories with Stone: Müller Rock with 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

One of my favorite areas in the past 20 plus years shredding in Utah, is Mary’s at Brighton Resort on a powder day. If you catch it just right, any Brighton local will tell you it’s one of the most fun, easy-to-get-to zones on the mountain.

It’s really no secret—you can see people ripping it all day from the chairlift. But keep in mind, you have to leave Brighton via a backcountry gate to access it!

It’s easy to let your guard down in areas like this. Technically it’s backcountry, but it’s so close to a ski run or road that it’s referred to as “side country”, and it’s not as deep as the backcountry.

To get there, you have to leave the resort boundary and go past a transceiver detector at the gate that beeps at you as it reads your signal, verifying you have the proper gear before you can exit. This equipment-check, and the sign letting you know the day’s avalanche conditions, are there for a reason.

“…be sure to shred with a
homie at all times…”

So, if you read this, and decide to go check out the zone, please have the right equipment and please know how to use it and be sure to shred with a homie at all times and pay close attention to the conditions.

Yes, it’s Brighton’s natural playground, chock-full of places to catch air—from cliffs and pillows to jump spots and insane trees. And it’s all a good five-minute hike from the lift, as long as you dig in properly on the traverse and don’t get bucked off the path at some point during the fast-paced, quick-turning path that takes you into the zone.

After making your way down the various cliff bands and trees, you can race to the bottom popping out right on a cat track leading back to the lift. You could session it all day and always find a new fresh line.

I will never forget when Absinthe Films released the movie “Pop” in 2004. There was a clip filmed by Shane Charlebois, a longtime friend of mine dating all the way back to my grade school days in Vermont, who is now one of the main filmers of Absinthe—which I’m guessing is the longest-running snowboard film company to exist!

Nicolas Müller was on their crew and had come to Brighton, Utah and left his mark at Mary’s. Halfway through his amazing video part is a clip of him handling a good-size double-rock drop and then riding directly into a sick pillow popper, throwing one of his signature methods, blasting huge off the pillow, somehow finding a tranny, and stomping it on what looked to be an insane day with at least three feet of fresh pow on top of what looks like even more pow.

“After this moment, that rock
where he popped the method
was called ‘Müller Rock’.”

After this moment, that rock where he popped the method was called “Müller Rock”. The wildest thing about the line, when you see it in person, is how crazy-close the pillow popper is to the landing of the second rock drop. You can see the clip here at 1:30.

The image of Nico popping that method had always stuck with me and made me want to someday go there with a rider and see what other options there were.

This past season while I was showing the Chillest Ferg, a.k.a. Gabe Ferguson, around Brighton he asked me if I knew of any good rocks that he could mess around and toss some handplant variations on. We had only gotten about ten inches of fresh snow, so it was not quite enough to go nuts on, but perfect snow to do what he had in mind. Müller rock came instantly to mind. I know it had almost a vertical take-off and would make a perfect handplant.

Riding Mary’s and Brighton, in general, is like riding a bike to me. The second I drop in with a spot in mind, even if I have not been there in years, I can zigzag through the trees and navigate the cliff bands and end up right at the spot.

“My mind shuts off and I just
follow my body to the spot.”

It’s like muscle memory. My mind shuts off and I just follow my body to the spot. Over 20 years at a resort will do that to you, I guess.
As we pulled up to the spot, Gabe was amazed at the line Nico had taken many years ago—from dropping the cliffs above and then handling the vertical take-off of the pillow rock. We were looking at a huge difference in snow base and depth, so maybe with another eight feet of the white stuff, anything would be possible.

In my head, adding all that snow would only make it a tighter distance to launch off the rock from the cliffs. But I guess that’s why Nico is who he is, and why the rock is now named after him.

Gabe was hyped on the feature, and given the low-tide snow levels, the rock was larger than ever and looking perfect for his trick selection. It was the ideal set up, not really needing any work at all. I think the hardest part was just finding the perfect spot to land among all the snow-covered boulders in the landing. It was a tranny-finder for sure. But Gabe is really good about adapting to any riding situation, and he dialed in the speed and the landing quickly. It was not long until he was tossing down different plant variations on the rock, having an awesome time hitting the tight tranny in the landing and then popping off more pillows into the tight forest below. We had a blast, and it was sick to see a fresh mind come to the same spot with very different conditions almost 15 years later than Nico with his own flavor.

“There is no wrong or
right way to do it…”

That’s what makes snowboarding one of the best sports in the world. There is no wrong or right way to do it, as long as you are having fun.

After the session, we packed up and headed to another classic feature that Brandon Davis had all cued up for us, the Brighton Dam. It was built and ready to go. But that will have to wait for the next installment of #storieswithstone.

Read more Stories with Stone:

A Day at Brighton with Brandon Davis and Gabe Ferguson

Boat Jib in Finland with Brandon Davis

Nils Mindnich – Valley of the Cornices

Gabe and Brandon Hit Up Grizzly Gulch, Utah