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Stories with Stone: Nils Mindnich – Valley of the Cornices

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

Every year for the past 20 years right around spring we make our way up the mellow hike across from Alta. This zone is called Valley of the Cornices due to the fact that from (almost) the top all the way to the bottom, there is a valley where amazing cornices build up without fail every season.

This has been going on since I was a young shredder looking to get photos of myself in the magazines all the way ‘til now, and I’m sure plenty of people have enjoyed the area dating as far back to when the resorts opened or when the canyon roads were made.

Depending on how the snow year was, the area would always blow indifferent. But no matter what happened, there was always cool stuff to do up there. From building Q.P.’s and hips to jumps off the cornices, all the way to riders jumping over the whole valley of the cornices and landing on the tops of the cornices and riding down the backside.

The Valley of the Cornices is a historic place for skiers and snowboarders, and I cannot even begin to count all the amazing days I have had up there over the years.

“This particular session
was going to be something special.”

Nils Mindnich and his brother Hans are about as close as brothers can be, but they are also about as different as brothers can be. Because they have such different personalities, they have a different idea of what their snowboarding paths should be.

This separation has them always working with different video crews, which in turn keeps them apart most of the season, and they don't have too many chances to shred together.

Both are amazing snowboarders, and when they do ride together at events, you can feel the vibe of them just feeding off of each other and progressing every second of the session. Nils and his brother are by far, in my opinion, some of the best up-and-coming pros out there. So we had to get them together.

Our plan was to have the two major video crews join forces and build a jump, so the two could snowboard together. This does not happen too often, as film crews like to keep what they hit a secret. But thanks to the brothers’ connection and both filmers being cool, it was going to happen.

“But thanks to the
brothers’ connection and
both filmers being cool, it
was going to happen.”

The full crew included Nils Mindnich and Sage Kotsenburg from the “Pepper” crew with their filmer Jon Stark; Bode Merrill came up to help build but did not hit it, so he could help film; we also had the Absinthe film crew with Nils’s brother Hans, Alex Rodway, and filmer Shane Charlebois.

We headed up to the classic Valley of the Cornices Quarter Pipe and got to work with plans of building it like a very poppy hip that we would cut into the cornice, so riders could ride out down the steep cornice landing. We had to cut in a major highway for the runway, and then use an actual giant chain to cut into the top of the vert cornice and cut off the top to make it less vert and more of a friendly landing.

The jump takes a lot of work, so it was good we had a lot of people on the scene. It took us a solid two and a half days of hardcore shoveling to get it done.

Our third day up, it was a perfect Utah spring day. Crazy blue skies, warmer temps, and a very excited crew of riders ready to get going. You can imagine how serious things are at these professional snowboarding shoots.
The riders quickly strapped in and started hitting the hip. Instantly they were boosting crazy high, and it was clear the session was on. It’s so fun to watch Nils and Hans shred together, and it was quickly looking like these two were going the largest of the crew, and therefore going to get the shots.

It’s funny, their riding styles further prove how different their personalities are. Hans was looking at this crazy large hip and thinking about how tech he could get, while Nils saw a perfect chance to crack off some of the largest methods ever and take a more classic approach.

“It’s funny, their riding
styles further prove how
different their
personalities are.”

Nils was doing perfect methods one after another, just getting higher and higher every time he hit it. Nils has mastered this trick and watching him do one is always the sickest. Such style and perfect a tweak. Once he hit his maximum height, he blasted a couple off, so we could get some different angles.

His brother of course picked a pretty wild trick, which was going to be a battle. I think we all came back the next day, so he could get it just the way he wanted. But Hans blew minds walking away with a double Michael Chuck about 20 feet off the lip.

“Hans blew minds
walking away with a double
Michael Chuck about
20 feet off the lip.”

Nils and Hans are some of my favorites to work with, I just wish I got more opportunities like this. Getting them to session together always makes for a sick time. Props to the Pepper Crew and The Absinthe crew for working together to make this session possible and in the process, help snowboarding progress.

Read more Stories with Stone:

A Day at Brighton with Brandon Davis and Gabe Ferguson

Boat Jib in Finland with Brandon Davis