At 21, photographer Brooks Curran and his posse of Green Mountain freeskiers are putting the ski world on notice.
There is a flash of powder, a huck off an ice fall, then they vanish. They move quietly through the forest, often at dawn when the snow is fresh and the light is good.
They are a band of freeskiers who have taken their park tricks, big airs and ability to snake through the tightest of trees into the East Coast’s gnarliest terrain.
This past December, they took off in a school bus they bought off Craigslist for $2,300. They painted it blue, named it “Notion,” and headed West in pursuit of powder.
University of Vermont Freeskiing Team members Brooks Curran, Tim McClellan and Dylan Dipentima and buddy Noah Ranallo cut their teeth at Mad River Glen chasing each other through the trees. Rounding out the crew are UVM student Marcus Wadlington, a backcountry guru from Smuggler’s Notch; Chris Stimpson, also a top-ranked freeskier from UVM; and Evan Booth, (bios below).
Curran, himself a top skier who spent some time at Burke Mountain Academy, couldn’t ask for a better set of action models.
At age 11, Curran began filming, “mainly videos of friends sledding on Mad River Rockets,” he says. His parents, Dennis and Ellen Curran are photographers who work out of the Mad River Valley. It was only two years ago, after his mother was hit by a car while running and injured, that Brooks, then 19, picked up a still camera and began helping out with the family business, shooting weddings.
“A lot of us have never really skied the West so this is a discovery trip for us,” says Curran. “We’re also making a web video out of it called ‘Notion.’”
The Notion crew are following in the footsteps of the Jones brothers, Todd and Steve, who grew up skiing Stowe, and then headed to Jackson Hole and started Teton Gravity Research films. They are also picking up where Ryan Hawks and brothers Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers left off: World Freeride Tour stars raised at Mad River Glen who went on to film and tour the West in a van they called “The General.”
Not long after that first trip in The General, Ryan Hawks, 25, back-flipped off a 50-foot cliff during a competition at Kirkwood. He landed on a hidden rock as his girlfriend, pro skier Angel Collinson, watched. He later died. As she accepted this year’s Powder Magazine award for Best Female Skier, Collinson dedicated her award to “our loved ones who are no longer here but have led by example.”
Set up in Hawks’ memory, the Flyin’ Ryan Foundation has provided scholarships to a number of the Notion crew and also helped fund the trip.
Unlike the skiers and filmmakers who went West before them, Curran and his friends planned to be back in Vermont by the end of January. And they were.
They had to be: they need to graduate.
The Boys (and Girl) on the Bus: A little more about who’s in the photos.
Brooks Curran, 21, Filmmaker, UVM student: At age 11, Curran began filming, “mainly videos of friends sledding on Mad River Rockets,” he says. His parents, Dennis and Ellen Curran are photographers who work out of the Mad River Valley. It was only two years ago, after his mother was hit by a car while running and injured, that Brooks, then 19, picked up a still camera and began helping out with the family business, shooting weddings. “A lot of us have never really skied the West so this is a discovery trip for us,” says Curran of the trip he and a group of friends made in January 2016 to ski and film in the West for a web video called ‘Notion.’ Curran, (photographed skiing Mad River Glen last year by his father, Dennis Curran) got the goods here in Vermont last winter filming “Winter Storm Marcus.” In it, he has epic footage of buddies Marcus Wadlington and Noah Ranallo skiing waist-deep powder in the backcountry near Stowe.
Noah Ranallo, 20. A big part of getting great images is having great skiers,” says Curran, and proof of it is the shot he took of Noah Ranallo, 20, shooting through rime-covered trees in November 2015 at Stowe. “We just set up a kicker on a groomed slope and Noah did his thing.” That ‘thing’ usually involves sending it. Ranallo, both a pilot and one of the other most-filmed freeskiers in the state, has no problem lifting off.
Dylan Dipentima, 21, UVM student: Lincoln’s Dylan Dipentima is just as comfortable airing it out on the trails at Sugarbush as he is launching waterfalls in the backcountry. Dipentima, also a member of the UVM Freeskiing Team, is currently ranked 35th on the World Freeride Tour. Along with Notion skier Noah Ranallo, Dipentima is probably one of the most photographed skiers on the East Coast with film credits in “Winter Storm Marcus,” the “Neo” series, and two of the latest in the Meathead Films series, “Spectral 6” and “Spectral 8.” If you want to see how to ski trees, watch Dipentima.
Marcus Wadlington, 20, UVM student/river guide: If you hike or ski Route 108 from Stowe to Smuggler’s Notch resort, look up into the cliffs. There, you might find Marcus Wadlington (opposite page and above) scouting new lines. Top: Wadlington has skied Smuggler’s Notch Resort since he was one and a half and few people know the backcountry there like he does. A former ski racer, he’s gravitated toward big mountain skiing in the winter and river guiding in the summer. One of the Notion crew, Wadlington is also a Flyin’ Ryan Foundation scholarship winner and competes on the UVM Freeskiing Team.
Tami Razinger, 22, Freeskiing coach. Tami can make skiing in Vermont (shown at top near Mt. Mansfield’s summit) look like it’s Alaska. Though she hadn’t been a part of the Notion’s traveling bus crew, the UVM grad and Smuggler’s Notch freeski coach flew out to meet the Notion gang in Jackson Hole. Razinger grew up ski racing in Stratton before falling in love with freeskiing. In 2014, she won the skiercross event at the Collegiate Nationals and won the Ski the East Freeride Tour, earning her a top 50 ranking in the World Freeride Tour.