Charles Beckinsale is one of the most recognised names in Australian snowboarding. If he's not getting magazine cover shots or sledding in Whistler's vast backcountry, you'll find him building world-class terrain parks at Perisher and Whistler Blackcomb. We recently caught up with him for a quick chat about the season ahead.
You featured in our "When in Whistler" series again this past season (episode two featuring Charles is above). What's it been like filming with Olliepop Films? Are you moving back to Whistler?
I work well with Jeremy from Olliepop Films. He knows how I like to work and we make it work. “When in Whistler” is a fun edit to film for. There is no pressure, it's all about fun. I do plan on being back in Whistler once the Aussie season is over. I'm looking forward to another season sledding and riding as much as I can. I really want to focus on getting more backcountry filming done. I’ve been riding heaps of backcountry the last few years but not filming too much. I need to pull my finger out.
Charles Beckinsale, Backside 180, Whistler Backcountry. Photo: Ryan Anderson
What's the vibe been like in Jindabyne and Perisher during the recent storms?
There was a little bit of desperation in the air before the storm. Now it's just a lot of anticipation and excitement. It’s amazing how a bit of snow can change everyone's attitude.
You made the move to Perisher last season. What was it about the Perisher situation that appealed to you in the first place?
Perisher’s hunger to be the best and their willingness to put all resources into making sure we have a great product. The terrain on Front Valley is the closest terrain to perfect for building a park, and the snowmaking infrastructure Perisher has is next-level. Last year was one of the worst seasons on record and we were still able to build a solid advanced park.
Perisher's Front Valley, 2013 Season. Photo: Charles Beckinsale
How much work is involved in getting the mountain and park ready with all the new snow?
The mountain team have been working ridiculously hard to get terrain open. They are running 24/7 to get the mountain rideable. Lots of pushing snow and building t-bar tracks. My team has been busy in the workshop producing rails and boxes. In a storm cycle like this, everything get buried so it's about keeping features above snow. Once the storm drops everything it's got, we will start pushing hard to get the three park areas up and running at capacity. It is going to be a big week!
What we can expect to see happening in the parks over the next week?
Day by day we will be adding features. The Columbia Park at Piper is built with eight jumps and a bunch of boxes and rails for those just starting out. Leichhardt Park will be built by mid-week with a bunch of intermediate features, and the PlayStation Park on Front Valley will be built up to cater to intermediate and advanced riders. A whole bunch of new PlayStation rails will make their debut and the Skullcandy tube will be back. Basically the two parks we have up already will need a full rebuild with all the new snow we have had in the last week. They are completely buried which is an exciting thing.
Are there any new features you're excited about this season?
The waterfall rail is probably my favourite new feature which has been added to our rail fleet. We also have a few nice street rails being built as I type. I'm pretty excited about the bottom jump on Front Valley. It's always a fun one to build. Actually, I’m really looking forward to getting the full jump line up on Front Valley. It’s such a fun lap, but all up there are 10 new features on the way, between all levels so everyone has something to be excited about.
What's the overall vision and for the parks this season?
The overall vision is to provide something for everyone. Piper will be stacked with a bunch of really fun small jumps and jib features. Leichhardt will be a creative intermediate park with a host of new jib features. Front Valley is the one everyone is aiming to be able to ride. It will feature a line of intermediate boxes and rails for anyone who’s not quite ready for the advanced line, but still wants to enjoy the super quick lap on the V8. We are expecting a flood of the biggest names in skiing and snowboarding to be back training for slopestyle again this season, so it should be good viewing while you're riding the V8 as well.
Tell us about the park crew.
We have a full returning team. The night ops will be headed up by park builders, Doug Graham who has been behind the cat at Perisher Parks for years and works with me in Whistler, as well Brandon Dodds, who hails from Squaw Valley and has 15 or so years experience in cats and building parks. They are also backed up by Nick who brings a bit of creativity from Bear Mountain, and Sean Cragnolini a long-time park crew member at Perisher turned cat operator. It is a huge team effort and they all bring invaluable skills with them. We also have a really experienced park crew, with a bunch of diverse skills and who are all solid riders. They make sure everything is riding well. We have a mix of riders on the crew: some jocks that love jumping and some die-hard jibbers, so we can cater to every taste on the team. Karl Fuller is our lead hand on the day crew and our guy in the workshop welding up the jib features, and Jeremy Carpenter is our brains behind the perfectly shaped half pipe. Between all of us we hope to find a happy medium for all styles of skiing and snowboarding.
It seems like you have an equal passion for riding and building. Is that the case? How do you split your time during the season?
That’s the case for sure. In Australia I find it pretty hard to create a balance and it's more about park building, but I still make time to ride on my day off. In Canada I can balance the two more effectively, albeit on little sleep. I work nights there so I have my days free to snowboard and I usually manage to ride every day, so that's where I find I progress more as my work schedule is more laid back. There are still so many big tricks I want to learn. As long as I stay healthy and strong, and I can build the setups I want to do them on, I'll give them a crack.
We recently watched a video of you attempting double corks in Whistler Blackcomb's parks (below). You almost had it. Is this the season it happens? Any other riding goals?
I've landed a few in the backcountry. I really want to get them on a park jump so it's something I can do more regularly, instead of just in the backcountry during the North American winter. I only tried a handful that day on Blackcomb. I feel confident with them now so I'd definately like to think I'll be doing them on the bottom jump at Perisher this season when it gets up to full size. Thats my main riding goal and I would like to brush up on my jibbing again, now that we have a bunch of new rails on the way.
It must be quite a buzz building jumps for the best riders in the world. What's your vision when you're building jumps for them?
I pretty much build what I would want to ride. Knowing you're going to be hitting whatever it is you're building is huge motivation to make it perfect. It is defiantly a buzz seeing new tricks thrown on something you’ve built. I always talk with the guys I’m building for to get a feel for what they want. Communication with the riders is key to getting the vision right; if they are feeling comfortable on the feature—that's when your going to see progression.
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