Behind the Shot: Skier Carter McMillan Pulls Off a Perfect Backflip in Revelstoke, BC
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Adventure: What were you thinking at this moment?
Carter McMillan: At that particular moment I was focused on setting the rotation for my backflip correctly, while craning my neck to catch a quick glimpse of the landing coming up below me.
A: Tell us what we are seeing in this photo.
C.M.: In this shot I am launching a lofty backflip off a rime-covered cliff with “snow ghosts” in the foreground in an in-bounds area called upper South Bowl at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The unique and beautiful snow in the photo is due to the high humidity in the air mixed with sub-zero temperatures and high winds. The rime crystals stick to anything solid and can grow very large. It also can be seen on the high alpine trees in the area which eventually become so fully coated that the tree entirely loses its shape and is essentially buried, we call these “snow ghosts, and they can be seen in the foreground of the photo.
A. Did you have to hike up to this spot?
C.M.: On this day I was out ski-touring with some friends from Revelstoke in hopes of shooting some pictures with Ryan Creary. It was late morning and the sun had come out of some low valley haze to beautifully illuminate the terrain and create some very cool shadows. We took a 30-minute hike up from the highest South Bowl traverse to make sure we had a spot to ourselves. Upon inspection of the area Ryan suggested we take a look at this particular cliff, so I took a peek off the top, felt good about it and quickly built up a little jump for the take-off. I hiked up above the cliff and straight-aired it (no tricks, just a speed and landing test) the first time to judge the snow conditions. They felt good after my first hit, so I hiked back up again and went for the backflip! Everything went perfectly and I landed clean and skied away very stoked! It felt even better to hear that Ryan had nailed the shot as well.
A: What risks did you face?
C.M.: The risks for capturing a photo like this seem to be endless. The primary upfront dangers are things such as hitting hidden rocks on the take-off or landing areas; or miscalculating, under-rotating the flip and landing face or neck first into firm snow; or over-rotating and landing on your back or neck.
Then there are other secondary risks that always exist such such as avalanche danger, weather conditions, or even falling into hidden tree wells. We wear avalanche transceivers at all times when shooting, as well as having our backpacks on or near-by for quick access to shovels and probes, if need be.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Despite all the risks, nothing in the world can compare to the elation that comes from the mix of extreme joy, adrenaline and exhilaration you feel when you ski away from a trick like this. I chose a backflip on this particular cliff because it is a trick I am fairly comfortable doing off larger airs, such as this one. I prefer backflips because you can see the incoming landing almost the entire way through the trick, and they are relatively easy to adjust the rotation speed if you need to spin faster to get it around, or slow it down to not over-rotate. They also look great through the lens if you catch them from the right angles.
A: Why do you live in Revelstoke?
C.M.: Before I spent this winter in Revelstoke, I had spent the previous three seasons driving around the U.S. following the Freeskiing World Tour ski competitions around North America. I was born and raised in Calgary and grew up skiing out of Lake Louise, Alberta and Fernie, B.C. I chose to spend my season this year (and many more to come!) in Revelstoke for the unbelievable skiing that this little corner of the world has to offer. Revelstoke has a perfect combination of incrediblely deep snowfalls, endless and easily accessible backcountry terrain, and a dedicated group of riders and friends to shred with. I have skied all over North America and have never found better extreme skiing training grounds than we have here in Revy.