Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gravity Research?

A YouTube video of a guy skiing down a 300 foot long escalator got a lot of publicity back in late March. If you have not seen it, check it out:

Now, what does this have to do with Gravity Research?

Simple. Searching for the YouTube video of this bit of off-piste skiing (that I had seen on a TV news program) quickly led me to the useful fact that the skier involved had made some movies. Several of those were for a company known as Teton Gravity Research, located in Jackson Hole, WY (in the Grand Teton mountains). Given my skiing experience there (awesome) and the skiing I had seen there (insane), I checked out their site and asked for a particular video for my birthday.

Being sensible Norwegians, my parents watched the DVD before shipping it to me. Yeah, my dad said, they don't have any of that Warren Miller filler in the movie, all they do is keep checking if gravity is still working. This screen grab from a TGR trailer should give you an idea of what Dad meant.

That blob is a snowboarder (I think it is one of the women in the film) standing upright on the least steep part of a very steep pitch before heading down the next section. Yep, gravity is still working ... and that is some serious terrain.

You can see more at Peter Olenick's Teton Gravity Research profile, which includes this bit from an interview:

TGR Inteviewer: Whats the scariest thing that has happened to you while riding?
Answer: Well I almost died one time, over shooting a hundred foot table by 80 feet and getting knocked out for five minutes, but I don’t really remember it.

Once you realize that he is a freeskier and not a stuntman, and see where he skis for fun and money, the claim that his actions were "incredibly reckless" (London Underground spokesman, reported by The Register) have to be taken with a grain of salt. He was risking his own life (as he often does), but there was nothing particularly incredible about that run compared to others he has made. They might look reckless to a British bureaucrat, but the video itself shows it was carefully planned and executed by a guy who understands risk to remove any risk to others. You can see his partner protecting the bottom of the escalator.

It was also excellent publicity, since it brought those films to my attention!

Other links for information and videos include Broadband Sports and Team Obermeyer pages about Peter Olenick.

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