For skier and snowboarder Sam Giffin, the mountain was everything. Making a name for himself as a ski film-maker, Sam and his friends spent all their time finding the next big slope to conquer. But one day, it literally all came tumbling down on Sam…
Have you always loved the mountains?
I have always loved the mountains but I’ve also always had a hesitation for mountain adventures. I am comfortable among them but the desire to seek more danger and exposure has never really been my cup of tea. It’s something I always did to keep up with my brothers, but not something I always loved. When we got good enough to be doing tricks and crazy runs in front of the camera is when it got serious though. I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t a good idea – people generally go bigger and harder in front of the camera, putting themselves in dangerous situations and losing judgment.
Can you talk us through the experience of being caught in the avalanche?
It was a calm, overcast day, with 20 inches of new snow. We were skiing The Elf Chutes in Mt. Baker – steep but regularly bombed by ski patrol so relatively safe compared to some other areas.
Dropping in, I was thinking about the camera – my brother Zack was filming me. Normally on this run I would have stopped in for a rest in the “safe zone” but I continued on for the camera. I entered the next slope with too much speed and put on the breaks. Then it hit me. Completely unexpectedly, I was swept off my feet by a wave of liquified snow. It took me head over heels down the mountainside and over a cliff edge. I was buried in what felt like an elephant of snow and I knew there was no way to get myself out.
Thankfully my board was sticking out of the snow a bit, so my friends were able to locate me. They got me out in about three minutes and I knew I was going to be okay. But it was not an experience I took lightly.
After the avalanche, you took a step back from skiing. Why did you make that decision?
Because I tore my ACL, I had to take a break from snowboarding. During this break, I had time to think about what had happened – and why. I thought about what I was willing to risk in the future. I didn’t want to buy into the lie that we were “inspiring” other people by filming ourselves do these crazy runs. We weren’t inspiring people. We were suggesting they did something that could potentially seriously injure – or even – kill them. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. I wanted out.
Can you tell us a bit more about Kodak Courage?
A production company approached me, wanting to create something about “the power of film”. I realised that my personal story was a great way to showcase this concept. I wanted the film to spark conversations – is it a good idea to put such value in capturing these extreme sports, when they are so dangerous? I think it’s done that well and I’m happy to have spoken on the issue. I hope the film encourages people just to think twice about what they’re doing – it could save their life.
To read more about Sam’s story, click here.