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Big Big Big Cliff on SKis


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http://www.jacksonholenews.com/

Lots of talk follows big leap of faith

Witnesses, community debate the merits of skier’s record-breaking cliff jump.

By Michael Pearlman

It wasn’t until the final moments of skier Jamie Pierre’s four-second freefall from a cliff band more than 200 feet high that photographer Wade McKoy grew worried.

“When he hit there was this snap – this sharp, loud snap,” McKoy recalled. “When I heard that sound, I thought he was dead.”

But Pierre survived, despite landing headfirst and creating a crater six feet deep in the snow. As photographer Adam Clarke rushed over to begin digging out Pierre with his bare hands, the 32-year-old skier’s legs began moving. By the time McKoy reached Pierre’s bomb hole, the Salt Lake City skier’s face was uncovered and he was smiling. He had just realized a seven-year dream, launching a world-record 245 feet from a cliff on the back side of Grand Targhee Resort. Through either divine intervention or sheer luck, Pierre, 32, walked away with only a cut lip.

Since news of Pierre’s Jan. 25 huck broke over the weekend, community residents and skiers from around the country have been quick to weigh in on the merits, or lack thereof, of the feat. While some view the act as a calculated risk by an athlete who has successfully pulled off similar jumps, others have derided his huck as a callous and selfish act for a recently married man with a 2-month-old daughter. When Pierre told News&Guide co-editor Angus Thuermer that he chose to jump “so it would open up doors so I could witness my faith in Christianity,” some openly questioned whether Pierre’s faith was a reason for his decision or merely a way to justify a grandstanding act.

“Here’s somebody saying we had just witnessed his faith in Christianity, and I’m feeling like there’s days where you’re lucky and days where you aren’t,” said photographer Greg Epstein, who was shooting still photographs of Pierre’s history-making leap of faith for Teton Gravity Research.

Pierre has a reputation for skiing off enormous cliffs, most recently making headlines with a 185-foot leap in Engelberg, Switzerland, last year. But ever since Jackson skier Jason Tattersall showed him the dream cliff nearly seven years ago, he’d been waiting for conditions to be right for the jump. While in the area to film with Teton Gravity Research last week, Pierre probed the landing and determined conditions were right for the attempt.

“It’s a ski stunt – it was thought about because we’re skiers and we know how snow reacts and that it’s feasible,” Tattersall said. “Whether he did it right or not – he did it.”

McKoy said Pierre planned to grab his skis and hold that position for the first 80 to 100 feet before slowly rotating onto his back so that as much of his body as possible would make contact with the ground. Instead, Pierre over-rotated, making contact with the snow in a position McKoy referred to as “inverted lawn dart.”

“You think this guy is hanging it out there, but he’s a professional, he’s done these things before, and he has a plan. He was still 70 feet off the deck when the plan went wrong,” McKoy said. “As far as landing on his head – things don’t always go as planned. The fact that he landed on his head doesn’t negate the whole stunt.”

No points for style

Valley skier Rick Armstrong doesn’t see it the same way. A star of the big-air scene in the 1990s, Armstrong himself developed a reputation for launching huge jumps. As a friend of Pierre’s, Armstrong readily admits to being impressed with some of Pierre’s past ski stunts.

“To me, it’s an amazing human feat – something that’s unbelievable and somewhat mysterious in its nature,” Armstrong said. “From a skill point of view, I’m not athletically or stylistically impressed by the way it was executed. I’m glad he’s OK, and it’s a remarkable human feat, but stylistically I don’t give him many points. It goes from being a calculated, thought-out process to a stunt that could have gone really wrong. Personally, I’m much more impressed by people hitting an air and skiing out of the landing, regardless of the size.”

Epstein said that the night before Pierre’s jump, he was uneasy about the possibility that something could go wrong. He described the atmosphere among the photographers and cinematographers before the plunge as tense.

“I thought about it a lot the night before – do I really want to go and watch someone kill themselves?” Epstein said. “Before the jump, we were talking about whether we’re going to see something we didn’t want to see. You could definitely feel the heavy tension in the air.”

Though Pierre spent years working up to this leap, history shows that cliff jumping can be dangerous at a variety of heights. Lake Tahoe skier Paul Ruff, who once held the world record with a 110-foot jump, died on a 160-foot attempt in 1993. New Zealander Paul Ahern, who set the previous record with a 225-foot leap in Wanaka, New Zealand, suffered serious internal injuries on his 1995 jump.

“That’s what Jamie does, he’s a cliff jumper. That’s his specialty,” McKoy said. “It’s nothing that they don’t do making Hollywood movies in the city. If I thought I was going to take pictures of a guy killing himself, I wouldn’t have shown up.”

A December feature in Skiing magazine paints Pierre as an eccentric whose history of erratic behavior and nonconformity predates his 2004 baptism at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sandy, Utah. In the Skiing article, famed extreme skier Scott Schmidt offers this prescient quote about Pierre.

“He’s a test dummy,” Schmidt said. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff over the years, but he goes beyond that. You just can’t anticipate when the wind might grab your skis and flip you upside down. There’s no room for error.”

Author and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort guide Tom Turiano got a dose of Pierre’s irreverent attitude several years ago while guiding a client. The pair witnessed Pierre leap off a 100-foot cliff in Rock Springs Bowl.

“He saw us standing there, skied over and said, ‘Hi, Jamie Pierre. Powder magazine.’ Turiano recalled. “My client said, ‘That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen anyone ever do!’ Jamie said, ‘Thank you.’”

Many have criticized Pierre for executing the dangerous jump without considering his wife and baby daughter.

“I personally would never risk my family for something like that,” said Armstrong, who has a 3-year-old daughter. “In my life, there’s nothing more important than your family, your children and being there to support your children.

Last of his big hucks

Pierre told McKoy that the Targhee jump is his swan song, and he will no longer jump cliffs larger than 50 feet. “He told me, ‘I don’t care if someone breaks it tomorrow, I did it today,’” McKoy said.

While the debate about the style and value of Pierre’s massive huck will continue, Tattersall acknowledges that Pierre’s leap has raised the bar for the elite fraternity of skiers who launch off cliffs higher than 100 feet. Epstein says he knows several other skiers who are considering similar attempts.

“I think it’s an achievement – he did something no one’s ever done,” Tattersall said. “You don’t plan on dying, you plan on being OK. That’s not something where you’re coming out of your hole, but its still skiing no matter what anyone says. You can say he’s crazy and he’s a loon, but he’s still alive. His flight plan didn’t go exactly right, but he did push the sport and make other people look at it differently.”

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:lol: :lol: :lol:

Crazy Fcker. I saw that earlier this week. The Christian faith crap really bugged me. Whatever.

Very lucky he didn't die, considering he hit head first...or maybe that explains why he lived?

I've hiked the backside of Targhee and I've stared up at that band of cliffs...though I was only looking from a climbers POV i.e. going up (+2 pitches) and rappeling down...the only way I would jump off that cliff would be if I had a hanglider. That dude is just a Darwin award winer waiting to happen

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Would it count if he died? I'v got no problem with idiots hucking of huge ass cliffs, but comeon, dude didn;t even stick it! I'm no cliff hucker, but if I bust off a 300 footer and somehow live, why even count it if I don't ride out? We thought skidding was a problem, at least skidders are riding down the hill. Thats like buying a snowboard and calling yourself a rider. :smashfrea

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"While some view the act as a calculated risk by an athlete who has successfully pulled off similar jumps, others have derided his huck as a callous and selfish act for a recently married man with a 2-month-old daughter."

Another writer sayng: "It is against American standard model!".

I also feel it was irresponsible and low merit achievement, but that was his choice just like those who tried to go in Niagra Falls in a barrel.

However, I consider it rude to throw his family into mix by the writer. None of your business! Back off! Not everybody has to follow your standards. Democratic... huh?

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Maciek, to me the "American Standard Model" includes a mom and a dad for every kid. By my standards, and my model, that guy was wrong to do what he did when he has a wife and kid depending on him to come home.

Imagine being a kid growing up without her dad, knowing that dad didn't die defending the country, or in a car wreck, or of cancer, but because he jumped off a damn cliff to feed his ego. :angryfire

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Imagine being a kid growing up without her dad, knowing that dad didn't die defending the country, or in a car wreck, or of cancer, but because he jumped off a damn cliff to feed his ego. :angryfire

From the movie "Patton":

You don't win wars by dieing for your country. You win wars by letting the other dumb bastard die for his country.

Out of Steve's choices for dieing, I would prefer death by cliff jump. Unless the dieing for your country part involved a glorious battle and a posthumous Medal of Honor. Then I would prefer the glorious combat death :AR15firin

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Someone needs to explain the idea of "landing switch" to this guy one more time, more carefully than last time.

Posted on the TGR forum: if the cliff was 245 feet, and he landed in a six foot crater, does that mean his head did a 257 foot drop? (By my math it's 263 feet, though.)

See also: http://www.aftenposten.no/english/sports/article1000653.ece

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Posted on the TGR forum: if the cliff was 245 feet, and he landed in a six foot crater, does that mean his head did a 257 foot drop? (By my math it's 263 feet, though.)

See also: http://www.aftenposten.no/english/sports/article1000653.ece

I assume the guy is 6' tall. So his head starts 6' above the cliff. He lands upside down, so his head is 6' below the snow. It is 245' from the snow to the top of the cliff. 6 + 245 + 6 = 257.

Unless you assume the guy's feet is sticking up at the bottom of the crater, making his head 12' under the snow. Then that's 6 + 245 + 12 = 263.

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I would prefer death by cliff jump.

Me too! Or something equally as spectacular, like being shot out of a cannon or anything involving a big explosion. :biggthump But that goes back to what *I* want vs. what's best for my kids. Although it would be cool to say your dad was shot out of a cannon. :ices_ange

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I would prefer death by cliff jump.

Personally, I want to be shot to death by a jealous husband. At 95.

[rant]I think as a father you have a responsibility to your kids to minimise your risk. If you're the type of idiot who just can't live without big heaping doses of adrenaline, don't spawn, simple as that. It's just unfair to your kids. I feel the same way towards those smug twits who father children at 70, like it's some sort of gift to a kid to have a Dad that can barely pick them up and who dies before they're out of high school. When you have kids, it's all about the kids, not your own selfish ass.[/rant]

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[rant]I think as a father you have a responsibility to your kids to minimise your risk. If you're the type of idiot who just can't live without big heaping doses of adrenaline, don't spawn, simple as that. It's just unfair to your kids. I feel the same way towards those smug twits who father children at 70, like it's some sort of gift to a kid to have a Dad that can barely pick them up and who dies before they're out of high school. When you have kids, it's all about the kids, not your own selfish ass.[/rant]

So you can have kids who say "my dad was a sad man who did nothing in case it was dangerous, and died of a heart attack at 40 anyway"?

Sorry, but balls to that.

When I peg it, I'd like my kids to say "well, at least he didn't regret anything". Because that's how I'll feel about my parents when they go, and it's how I felt about my grandfather when he died. And my grandfather really was a mad bugger.

Simon

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There's a huge difference between "did nothing" and "hucked a 250 foot cliff". Everything in life has an element of risk - you have to balance that with being there for your kids. So, go alpine snowboarding - but wear a helmet, and ride with attention and care to your surroundings. Ski the backcountry - but with Pieps, shovels, probes, radios, in low avalanche risk conditions, and with either a ton of experience on your part or a good guide.

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by the way - what's the record on a board?

several years/surgeries ago I hit some 50-60 footers at donner pass - the biggest I'd seen at that point was a 75 footer that Farmer and Perata hit in the same area...has it gotten much bigger since then?

There is a serious lack of coverage of big jumps - both on skis and boards - It seems like the only time you hear about big cliffs is if there's a new record or if someone dies...

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There's a huge difference between "did nothing" and "hucked a 250 foot cliff". Everything in life has an element of risk - you have to balance that with being there for your kids.

Of course. But the difference is not anything discernible, and down to personal preferences. As far as I'm concerned, jumping off a 250 foot cliff is bloody stupid, but hey, if it's what he wants / needs to do, then fine. Remember, personal estimations of relative risk differ considerably : there are people who would suggest that screaming around a racetrack on a highly tuned 400cc motorcycle is stupidly dangerous, but who would themselves happily ride a bicycle to work through rush-hour traffic, or who smoke, or, or, or...

Advice to wear helmet, etc, is all well and good, but when it comes down to it, I'll make those decisions myself, and leave others to do likewise. As such, you're welcome to completely ignore this, but it was my opinion that you came across a little harsh and preachy in your condemnation of others based on their actions and presumed family circumstances. Just saying, is all.

After all, if someone said to you "that alpine snowboarding is extremely dangerous, you have no right to be doing it if you have kids" you'd probably not be chuffed, I expect.

Simon

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Well there's shades of grey in everything, but I think "too much risk" is like pornography - we might not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it. It's fine as an adult to say "well, at least he didn't regret anything" but that's no consolation to a child. Or maybe my view is somewhat affected by my wife, whose mother died when she was 8 - that loss still colours her world. I personally think it's worth a couple of regrets to make sure you see your kids through to adulthood.

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