Brand Story Sweet Protection

Based in Whistler, Jeremy Allen shoots photos and videos for some of the largest brands in the world. From the coldest mountains to the warmest climates, he excels in providing media that opens the eyes and mind to a different realm.

Brand Story Sweet Protection

Written by Reilly Doucet, Altitude Sports' writer.

The Snow Must Go On: Learning and Celebrating with Jackson Hole’s Freeride Scene and Sweet Protection

Youtube Video

Amid the dramatic Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains, south of Yellowstone National Park, lies Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Opened in the 1960s, the ski area boasts the longest continuous vertical rise in the United States: 4,139 feet from the valley floor to the top of Rendezvous Mountain.

What the ski resort is really known for is the astonishing Corbert’s Couloir - and more recently - the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition that takes place there in February. Since its beginnings in 2018, the event has become one of the most-hyped, most-watched freeride events. After witnessing it for ourselves, it was easy to understand why. 

We were welcomed in the town of Jackson by crisp, clear blue skies and Casey Garrity, Sweet Protection’s Marketing Manager for North America. He knew the town well, and showed us around the charming village spots, like the local cowboy bar. Then we got down to business. And by business, I mean talking about one very pressing matter: snow. In the last 30 days, it had only snowed 10 inches in Jackson - the lowest snowfall since 1992. The conditions were almost unprecedented, and the temperature hovered around 0 degrees, even though it was February.

So we went to see this snow for ourselves. We rode the tram up the mountain and met some impressive freeride athletes, but no one dared to drop into the Corbet’s Couloir yet. The view down into the gorge was scary, almost completely vertical, full of rocks, and more ice than snow. That kind of terrain demands utmost safety, so it’s fitting that Sweet Protection is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s official year-round Helmet and Eyewear Partner. 

Even the rest of the mountain was mainly for shredding experts: super steep, difficult terrain, with exclusively double or triple diamond runs. At the top, we met Atle Enberget, the founder of Sweet Protection, who was ready to hit the slopes on his board and ecstatic to meet those gathered for the competition. Interacting with skiers and snowboarders like Sweet Protection athletes Jake Hopfinger, Parkin Costain, Madison Rose Ostergren, and Juliette Willmann is super important to the brand, as athletes provide valuable product feedback that helps optimize future gear designs. 

There’s a lot of different technology that goes into one single helmet, which means Sweet Protection’s product offering includes some helmets that are more rigid or more elastic, depending on what part of the head is being protected. All of their helmets include impact shields, designed to provide unsurpassed performance for shock absorbance where the head needs it the most. No matter which helmet is your style, Sweet Protection wants it to give you the confidence to go further and faster - or to face Corbert's Couloir. 

Back in town, we met with Jess McMillan, an extremely accomplished skier, Head of Partnerships at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and one of the original organizers of the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition. It turned out that the conditions were so poor, this year’s edition had to be delayed. The competitors got together to discuss the game plan, all giving their personal opinions on which day would promise the slightest snowfall. Watching their collaboration unfold was uplifting.

“Competition” is a strong word to describe the Kings of Queens of Corbet’s. It could more accurately be described as a celebration of the ski and snowboard community. You could feel the contagious camaraderie between the athletes, some of whom had never dropped into the gorge before, all supporting and rooting for each other to land or stomp something mind-blowing. Tensions were high the morning of the event, but only because everyone was so intently looking out for each other.

The little snow that fell was hard-packed, and a strong, freezing wind weaved its way into the couloir, setting it up perfectly for the riders. This was not a place to skimp on safety, so most of the athletes were wearing back protectors in addition to their helmets, goggles with lenses adapted to the conditions, as well as apparel for staying warm and dry. We watched on, fascinated, as seasoned pros and local shredders launched themselves downwards, pulling off unbelievable tricks. 

Winning the contest depends on execution, style, and creativity, but the runs are actually judged by the athletes themselves. At the end of the contest day, all that counts is that everyone had a blast. The iconic natural features of Corbert’s Couloir combined with the remarkable skills of the athletes involved created a truly spectacular show - but one that could never be possible without the right protective gear. Hans Mindich was crowned King, Piper Kunst was crowned Queen, and we felt like a winner just to witness it all. 

Were those warm conditions were a fluke, or something the ski and snowboard community will have to face more often? We want to remain optimistic, but if our trip to Jackson Hole is any indication of winters to come, we're going to need gear that keeps us safe no matter the conditions, and to be surrounded by people who know the importance of carefully evaluating our environments. 

This trip taught us that it’s never too late to develop better habits, like finally starting to wear the right helmet. But for all of us, let's strive to develop better, greener habits in everything we do, that protect our winters and natural landscapes, so they can continue to be celebrated, like with the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event, for years and years to come.


Most impressive trick you witnessed?

Instead of tricks…we were actually more impressed by riders who explore difficult areas in the backcountry! 

Favourite run at Jackson Hole?
The whole mountain! Even despite poor weather, you could find a lot of sneaky runs and big wide areas. 

Most unexpected moment?
The snow conditions. It was not at all what we expected from a mountain known for its epic, snowy backcountry. 

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