Brandon Cocard Rides Three Amigos
The evoCollective’s, Brandon Cocard re-tells his experience riding Three Amigos, an iconic, wild & rowdy line in Haines, AK while filming with Absinthe for the 2016 film Afterforever.
Words and Photo by Brandon Cocard Haines is a sleepy little town located in the northern panhandle of Alaska. If it were located near an interstate, you wouldn’t even know it was there. You would be driving by, distracted by the towering mountains that rise strait up from the salty sea, and in the blink of an eye, Haines would be behind you. But there isn’t an interstate. In fact there isn’t even much of a highway. Just one winding, bumpy road that leads you out of town and up to the border of Canada with nothing in between. Well, almost nothing in between. 33 miles up that road there is a gas station. With helicopters parked behind it.
To the untrained eye, you would think that a gas station surrounded by helicopters is kind of odd… But hey, its Alaska, there is a lot of weird s*!% going on right? However, if you are somewhat involved in the very small world of snowboarding, you will start to recognize a few of the faces hanging out around there. You might say to yourself, “Hey is that Nicolas Muller juggling a soccer ball over there?” or “is that Kazu Kokubo stretching in the grass?” or “ Holy crap! Is that Gigi Ruff riding around in the bucket of that backhoe?” The answer is yes, yes, and yes, because this lonely gas station, exactly 33 miles from town, just so happens to be the base camp for some of the most legendary big mountain terrain on planet earth. Im talking about the steepest, the deepest, the biggest, the scariest, and all at the same time the most fun runs you will ever have the pleasure of turning (or not turning) down. Like the sign at the edge of town says, Welcome to Haines.
It’s 4:30am and I’m terrified. But I’m also mesmerized because I’m standing outside of our yurt watching the northern lights dance and shimmer above me. The sky was so cold and clear that morning, the perfect conditions for a great light show. The Aurora Borealis felt like Judge Reinhold’s “close talker” character from Seinfeld, just right up in my face. The heli pad was buzzing with excitement. There had been a solid week and a half of down days due to bad weather, and in the eyes of any avid skier or snowboarder, this day was a gift from the gods. Our crew was particularly excited on this day because not only were the conditions perfect, but our group had priority with the helicopter operation…meaning we were the first crew to leave in a helicopter…meaning we got the first choice of any zone we wanted to go to. For Justin Hoystnek and the Absinthe crew this choice was easy. We were set to fly to one of the biggest most photogenic spine lines in Haines. Three Amigos, named by Lucas Debari, Blair Habenicht, and David Carrier Porcheron, is the kind of face that would turn any three random thrill seekers into lifetime “amigos.” I had been staring at a picture of Three Amigos for 2 weeks strait and I thought I was ready for the moment the helicopter would set down on top of this peak and I would jump out, but the truth is nothing can prepare you for getting dropped off on top of a face like that. What I thought were shivers from the cold turned out to be plain old nervous shakes. I was literally shaking in my boots. The run down was over as fast as the ride up, and adrenaline was surging throughout my entire body. I was experiencing a high like nothing else. My hands were shaking, my legs were shaking, my eyes were bulging out of my head, and I had a smile from ear to ear. I couldn’t remember what exactly happened on my way down, but I knew it happened and I knew it was a personal achievement. There I was standing at the bottom of my line looking up at my tracks, and then it was time to watch my other two friends experience the rush that I just had. When they got down from their lines with smiles just as big as mine, high fives were exchanged, and that morning we became the three amigos.