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Two kids from the Canadian Rockies come full circle in the Land of the Rising Sun hed and dek
Featuring - @Carter McMillan & @Adam McCraw | photos by @Reuben Krabbe
Adam McCraw was raised in the lowlands of Oshawa, Ontario , ski racing on the weekends and practising slopestyle mountain biking at Joyride 150 Indoor Bike Park after school. Despite the tall guy’s lengthy stature and long limbs, he learned to do a backflip on a bicycle before he did on a pair of skis. Little by little, he skipped out on ski racing to take his aerobatic inclinations into the terrain park. While he won ski races, he also mastered off-axis spins and double flips with the same exacting discipline his race coaches impressed upon him.
When he graduated from high school at 18, he gave up formal speed disciplines and moved to Lake Louise, Alberta. He had never even hit a cliff before. By the end of that season he came third in the Lake Louise Big Mountain Challenge and began setting his sights on the snowy kingdom of Interior B.C. Going on to bag wins and top results as he continued to compete, he migrated slowly to the backcountry and produced a rowdy video series called Stoke the Flame , in which he and friends—including his steadfast ski partner Carter McMillan—hammered complex pillow stacks between towering old-growth trees and massive rock formations. As his marquee move, McCraw, developed an aptitude for big drops into sniper pocket landings.
Eight thousand kilometres from where he started, in the forest of Japan’s Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort , McCraw puts this marquee move into practice for photographer Reuben Krabbe. “I’m going to backflip this,” he announces, perched on a flat outcropping of larch clung to a gnarled boulder with no lip whatsoever, and only a small sliver of a clearing to land in 10 metres below. Krabbe looks puzzled, “Did he just say he’s going to try a backflip?”
“I didn’t say try,” McCraw yells back. Krabbe shrugs and sets up anyway. A moment later, he lays out an aerials-quality, flawless invert, and touches back down with a profound thump, skiing into a hard stop a hundred metres farther down slope through the tight-laced foliage. McMillan is standing ready to clink poles, having confidently spotted the landing for his old friend.
“Jesus,” Krabbe says, “there was barely a landing there.”
“We’re from Lake Louise,” McCraw cackles back through a loud cowboy laugh, “Everything’s a landing!”
Flowing down the mountain from here, McCraw’s style is an expression of power without so much as a single flail in it. He uses it to trench through the temperate glades at top speed, braiding turns with McMillan as they blind each other with spray. Throughout you could swear the native sounds of Japan are those of delirious skiers hooting like owls. When they cycle back up for the next run, the Japanese liftie issues them delirious high fives, and McCraw flashes a Chicklet smile that fits perfectly into the area’s ambient joy.
“The biggest thing for me I’ve realized the last few seasons,” he says, “is to not take skiing seriously at all. If you do, it stops being fun. And then what’s the point?”
Despite McCraw’s unwavering dedication to childlike fun, he’s no stranger to hard work.
The son of a firefighter, in his early 20s he fought wildfires in the summers before attending fire school in Texas to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Soon after, he landed a gig as one of the city of Calgary’s youngest full-time firefighters . It’s an intense schedule, but one that also lets him take big chunks of time off. He spends his vacation hours in the winter working on photo and video projects that might land him somewhere new and exotic, like Hakuba. He says that for him, at this point, the creative part of skiing is what’s most gratifying. Ask those who know him, and it’s this sincerity that makes him stand apart. He really doesn’t need to be a professional skier, he does it because he genuinely loves it.
“Carter,” he yells, “a man-bear-pig!” Neither of them can pronounce the animal’s name.
“Oh, dude,” McMillan says, “It’s actually two!”
Shaking the snow from their heads, the beasts stare in unison at the two skiers, calmly emitting vaporous puffs of breath. Eventually they turn and continue forging their slow path forward in the hip-deep snow, nonplussed by the humans lounging like monkeys.
“See you later, buddies!” McCraw yells as the animals track back around the mountain, leading the way.