Line of the Year: The Crack – Q&A with Cody Townsend

The Crack


Scott Serfas. Red Bull Media House.

This summer a friend sent me the MSP Days of my Youth teaser with a ‘WTF!?’ attached to the email. When I clicked on the link, I found myself looking with astonishment at footage of pro skier Cody Townsend riding one of the heaviest lines I’ve ever ridden that we named The Crack. I was momentarily pissed.

Then I put my ego in check and remembered the simple amazement of getting the chance to ride that thing with Eric Jackson last season while we were filming for our new Red Bull Media House / Brain Farm project. I mean what is filming but trying to share a moment as best you can in two dimensions?

Cody Townsend is one of the most dedicated, talented skiers on the planet. Proof be shown in the the ‘Most insane ski line EVER’ clip of Cody that went ape-shit viral in the past few days after he won Powder Magazine’s ‘Line Of The Year’ award and ‘Best Male Performance.’

Last month Transworld Snowboarding printed a photo by Scott Serfas of me riding the same line Eric and I dubbed “The Crack”.

In the past few days I have been getting hit up from numerous media outlets and on social media in response to the image. So I decided to call up Cody and have a chat. After all, I am a fan. Here’s the real story. Enjoy.

TR: Congratulations on the ultimate line. Lots of stuff has come out this last week for you.

CT: Why, thank you.

TR: The ultimate line. It is a really fucking gnarly line.

CT: It is a gnarly line as you should know. Congratulations on, most likely, being the first person to ride it. I guess we’re still kinda trying to figure it out from guides, but I just heard from Clark Fyans that that’s the case. He’s spent a ton of time there and guaranteed that no one had ridden it before you did. So congrats on being the first person to get down that. You proved that it was a doable line.

TR: So, I think it’s interesting because people have been filming up in that area for 8-10 years. I can remember when Jeremy Jones went up there on a trip to the Tordrillos, it was the first time that I learned about that area. The fact is that there have been a ton of ski and snowboard crews up there in this zone. And then within just one season, in a matter of  a few weeks, we both rode this line.

CT: I think there is a reason for that. Low tide. This was the first season of my three up there where the snow was just heinous. There was no snow anywhere. Glaciers were just giant and open. We thought we were screwed. Just waiting around for snow and it wasn’t happening. So we had to turn our focus elsewhere. Big hucks were not what we were going to do.  So we had to start looking for couloirs and other lines. Low tide makes you look in different places. Maybe that influenced you guys too.

TR: That’s exactly what it was for us. That’s what steered us there. Almost all the lines were pretty much out. Craziest year I’ve ever seen as far as bizarre weather. Usually there is always, ‘give it a storm and it will heal’ but this season was an oddity in which that never happened.

CT: Yeah. We turned our attention to couloirs. That when I saw that thing. But it looked SO skinny. We waited some more, hoping for some snow, and it was in the back of my mind.

TR: Yeah, the back of the mind. I hear you. I did a trip out there two years ago. I remember seeing that wall. It’s such a geological oddity. There’s a big double-step chute to the left also. We looked down that double step a couple years ago. It was actually that line that was stuck in my head just as much as The Crack. 

CT: We called it the Vagina. More crude than you.

TR: I mean, its appropriately named. Basically we were just using a less gynecological proper term.

CT:  When I went on the news today, they asked me the name of it, since I hadn’t heard that, I said, “I can’t really say on TV.” So we left it at that.

TR:  The Crack – whenever we flew over it and looked down it, we had the same impression you did – I don’t know if its doable. It might not be doable.

CT: I remember when you and I met at the hotel around that time. We kinda high-fived before we went out. I was trying to get some snow beta. But we talked about straightlines. That zone has a lot of them. And I remember you sort of humbly said, now I realize very humbly, you said, “Yeah E-Jack did the coolest straightline ever.”

TR: It’s fucking couloir world out there. I’m not a geologist but I learned some stuff about that range. From Haines to Valdez are all huge shale mountains. Those in that zone, Denali and Tordrillos, are all huge granite with stark features. Very different from Haines and Valdez.

CT: Every time you get out there new people are like, “This is Jurassic park.” It’s like no other place on this planet. Ridiculous.

TR: Amen. Our lead up to it was the same deal. Flew over it checked it a few times. We went out and landed up top and dug a snow anchor and rapped down. The approach is intimidating. It’s totally blind. Then, to get down to the starting point, it’s all death exposure.

CT: [interrupts] I gotta ask you, did you cut out the cornice? Was there a cornice next to the rock? I think I saw someone on social media saying you spent hours prepping that entrance. When I went down there it looked like a natural gap in the rock. Did you actually have to cut that out when you went in?

TR: Yeah. [Hahaha]

CT: Oh wow.

TR: It was sweet because that little slot you dropped in – which was the same one that I dropped in – that looked like a connected cornice before. I didn’t want to sluff the line out. I sat there for hours and scooped to bring the snow uphill and was able to cut through the cornice without getting snow in the chute. I wanted it as soft as possible. We harvested it for a while and then came back the next day and shot it.

CT: Thanks for the work!

TR: Hey no worries! It’s always cool to see how everyone draws their own line down unique features. I guess that’s one of the amazing things being in the mountains and going and doing what we do. It’s about putting your own creative spin and deciphering how you want to get down. There are a hundred different ways.

CT: For sure – even in a couloir that you can barley turn in.

TR: That couloir basically told you how to ride it. For the most part I rode it very similar to you. But I got to tip my hat. At that critical decision point, where you’re going too fast to even speed check, its either full commitment or full stop… you sent it. Hats off for pointing it and blasting out of the chute. Even in the film you can’t tell how gnarly it is. Theres a 90-degree wall of rock at the bottom. You have to do a mandatory hard left turn.

CT: That’s what terrified me the most. That turn. You can’t tell from the bottom. I couldn’t tell how sharp of a turn it was. How narrow is that gap? And how fast am i going to be going…  I couldn’t tell how sharp of a turn it is from the heli at all. That’s what was in the back of my head. I just didn’t want to Wiley Coyote myself into that wall.

TR: Plus you knew that there was a funnel and you couldn’t tell how hard it was. There was variation in snow quality.

CT: Yeah. Halfway through the line the snow turned pretty shitty. It had a weird crust on it. I was a little nervous. I can’t wait to see your footage. I’m sure you slayed it.

TR: I had a great line. The freaking sluff ball, which I didn’t think was going to be going as fast it was, kissed my ass. At that point I opened it up again. But I pulled up and ended up turning out and let my sluff ball pass. I had the same decision to make you did: it was either point it now or not. I decided to pull up. It’s not a flat chute bottom. There’s a slant up to the left. And so I actually took the high line and did a few tight turns through that last section. I took it a little slower and came out to the left.

CT: I remember that first turn, it was essentially a drop-in. It was so steep. Zero to sixty mph in a heartbeat. When I made that first turn, to dump speed, I was amazed too. All of a sudden I saw sluff right there making that turn. I had this moment you get in those situations when it’s like someone else is talking to you. “Go or no?” And someone else is like “GO.”  I remember making one turn in front of my sluff and then at that point I was going so fast all I could do was hold it together.

TR: See my voice said, “No.” I decided to pull up and make a couple turns.

CT: It must have been terrifying stopping in that thing. The walls were so tight. It’s the coolest geological feature I’ve ever seen by far. And its so amazing that, you know, that I got to ride something you rode and I’m proud of you. You’ve been so respectful. You’re a true mountain man.

TR: Trying to lay claim to anything but your own actions out there – well that is what it is. Honestly, I found myself getting caught up when I first saw the MSP teaser. At first I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ Then you think it through a little more and it’s like, ‘Hold up.’ I was pumped to see you charge it. And I thought, ‘That’s legit. Okay. He road it faster than I did.’ 

CT: Well, thank you, man. I was talking to my wife and I was saying that I would feel bummed too if someone else rode it. But that’s what happens. You’ve had it and I’ve had it. I’ve had lots of first descents. And sometimes other people get the credit in movies or whatever. But you don’t need credit for it. Why do I need the glory for it? It was fun enough when I did it. Ironically, I had some interviews today and told them the night of doing it was the best, not the interviews or the attention, but sitting there at the lodge looking at this amazing blood moon and thinking of what just happened. The dream that just came true.

TR: On top of that you had to be thinking, our Alaska trip is saved.

CT: Yeah our trip was mostly bunk. I equated that to going on a surf trip going out for three weeks and catching zero waves and then all of a sudden there’s 100-footer that comes through… and you catch it. One wave. Cool. One wave… but it was the wave of my life. So I’m good.

TR: I gotta ask, did you guys know that we had already ridden it?

CT: I had suspicions. But that’s all I had. It all came from when we met and we were talking straight lines and you said to me that Ejack had done some gnarly line. When I spotted the line I was like, Holy shit that is insane. Is this the one that Ejack did? I couldn’t tell. I was suspicious. I couldn’t know for sure. Obviously we had different guides and all that. But no one really knew.

TR: Fair enough. It’s freaking massive out there. Where do we go from here? I think we both know there is ONE more to be done. But it might be 2020 material because it makes that one look friendly. I’ve looked at it… but it’s always, Yeah…no. 

CT: I don’t know if I have the gumption to do that one. Maybe it will go someday. Right now I’m just focused on having a good winter. I hope no one feels they have to top this line.

TR: I think you can attest that being able to make the right decisions is what has kept us both healthy through everything we’ve done. I was feeling like you were on your GoPro afterward screaming. So Stoked. So we went back up there, Ejack and I, and each rode it one more time.

CT: You did?

TR: Yeah. We rode it a lot different though. Not for film. We more just rode it to experience it. We didn’t even shoot the second one. I shot GoPro stuff. But just to be in there. Im sure you would have liked to do the same thing. That’s why we wanted to go up and do another run and check it out without filming. There are like five hanging chock stones. So it’s an arch technically.

CT: Yeah It was a full barrel. Longest barrel I’ve ever got. You know? It felt like that. It felt like if you were surfing jaws in the barrel. One way out. You’re getting out or you’re getting beat.

TR: Amen.

CT: Hopefully we can bury the shit talk. I’m like, Oh c’mon. No one is pissed. Whats going on? 

TR: People digging for drama. So let’s do it this way. No drama. Just respect.

CT: Best of luck Trav.

TR: Cheers.


Check out Cody’s Line of the Year from Days of My Youth: