The island is the size of Switzerland with a human population of zero, just south of the North Pole. The weather is harsh and ground is frozen for much of the year, but the soil contains gypsum that's similar to Utah's hallowed mountain bike slopes. It's an arctic desert, and there are a lot of geological anomalies that make it oddly conducive to big mountain freeriding.
We've spent a decade looking for these spots on the equator, but didn't think about going north. Darren Berrecloth has always searched for these landscapes, and he looked north. After a scouting mission to Axel Heiberg Island, and realizing it was possible, we pushed to make it happen. Since there's only a short snow-free window up there we knew we'd have to wait a year.
For the team we wanted a mentorship element, and we wanted the next generation too. Darren picked Carson Storch and Cam Zink picked Tom van Steenbergen to round out the team of four athletes. This wasn't a film just
to progress the sport, but everyone had their own take on the terrain. Some massive moves went down, and scale of some of the lines dwarfs what has been ridden before.
We were up there for nearly a month, in a tent city ringed by an electric fence to keep the polar bears out. We packed in dehydrated food to keep things light as possible, and packed everything out—including our shit. I've never done a film that's in just one location. Telling a story that was so entrenched in a region was ambitious, especially trying to push the boundaries in a place that remote. We had a doctor with us, but everyone was keenly aware that the best case scenario for extraction was an 8-hour flight to the nearest hospital. And if weather rolled it, it could have been much longer.
Looking back, I learned so much from the experience. It's not just a freeride film. There's a glaciology angle, an ecological angle, and an arctic story. That communities have thrived in these harsh conditions is amazing. Some of the history is absolutely wild—arctic explorers ate each other up here. I think we all learned from the region, it had a huge impact on us. I'm from Canada, but I knew so little about the Canadian arctic—the Inuit, the Thule, the threats that area faces today. This isn't a "we've just scratched the surface" type of film; this opportunity was unique and we know we'll never be back. That's bittersweet, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity, and I hope people connect with the film in a way that shares what we experienced up there.