Swift. Silent. Deep. If you’ve skied Jackson in the past two decades, chances are you’ve heard these words. They’re the mantra of the Jackson Hole Air Force, a group of counterculture powder skiers formed in the early 1980s who helped foster Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s revolutionary open-boundary policy in 1999 by relentlessly poaching out-of-bounds terrain. In Swift. Silent. Deep., a new documentary on the group coming out this fall, filmmaker Jon Klaczkiewicz pairs archival footage with interviews of the JHAF’s founding fathers. They tell how Benny Wilson, Howard Henderson, and a slew of other young ski bums met while working at Teton Video; how JHAFers like Doug Coombs and Jon Hunt dominated early freeskiing competitions; and how the Air Force purposefully annoyed ski patrol, police, and anyone else who didn’t agree with its ski-hard, party-hard ways. “We were just a rat pack of ski bums,” says Jon Hunt’s brother Rick, 46, an early member. “Most of us still are.”
So the Air Force members are the hard-drinking clown princes of Jackson, right? Not exactly. Two winters ago, a skier accused Jason Tattersall—a JHAF member since 1989—of pushing him off the 45-minute boot-pack up Teton Pass’s Mount Glory as Tattersall tried to pass him. Tattersall denies it, but the local controversy led him and Rick Hunt to punch in a secondary boot-pack. At the bottom, Tattersall posted a sign calling the new route the Express Lane, telling skiers to yield to traffic coming up from behind, and that dogs weren’t welcome. “I caught a lot of heat for it,” says Tattersall, who laps the bowl up to six times in a day. “But if I hike the pass in 29 minutes and others take an hour, I shouldn’t have to tell 18 people to move.” Some skiers took offense at the skull-and-crossbones JHAF sticker on the sign, accusing the current JHAF of being elitist, corer-than-thou jerks. “When I heard that, I put more stickers up in the trees, just to piss people off,” Tattersall says. “That’s what the Air Force is about.” And so is the movie.
The DVD is available now. Purchase it here.