AS THE SUPERVISING PRODUCER and one of the Principle Cinematographers for Teton Gravity Research, Josh Nielsen (a native of Vancouver, WA) ushers nascent ski/snowboard films through development, filming, and post-production. When you work for a company that films outdoor action sports, “things get pretty wild—you have to follow the weather,” says Nielsen, who has filmed in just about any winter climate you can imagine, from Alaska to Japan.
Whether they’re checking weather reports and avalanche risk, coordinating “crazy heli-logisitics,” or racing the locals for first tracks at their home resort, Jackson Hole, these guys need gear that performs. “We’ve been filming for 13 years, so we’ve got it dialed in,” he says, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get intense.
For this year’s flick, Under the Influence, Nielsen’s main job in Alaska was the “Barbie” guy—the guy who gets dropped off on a mountaintop near the athletes to get the cross-angle shot. It’s called the “Barbie” because you sit around so long you could fire up a barbeque. Sometimes the Barbie is a gnarbie—a route you can’t ski down. When it’s not, Nielsen gets to break out the rest of his gear.
SKIS: “When you’re carrying your camera bag and gear, you really have to be on skis to get around,” he says. Nielsen uses the K2 Pontoons, a reverse camber ski developed by pros specifically for skiing in bottomless powder. “They’re super good for carrying around heavy weight because of their rocker tip—it’s easier to keep your weight balanced so you don’t fall over the handlebars.”
BINDINGS: Solomon STH16 binding. “I pretty much never want to lose a ski,” Nielsen says, so he uses this binding with a higher DIN setting than most: 16.
BOOTS: Dalbello Krypton PRO. “They’re a good boot for people with skinny ankles and skinny long feet—they give you a lot of lateral support.” Custom footbeds are a must, he says, and he keeps his feet warm with Therm-ic boot heaters.
POLES: By Scott: “For a park shoot or for banging around on the hill, I use a smaller basket, but you definitely want the wider baskets for deep powder days, so you can get traction on a long traverse.”
OUTERWEAR: “North Face, head to toe.” Nielsen wears their Monte Cargo pants, and switches between their puffy Verdi jacket for colder, harsher climates, and their Mammatus shell for warmer, wetter days.
“I usually throw a packable puffy (the North Face Thunder jacket) in my backpack in case I need an extra layer.”
GLOVES: “Usually I have two to three extra pairs of gloves in my backpack,” he says. “One of the trickiest things for us is that no matter what, we have to change film barehanded.” In addition to the pair he uses for skiing (regular leather work gloves subjected to a boot water-proofing treatment), he uses a pair of thin Dakine Storm gloves for filming, and North Face Mountain Guide mittens when it gets really cold.
HATS: By Dakine, he says, “and I always have a Balaclava.”
EYEWEAR: The Don sunglasses, by Smith, and their Phenom goggles. “You’ve got to carry two pairs of goggles no matter what—you’re going to fog up, you’re going to fall and get snow in them, or you’re going to go through serious weather changes.” Nielsen usually carries a pair of dark lenses for bright light and a pair for low light.
PACK: Dakine’s Guide pack, retrofitted with foam to hold his standard TGR 16mm camera. The film gear can get bulky, but “it’s all pretty portable—that’s kind of the most important thing for the kind of filming we do.”
SAFETY: Backcountry Access Digital Tracker avalanche transceiver. “I don’t go anywhere without it, even if the avalanche risk is low,” he says. He also carries a Black Diamond probe, a Dakine shovel, a modified Dakine MIA first aid kit, and either a Leatherman or a Dakine multi-tool, because “you never really know what’s going to go wrong out there.”
The camera crew often uses climbing gear—Nielsen uses a Black Diamond harness, daisy chain, and belay device. “We’re always climbing around on super sketchy stuff, especially with the ski BASE jumpers,” who had him dangling over cliffs to catch them in action.
SECRET WEAPON: His “ditty bag,” containing a handful of zip-ties, a space blanket, some rope, and assorted other things that might come in handy while you’re dangling out of helicopters, camera in hand.