BEST STORY EVER | THE LEGEND OF MATT BELZILE
Words by Jody Wachniak
It was February 17, 2021, we were going sledding in Callahan, a Whistler backcountry staple that holds a lot of snowboard history. The two biggest staple features the zone offers are Perfect Jump and Hollywood Cliffs. Perfect Jump is pretty self-explanatory. But you don’t wanna knuckle this jump, it’s probably about 80 to 100 feet depending on how the snow fills in—it’s fucking big and it’s perfect. The Hollywood Cliff is also perfect, it’s a step down so you’re barely moving when you go off and then you drop 30 or so feet into a long beautiful, perfectly sloped landing. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, it was a free-for-all riding these features as the sled trail at the time would drop you off right at the bottom. But, all good things come to an end and that trail was closed down right before the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, which meant these staple features would now be miles away from the closest sled trail and getting there for most is out of the question. It’s a goddamn mission—a full day. Don’t forget extra gas, your gear, a solid crew in case anything goes wrong because that happens. OK, let’s get back to the day at hand.
The crew was myself, Matt Belzile, Beau Bishop, Sean Miskiman, Aaron Leyland filming and Crispin Canon shooting photos—big crew, stacked, and people were hungry to get clips. It’s a tough pitch the night before when you’re texting with the group to say, “Let’s go to Hollywood Cliffs or Perfect Jump?” for a few reasons: A) If the snow isn’t good you’ve committed a full day travelling to the farthest place to potentially end up with nothing but a $100 gas bill. B) What are you going to possibly film on two of the most destroyed and notable backcountry features in all of snowboard history?
Well the pitch was made, I’m going to assume it was the legend himself Matt Belzile who has absolutely destroyed the Whistler backcountry for almost two decades. Now, why would someone like Matt want to go to these two jumps, being a vet and having hit both of these features having filmed NBD’s on both of them? (What tricks might you ask? Well, Matt did a Cab 900 and a Switch Stalefish on Hollywood back to back, both first try. As for Perfect Jump, Matt filmed one of, if not, the best Backside 1080s ever done.)
OK, back on track here, Jody. So, of course, I’m a little stumped as to why Matt would want to go back there. After talking to him, the guy wanted to film a Backside Rodeo 720 on Hollywood and a Backside 1260 on Perfect Jump. Well, shit! That’s a fucking plan. I’ll watch, and who knows maybe I’ll do a Front 360!
So, we are now in the parking lot, it snowed, a lot and everybody is super excited because we have this massive day planned and after two hours of holding onto our snow machines we arrived at Hollywood Cliffs.
It’s 8:37 a.m., and everyone goes full-clip attack mode. Within 30 minutes the boys are stacking, land, land, land—it’s Matt’s drop and I know he has the vision to try the Back Rodeo 7 but at this point after watching him hit it twice I just can’t see him trying that trick, boy was I wrong. Buddy laced it. The crowd goes bananas. Damn he’s good. Done. Off to Perfect Jump.
We get there and the veteran Matt scopes it all out to make sure Perfect Jump works, and as always it works. Hence the name. Sean has to go first. He follows Matt's directions perfectly and tees off one hell of a Frontside 360. I’m pretty sure he said something along the lines of, “I almost started crying on the drop in.” I don’t blame him, I’ve hit this jump before, been there, it’s a legit rush. Next up is Matt, and he goes Backside 5, oh and it’s looking good, what a psycho, Back 5?! Who does a Back 5 in the backcountry? Unfortunately, the guy comes up a board length short while still holding Indy and doesn’t realize that he is coming up short and smashes his arm into his board. Yikes. I asked Matt if he’s alright, but the session continued.
After the boys tee-off a couple more times, I asked Matt, “Your arm. Do you think it’s broken?” and he reluctantly said it might be fractured but he thinks he's fine. I immediately say we should call a heli and get him out of here, as it’s getting late in the day. But Matt convinces the crew to hit the jump a couple more times before we pack ‘er in. At this point, Matt is starting to panic a little bit, we start his sled and whelp he’s unable to grab on with the other hand. His left, so no break, meh fuck the breaks all you need is gas. He still refuses to call for help and begins the journey home with one arm. What people need to realize is when you’ve sledded out in powder for two hours, sledding back at the end of the day isn’t easy. You’re exhausted, and you still have to put so much energy into getting home. Up and down massive hills, through trees, creeks. Like when I’m snowmobiling, I tell myself that I’m in the Special Forces and that I need to do this in order to save mankind. Anyways, Matt makes the call to continue sliding out with one arm. About three hours later, Matt makes it back to the parking lot like a fucking gladiator.
He goes to the hospital for X-rays, and it’s broken, badly, broken in half. He may not have landed the Back 1260 on Perfect Jump but he did land a Back Rodeo 7 first try on Hollywood, and will forever be the legend who sledded home with a busted arm. This will be an old wise tale one day, but it happened, it was real, I was there, and the legend of Matt Belzile continues!