The goal of a magic trick is simple and universal. It is to invoke a sense of wonder in the audience. This is most often achieved by employing effects, illusions or other methods not seen or understood by the observers. It is a performance, carefully choreographed to show enough, but not too much. We see snowboarding videos in the same light, knowing that each eight-second clip is backed up by considerable off-camera efforts to make it happen. The illusion of ease is ever present, as the trials and tribulations of hundreds of failed attempts are hidden on a hard drive. Where a magician might use a trap door, we shovel for three hours the night before. Where a magician might conceal a playing card, we hide a bungee. It's all part of the process. This film is our magic trick.

By JJ Westbury

Finn eyed up this roof Ollie pre-pandemic, so even when case numbers were going up in the city, he was ready to jump down this thing. It went smoothly, and we didn't think about it more until my angle was hijacked by press photographers and slapped on the front page of newspapers across the city. Little did we know, this place was maxing out capacity and flouting public health orders! Alberta Health Services ended up having to physically barricade the doors shut, but I think Finn had effectively shut it down a couple months prior. 
Finn Westbury, Roof Ollie, Calgary, AB • From the pages of the mag Issue 13.1 [o] JJ Westbury


Filming this past winter was a little bit different. The familiar motions of filming a video felt cumbersome under new and constantly evolving restrictions. Usually, the major limiting factor for filming is how much snow is on the ground. If conditions are bad, you go to where they are better. With international travel off the table and intermittent stay-at-home orders across the country, we were pushed away from this formula and decided to shift our scope inward to our home province of Alberta. 

If we were going to stay ten toes down on home soil for the winter, the crew had to consist of permanent Alberta residents. This meant that the focus of the video fell onto Gregor Zed and Finn Westbury, both sitting on sizable hit-lists of Calgary spots and a drive to check them off, while Matt Bryson and myself signed up for another winter of hitting the tiny red capture button. Additional action from OG SRD member Brett Mills, young gun Michael Modesti, and some good lads from the Upper Management squad kept things exciting. 

Finn Westbury, Boardslide, Calgary, AB [o] JJ Westbury

Although we have enjoyed the fruitful filming opportunities that our beloved Calgary has to offer for years now, we also know the erratic weather that can come through during the winter. Warm Chinook winds rolling off the Rocky Mountains into the Prairies can turn a winter wonderland into a melted-out mess in a matter of days, and the next cold snap might have you considering breaking out the ice skates to get to the grocery store. Without being able to travel when the snow got blown out, it felt like we might require not only an illusion, but actual magic to piece together a full clip. Thankfully, Mother Nature provided us with one of the best winters we can remember. A few big snowstorms and reasonable temperatures in between meant that snow stuck around for the long haul, and we were able to chip away at the spot-list without being overly consumed by concerns of frostbite. 

This rail, which we nicknamed "Megalodon," was the last spot that we filmed this winter. Long, wonky and kinky. This thing screams, “suffer session.” Tucked away on a north-facing hill, nearby snow banks protected by the shadows of a condo complex, it was one of the last feasible zones in the city by the time we got to it. It started out as a hail mary spot. Something to roll up to at 4 p.m. and jump on to see if it works. After a couple near-makes got it stuck in Gregor's head, we all became fixated on getting a good one. We would roll up, set up the cameras a whole city block away from where Gregor was strapping in, and wonder if today would be the day that he defeated the beast. The day it went down, Matty B rolled up as we were setting up, and having a good feeling about things, he ripped off to the liquor store to buy a bottle of champagne before getting his camera gear out. A couple hours later, Gregor came off the end perfectly, and we closed out the streets with some well-deserved bubbly.  
Gregor Zed, 50-50, Calgary, AB [o] JJ Westbury


It is crucial that we recognize, in the face of a virus that has ravaged communities and permanently changed the lives of millions of people worldwide, filming a snowboarding video is a position of the utmost privilege. Our privilege does not stop there either. Having an environment conducive to snowboarding in our backyard is a blessing that must be acknowledged. Spending the winter outside, riding our favourite toy with our friends, is something that we as snowboarders have practised long before the pandemic and predisposed us to experience moments of normalcy once the snow started flying. Although nuanced by COVID and its societal side-effects, the familiarity of snowboarding was comforting. This set the stage for the success of our trickery. Before we knew it, the city was dry and the lifts had stopped for another summer. After all, every show must come to an end.

Watch Magic Trick now

Back to blog