WyPy captures Wyoming grit, honesty and simplicity with Close to Home.
The Latin prefix “en” means to be “in or within.” Hence “enliven” means to be “within the livening,” or to make alive in the present moment; and “enjoy”—to be within joy or to make joy alive in the present moment. For the WyPy crew, these words shape the tenets that guide their filmmaking.
With WyPy’s (Wyoming Pythons)/WRKSHRT’s first feature Close to Home, David Cleeland and Wade Dunstan created a film that serves as a call to arms for riders everywhere who have become disillusioned with the form-follows-function approach to heli-fueled snowboard productions. After all, our appreciation of epic, third party accomplishment can only go so far when the medium of expression is inaccessible to most viewers.
Bringing into focus some of the lesser-known mom and pop ski resorts in Wyoming, Close to Home displays the inextricable combination of crew and setting that ultimately defines a rider’s most memorable moments. Although it features skilled pro riders who happen to hail from Jackson Hole, we see how approachable these guys really are. They never miss an opportunity to share their sense of passion and adventure with folks they encounter during their travels through the Cowboy State. Created by and for Wyomingites, the film’s message transcends any perceived boundary or state line, and enters the realm of empirical truth. It is a truth realized through personal experience, facilitated by an inspired collective, and relatable to all who aspire to enjoy the moment.
“It’s blues music, it’s country, it’s punk rock,” noted Willie McMillon in the film. “Anybody can pick up a guitar and go do it. Anybody can hit up their friends and be like, ‘Let’s go just a couple hundred miles away.’ We don’t have to go overseas or anything, but let’s just use our snowboards as an excuse to go see some shit and to go have an experience, and keep it simple. And that’s kinda like what this whole trip was about for me.”
Close to Home’s mission was to explore Wyoming—what’s local. What the crew eventually found on their journey, however, was infinitely more than just new terrain to ride. Although Cleeland and Dunstan didn’t set out with a clear plan to capture the people of Wyoming, it happened organically. The folks in the film depict a homegrown story about living, loving and carving out a life unique to an internal compass. After meeting some locals at White Pine, the crew encounters Brendan, who talks to the guys about shredding at larger resorts, like Loveland, Colorado, and not enjoying them as much as his home mountain in Wyoming. And just like that, without even trying, the crew uncovered the film’s ethos through Brendan’s eyes.
The King & The Impending Journey
While filming, the WyPy crew hardly missed an opportunity to engage the community and shred with locals. One of the more endearing scenes happens at Snow King when the gang shares a moment with a few young riders who also learned to shred at the Town Hill. Further up the mountain “Shane the tour guide” Rothman leads the group to a forest playground that compels Cleeland to exclaim: “It looks like Narnia!”
Indeed, many of these guys who grew up in and around Jackson Hole are still discovering different ways to ride the King. In this spirit, they set the tone for the trip, experiencing a familiar setting in a novel way before setting out in search of “true grit” Wyoming.
The journey to discovering true grit included skating on a playground of half-pipes along the road at the iconic Devil’s Tower and in front of impromptu crowds at gas stations.
“Driving around Wyoming is pretty damn boring,” said rider Mikey Marohn in the film. “But it’s pretty damn beautiful at the same time. There’s nothing around … to me, that’s a good thing.”
After a healthy back flip throw down at Meadowlark, the crew encountered local motel owner Charles, who took them down a challenging slot canyon route. After informing them that he had to wait tables at his partner’s restaurant later that day, he shouted, “This is Meadowlark man! Wahoo!” with the sort of genuine exuberance you would hardly expect from a man with an impending table-waiting gig.
Casper native/snowboard luminary, Mikey Marohn grew up riding Hogadon. Whether through his smooth, expressive riding or passionate exchanges at the bottom of the hill, Marohn motivates his contemporaries and inspires burgeoning riders with an unassuming yet supremely fluid style. Marohn recounted a time when a cop stopped him and a few buddies after riding down a closed road during a powder day at Hogadon. About the time the officer asked to confiscate their extra boards, Marohn’s mom showed up with a few strong words of her own. When asked if “Mamma Marohn laid down the law on the five-o,” he replied simply, “Dude, she whooped his ass.”
A celebratory snowblock sesh and cliff drop at Hogadon gave way to a character rich segment at Snowy Range. Local rider, Davy “Sweet Tart” Wiltse had an impressive park run before he unwittingly summed up Close to Home’s mission statement when he concluded that, despite the misgivings of outside influence “You gotta love what you have.”
At the bottom, Cleeland and Dunstan remembered seeing Murph “The Surf” riding sideways down the mountain on an improvised surf-board made from plywood, recycled ski buckles and a snowboard bottom.
Perhaps the most profound emotionality of the film stems from the “wholesome and real” vibe in the sequence at Targhee that moved from “heartstrings to sick segments,” according to Cleeland and Dunstan. The Alta, Wyoming, powder-house featured shred legend Bryan Iguchi’s son Mylo, who “killed it!” with stylish moves and “lay back hand-drags,” according to people’s champ, Marohn.
Back Home/Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
After a ceremonial and symbolic credit-roll that signifies the transition from “true grit to true gape” Wyoming, the film highlights the closing week at JHMR with beers a plenty and a smartly edited park sequence.
The unbridled joy that arises from profound appreciation begins in the present moment and manifests itself from the ground up. For the WyPy crew, the Wyoming ground on which they were raised seemed an obvious choice for their poignant production.
Trying to pull an experience out from the ether into the soul is a futile endeavor. Rather, the inspired journey originates within and manifests through individualized expression. To create, in the physical world, what was once represented in the soul is an act of re-creation, or recreation.
Be it the forests of Snow King, the snowblock sesh at Hogadon, the “Sweet Tart and the private park” segment from Snowy Range, Mylo Iguchi’s infectious love for the mountain or his dad’s immense pride, the people and places of Close to Home remind us that to recreate in this way is to pursue excellence throughout the entirety of the journey.
John Mikeska is a poet, writer, enthusiast and aspirant.