A huck differs from any other form of gravity-defying travel. A flawless Hugo Harrison stomp in the middle of an Alaskan line or a Bobby Brown’ed switch double 1440 over a 120-foot table top are by no means hucks. A huck is more of an emotional relationship with gravity. Whether it’s a Seth Morrison hate huck that utilizes a hundred-foot backflip to tamper down some skin crawling inner demons, or a Julian Carr meditative method to zen out upside down off a two-hundred foot Wasatch wall, the huck is more a therapist couch in the air than a performance piece on snow. It is a middle finger to the law, a spiritual connection to the earth, wind and fire inside, a prayer to the gods all wrapped up in a few seconds of flight. A huck is huck for huck’s sake.
The first time I found that aerial therapist couch was off an iconic rock in Squaw Valley, CA called Adrenaline Rock. It was a 50-foot to dead flat testing piece for every hormonally charged teenager and wannabe pro skier. The icons of Squallywood hucking—Shane McConkey, the Gaffney brothers, John Tremann, Jeffrey Taggart Holmes, Jeff Engerbretson, Jeff McKittrick, all the Jeffs—had jumped it. They howled with laughter as they hot-tubbed into the landing and made it look like nothing could be more fun. Without their lead, the overhanging granite behemoth would’ve seemed impossible to me.
On that fateful day I chose to jump Adrenaline, 13-year-old me, made the most meticulous downslope side steps of my life to the edge. I peeked over the precipice. A rush of supercharged adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin hit me as I summoned the courage to push over and let gravity’s hold take charge. I don’t think the ceaseless clicking of the second hand on my watch actually slowed, but I swear if I checked the time during the plummet, I would’ve thought my watch had run out of batteries. A novella’s length dialogue with myself raced through my head. As my body tensed to prepare for landing, I threw my feet to the side and prepared for what every preternatural instinct told me: I was about to splat and die. Luckily the three feet of fresh powder rapidly slowed the descent. It still hurt; it felt like being in a fender bender, but it didn’t matter. Between the point where my back was telling my brain about the unnatural impact it just took, I began screaming with the kind of joy that would make a slightly overweight and unconfident teenage boy scream like a six-year old girl with a new pony.
It was then that I realized nothing mattered at that point in my life but figuring out a way to do that again—for the rest of my life. A path carved by the people that had all, at one point, hucked Adrenaline. A path that made Adrenaline Rock the guidance counselor I never knew I needed.
Sometimes, when getting back in touch with those teenage years, when ski heroes were everything, I open up a file buried deep within my computer titled, “Buddy’s Folder.” It’s a teenage boy’s poster-covered wall for the digital age. Inside, images of Bryce Phillips pointing to his lone track off a 90-foot cliff in Engelberg, Switzerland, is saved. A photo of Will Burks laying out a backflip over a 100-foot road gap with a casualness of a sipping a mimosa at Sunday morning brunch stands out. An old cover of Powder with Jeff Holden falling off a 150-foot cliff in Alaska harken back to an age when hucking was more important than a powder turn at Alta. What’s missing is the realization that none of what my “Buddies” were doing at the time was anything new. That moment occurred the first time Craig Beck’s 70s-era Daydreams played in my VHS deck and when I realized why the 160-foot buttress of rock on the Palisades is called Beck’s Rocks. Named not as a tribute to an icon of skiing, but because the crazy bastard on 210cm World Cup GS skis decided to jumped off it in the 70s.
The art of the huck isn’t some recent fad, even though anyone under 20 might think @SendItOfficial started the trend that causes Buffalo Bills fans to air into picnic tables and ill-prepared, bikini-clad sorority girls to try their hand at the bike ramp in the lake.
The history of skiing says Chinese hunters and Norwegian warriors first used skis for utilitarian purposes—hunting and rescuing kings. I like to imagine they too figured out a way to send a creek embankment or hop from the top of their thatched roof hut. In my opinion, the second step in skiing after the turn had to be the huck. For there is one thing my ski life has taught me: when you do something new, someone probably did it before you.
The accompanying gallery is a tribute to the second most important progression in skiing. These are the images that make you question the sanity of grown adults while also intriguing you enough to make the devil on your shoulder say, “You should try that.” The soul of skiing is found in the moments of blissful hang time, where your brain churns through thoughts faster than a super computer, where mind, body and space unite and when nothing matters, and everything makes sense. Or perhaps that’s reading into it a little bit much. Perhaps hucking is just damn good fun.
This article first appeared in The Ski Journal Issue 12.4.