Having won over the nation with his performance at Sochi, Jamie Nicholls is now getting the full documentary treatment courtesy of Friday Media & Management. Forged In Steel (which originally premiered on Sky Sports) follows him on a tour from his second home in Austria to the familiar haunts of Scotland and Hemel Hempstead, as well as the Halifax dryslope where it all began. We talked to the people who were there to find out how our Jamie handled the spotlight…
Words and Austria photos by Thomas ’Beckna’ Eberharter, Mayrhofen legend
Having grown up in the Zillertal and shredded here since 1989, I can hardly believe how far Jamie got in snowboarding without having spent much time in the backcountry. By the end of March the forecast was looking good, so it was high time for him to leave the park and learn a few of the basics.
Even while setting up his splitboard I think Jamie came very close to being completely over it. It takes patience and time in order to figure out your individual stance – especially when you’re using the wrong screws and you have to start all over again just as you were finished... Then we got him some essential off-piste gear: beacon, probe and shovel. Jesus Christ, the guy doesn’t even own a shovel! Back in the day we had to build every feature ourselves by hand, and there was no such thing as the perfect park jump.
We took it easy on the first day as Jamie and the crew needed to get used to the gear. It had actually snowed about a foot, so we hiked out to a small saddle and then up a little higher to ride a north-facing couloir. The sun gets very strong in late March, and as we sat down on top to have a snack I was surprised to see what Jamie had brought in his backback – a pack of Haribo gummy bears and the tiniest bottle of water you can imagine, but the newest portable Bluetooth speakers by Dr. Dre! This might have been why Jamie felt very dehydrated the next morning. We hiked a ridge that I wanted to work around for the day, and got some decent shots in the can.
On the third day I led the crew on an hour’s hike into a zone with lots of natural features. Jamie was already very beat from the previous days, and a little migraine from the dehydration was coming along. After a struggle to get into the zone we finally made it, and were standing in front of various possibilities. However, we had to call it quits after only one hike up; Jamie was completely out of power, and I needed to get everybody off the hill safely.
All in all, it was a good time and I guess Jamie realised that filming in the backcountry is a lot harder than it looks. As we used to say back in the day: A shot or two a day keeps the real job away...
Words by Joe Rackley, park shaper
Jamie originally asked me if I could help him set up a rail shoot in London for the filming of this documentary, but I figured as he's now The Snow Centre’s resident pro we should try and utilise what we had there.
I had an idea for a top-to-bottom line that used the rails outside as well as the indoor snow. It would start at the top of the main slope, then go out of a fire exit and along a specially-constructed snow track to a massive up rail. The tranny landing would take him back inside the building via four more open doors, where he would be spat at the top of the nursery slope. This indoor section would incorporate a kicker and a down rail before the maze continued down another corridor at the bottom and back outside. Our performing chimp would finish by hitting the end of the super long rail down by the car park.
Jamie was being a pussy and was worried about carrying speed through the long corridor, so I made him test it. Even with no snow he was getting halfway along the rubber floor, so we figured it was going to work. The main worry was making sure we had everything set up in time for filming in the morning.
Jamie was larging it with claims of back rodeos to front boards going down. While we all know he's fully capable of this stuff, speed was always going to be an issue. The only person that could actually test it properly was Jamie, so the fact that he had swanned off to get his much-needed beauty sleep at the hotel meant that we would instead have to go on luck and judgment. Head filmer Rich Prendergast wanted to get started at sunrise, so I was relying on the shaping team to pull an all-nighter. The camera boys spent most of the early hours rigging up their cable cam to get the indoor shot, which was looking amazing.
As the sun rose after we'd spent all night grafting, Mr. Nicholls rocked up after his fancy hotel breakfast and started testing. He was getting a bit eggy as he couldn't quite get the speed to throw down some of the stuff he had planned, but we were all stoked with the way he was riding in general. He hiked from dawn to lunchtime to get the shots we needed, and my original vision of the run pretty much worked as I'd imagined. We had a unique opportunity to do something that had never been done before, and I think we smashed it. Jamie certainly did.
Boy Wonder definitely owes us all big time for pulling this together. I'll remind him of that next time he's standing on a podium, wasting champagne and wafting a giant cheque around…
Words by Aivars 'Zee' Zarins, photographer
After joining Jamie at the Hemel stop of his "Billy Big Bollocks" tour of the UK, I soon found myself in a van full of filmers driving up to the Halifax dryslope. Although I thought the weather was perfect, it turns out it’s much more enjoyable to ride plastic when it is wet, so we concentrated all our cosmic energy towards the sky in a hope that it would rain. Jamie had accidentally slept in, but the word had got out and there were some kids patiently waiting for him to arrive. Just as Mr. Sleepyhead finally turned up and begun to hand out autographs and take pictures with fans, the sky turned from blue to dark gray and it started to rain heavily. It was time for the shoot to begin.
Alongside his old coach, friend and snowboarding veteran Wayne Taylor, Jamie began to lap the kicker, and it was impressive to watch him slide over the magic carpet. Cold and soaking wet from shooting in the rain, we decided to take a break and have a cuppa in a cafeteria near the slope. Everyone we met seemed to have their own story about Jamie from when he was a little kid. Everybody was very kind, especially a local pub landlord who kept bringing us free food until we couldn't eat any more.
Having warmed up, we headed back outside to continue the shoot. The kicker in Halifax is not very big but Jamie was able to go huge, sending his backside 720s to the very bottom of the landing. I couldn’t help wondering how his tiny legs can take such punishment. We moved on to a rusty old rail, positioning it on the landing of the kicker to the right hand side where he could use a little bump about half a metre high to gap from. The setup seemed sketchy – it looked like he’d never get enough height to clear the gap from the bump to the rail, but Jamie was up for it. After nailing it first time, he had a suggestion: "The rail is way too close – we need to move it about four of five metres further down!" He was soon throwing some of the biggest gap to back and front boardslides to 270 out I have ever seen. After six hours we packed up and headed to Jamie’s mum and dad’s for cake and real Yorkshire tea. What a day – next stop Scotland.
Words by Andrew Duthie, Whitelines Deputy Ed
An Englishman, a Latvian and a Scotsman piled into a car and made a beeline for Aviemore to film the last stage of Jamie’s project. Zee had actually driven through the night from London – scooping up Prendy and myself on the way – but was excited about making his first visit to Scotland. Perhaps sensing this, the motherland laid on the full Highland experience, and by the time we reached Aviemore it was pissing it down.
The lifts had closed for the winter the day before, but in preparation for Jamie’s arrival the park crew had built a monster booter. Thanks to the overnight downpour it was now in a sorry, soggy state, but it wouldn’t take too long to get it back to full strength. All we needed was a break in the weather, which fortunately we got. With all hands on deck, including Cairngorm local Euan Baxter (the only one of us showing any real optimism) she was soon in good enough shape to be sessioned. There was just one question – where was ‘the talent’?
His ‘fashionably late’ entrance may have had the whiff of celeb about it, but to his credit J-Nix immediately grabbed a rake and got shaping. His arrival had coincided perfectly with the clearest spell of the day, as the mist cleared and Loch Morlich came into view. There was no time to lose.
A test hit called for a re-shape, but once the tweaks had been made it was go time. “Now we’re talking!" came the cry from Jamie after riding out, and Euan was on hand with the snowmobile to zip him back to the top. He proceeded to rinse the kicker Duracell Bunny-style all afternoon - breaking some new ground as he went, including the first cab 1080 and backside double cork 10 to be put down on this island. It had been hard work - for Zee especially, having been up for more than thirty hours straight - but by the time the increasing winds called time on the session, everyone was absolutely buzzing.