Oakley Prizm

 

Sage Kotsenburg

I picked up a disposable camera in Cooma on the way to Thredbo and had a good time taking semi-blind photos like this one of Dark Sage.

 

Seb Toots Sage Kotsenburg

The camera usually adds a few pounds. Sage and Seb.

words and photos: Mary Walsh

It was over 100 degrees when I boarded the plane in Salt Lake. North America was being plagued by a merciless heat wave; an overwhelming warmth hung thick in the air like a weather-born hangover. We were deep in the breezeless, restless dog days of summer—the moments sun worshippers live for. When I count down the minutes until autumn. When a trip to the Southern Hemisphere is exactly what is needed.

Rhythm Snowboards

The crew at Rhythm in Cooma.

I stepped off the plane at LAX on a Tuesday night in late July. Even amped-up AC inside the terminal wasn’t enough to provide a cool down. Luckily, I was setting course for a more temperate environment: Thredbo Resort in Australia where Oakley was celebrating winter in the form of Prizm Weekend, a massive event that promised early mornings on hill and late nights in the village. Heading to the gate for the fourteen-hour flight, I met up with Seb Toots—longtime Oakley rider—and Sage Kotsenburg—the newest addition to the team—as well as Sean Messing, Global Snow Marketing Manager. We were headed Down Under.

Thredbo Resort

Emu crossing just inside Kosciuszko National Parl.

The past few seasons, the Australian snowboard scene has been emerging into something of a renaissance. The South Pacific country has always had a presence in the culture of standing sideways, but neighboring New Zealand was often the destination for Northern Hemisphere-based riders when they wanted to take laps during the standard issue warmer months of their own locales. The last couple of years, though, Australian snowboarders have experienced an influx of foreign pros to their beloved resorts further bolstering a scene that has long been celebrated by locals. Crews like the park-savvy Odd Folks and video purveyors Boardworld, as well as international melting pot posses like Snackbreak have amplified Australia’s grip on the global snowboarding scene—which has been equally contributed to by style-steeped individuals Ryan Tiene, Scotty James, and Torah Bright, as well as Will Jackaways, Jye Kearney, Robbie Walker, Joss McAlpin, Jess Rich, Josh Vagne, and young Valentino Guseli, among others. Park builders like Perisher’s Charles Beckinsale and Thredbo’s Reuben Cameron are producing set ups that draw crowds and resonate through videos, photos, and Instagram. The result is that Aussie resorts, riders, and media are being mainlined into snowboarding’s general consciousness more and more with each passing season and it’s a well-deserved spotlight on a tightknit community.

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Ryan Tiene

Tiene came to the rain day prepared with a flash of Fireball.

Oakley Prizm

Oakley's epic Friday night diner with Sage and Seb with Shannon Hodges and Scott McIlvenie from Perisher.

Sage Kotsenburg and Seb Toots

North Americans Down Under.

 

It was my first trip to Australia and I was pretty hyped to be heading across the Pacific with such a good crew. We landed in Sydney to welcoming, rainy weather before hopping a quick flight over to Canberra, Australia’s capital. Sage, Seb, Sean and I piled our boardbags into a rental van and pointed it toward Thredbo. Clouds covered the sky overhead and grassland filled the windows as we cruised south. Our first stop was in Cooma to visit Naomi and Aurora at Rhythm Snow, an enormous, two-story snowboard shop. The two ladies gave us a proper tour of the retail space and rental zone. They literally sell everything there—and there’s a small convenience store attached where you can rent tire chains and grab snacks (i.e. Tim Tams, sausage rolls and a crazy variety of chocolate bars). One-stop shopping. A short drive later, we passed through Jindabyne just as the rain started coming down. By the time we reached Thredbo, just before nightfall, a miniature monsoon was in the works.

Oakley Prizm Weekend

Low visibility on hill. It was a very beneficial forecast for really testing what's Oakley's Prizm lenses could do.

Friday was going to be our first day on hill, but we got skunked, waking up to a torrential downpour that relegated us indoors all day except for a spastic run around the village trying to find a place that was still serving lunch at 3pm (result: we half-defeatedly returned to the same place that we left to find food, take-out pizza luckily in tow). The stories of epic powder turns that had been circulating the few days before we arrived were literally being washed away in front of our eyes. We hunkered down in the hotel lobby with the Oakley Aus crew: Tiene, Scotty, and Aus Snow Marketing Manager, Lachy Keevers—the lucky ones who made it up the Thredbo access road before it was closed for the night due to flooding. Our spirits weren’t dampened, though our shoes were filled with puddles, drying on the floor in front of us as we clinked glasses and were introduced to new friends. If there is one thing that Australians are categorically, it is welcoming. Lachy, Tiene, Scotty, and crew boisterously shared their stoke (and their Fireball, in the case of Tiene). The rain was in no way slowing down the kick off of the weekend’s festivities. Phones came out, weather was checked on the hour, and we waited patiently for the temps to drop and hopefully bring snow overnight. Lucky for us, they did.

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Thredbo Resort

The base of Friday Flats. It was bonkers down there, but Thredbo's layout once you got up top kept everyone spread out.

Oakley Prizm

 

Oakley Prizm Weekend

Sage, Seb and Sean. You can see the snow coming down sideways. It was a decidedly East Coast weather weekend, 10,000 miles from home, which made things oddly welcoming.

Thredbo Resort

The fact that there is a run called “Walkabout” is awesome.

Seb

The inclimate weather derailed the Thredbo park crew's build plans, unfortunately, but Seb still made the most of the morning’s variable conditions.

Oakley’s Prizm Weekend was not only a celebration of the winter season in Australia and a chance to rip runs with friends, but also an opportunity for local riders to learn about and try Oakley’s line up of Prizm lenses. Three years ago, Oakley unveiled their proprietary Prizm lens technology, something that their engineers had been perfecting for over a decade before it was released to the masses. In the past, high yellow and similar lenses brightened cloudy environments, but didn’t increase contrast as much as needed. Flat light is standard in winter and being able to see the bumps, divots, and changes in transition is paramount to enjoying both perfect and variable conditions. Enter Oakley Prizm. It is the visual equivalent of an audio mixing board in that it works to fine tune all of the wavelengths of light before they enter your eye, toning down some while enhancing others. You could see before, but now you can see better. Snow-specific colors are amped up to provide the most contrast, while letting as little light in as possible overall—meaning that you can not only see better on a cloudy day when wearing jade iridium, you can continue to wear it without issue when the sun peeks out. With the advent of some good, old fashioned stormy weather at Thredbo for the duration of Saturday and Sunday, Prizm Weekend was really the best case scenario for getting to really put the capabilities of the goggles through the ringer. To this end, a massive demo tent was set up, and Mother Nature provided a standard-issue winter forecast: flurries, fog, breaking sun, and clouds—weather than we can appreciate for is fickleness, as well as because it provides ample conditions for really putting your visual abilities to the test.

Sage Kotsenburg

Sage pops a side hit drop at Thredbo.

Sage Kotsenburg

The top of one of Thredbo’s t-bars. Lo vis is good vis.

Ryan Tiene

Tiene finds a mini stash amidst the gum trees.

 

Snow sculpture at Thredbo Resort

A local artist had sculpted this goggle out of snow. It was impressive.

 

There are few better ways to explore the nooks and crannies of Thredbo then taking laps with Ryan Tiene. While this Aussie rider has made a name for himself in the Whistler backcountry, the roots of his riding were established on the craggy, gum tree-lined slopes of Thredbo, a resort in the aptly named Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, on the southeast side of the continent. While Thredbo has a definitively-rising park scene, its resort-access backcountry lines are jaw-dropping: spines, cliffs, and drops that look like the stuff of northwestern North America. Tree runs that are both rugged yet open. In bounds drops that take the term “side hits” to a new level. It’s a powder day paradise for anyone looking to spend their runs popping up and over trail hits on their way to light, snowy landings.

Seb Toots, Sage Kotsenburg, Ryan Tiene

Seb, Sage and Tiene rounding a natty mini-berm. Thredbo is a side hit paradise.

Our crew, guided by Tiene and made up of Scotty, Sage, Seb, Lachy, Sean and Thredbo/Odd Folks filmer Marcus Skin headed up the quad at Friday Flats and into the mist that lightly blanketed Thredbo’s peak. Snow had fallen overnight and despite the crowds cruising at the base of the mountain, it was almost untouched in front of us, fresh lines kept pristine by the expanse of terrain.

Scotty James

Scotty James, rock ride just off the beaten path.

Pulling facemasks over our chins, we dropped in one-after-another as Tiene and Scotty hopped from trail to trail pointing out berms that could be slashed, rocks that could be ridden, and cliffs that could be dropped. We sent it off anything trailside that looked like it had a landing, ripping for a few turns in between bumps as new outcroppings of trees and berms appeared in front of us, ready to be ridden up and picked off. The mix of precipitation, which made for an ideal Prizm Weekend experience, did make leave a longing for some epic-looking zones that we veered away from, needing one more storm to fill them in. Thredbo’s terrain was nuts.

Scotty James

Scotty's pipe skills are born from heightened edge control and carving finesse. He was quick to take advantage of the Thredbo corduroy.

Scotty James

Keen eyes found little stashes all over the trails.

 

Scotty James

Scotty James, making the most of the side snow.

 

Oakley Prizm Weekend

Ryan Tiene

Tiene knows all the spots at Thredbo—even though we were skunked on some of the bigger zones, he found so many rad areas to show us.

Sage Kotsenburg

Dookies. Head nod?

Scotty James

T-bars are prevalent. Scotty James.

Seb Toots

A few late day park laps with the boys. Seb puts down a mellow tailpress.

 

We had a scant two days to experience the mountain—not enough time to do Thredbo justice but plenty of runs to whet a desire to come back immediately and for a longer period. High on the list for a return trip is lapping the t-bar that lines up with Kozzie Park. The Oakley crew had teamed up with Thredbo Park Manager, Reuben Cameron and his staff to create a bevy of Prizm features for the weekend, but the inclimate weather had shut down the operation mid-stride. Lower on the mountain, though, the Cruiser Park was sunny and shielded from any gusts of wind. Seb, Sage and Scotty spent the afternoon hotlapping the mini-tubes and jumps, as well as finding enclaves of powder on the sides of the run.

Seb Toots.

Ripping laps with Seb and the crew through the fog was awesome.

Thredbo Resort

Park lap t-bar view through the gum trees.

Marcus Skin

Marcus Skin is the lensman behind Aussie crew, Odd Folks and spent the weekend riding with us and logging shots of the boys. If you haven't checked out his edits, they're must-see.

As the lifts began to slow on Saturday, the day was far from over. Australians have heavy mettle, going from a day spent lapping in freezing temps to a night spent clinking glasses outside in more freezing temps. Their resiliency practically warmed up the atmosphere as flurry-filled air didn’t deter a single person from outdoor après by the pool at Thredbo Alpine Hotel for the finale of the weekend, the Prizm Party. Fires were lit, champagne was popped and the plaza was filled with party goers, adrenaline high from the day on hill with no sign of dipping as Melbourne’s eccentric pop-synth group, Client Liaison took the stage. The rowdy night lasted into the wee hours of the morning as a dance party like I have never witnessed before exploded inside after the band finished playing. The wiles of winter took over as the snow continued to fall outside. Sunday would be another powder day, and surely everyone inside would be ready once the lift opened, that’s just how the locals do it down there. The crew wasn’t able to drink it blue, but we did one better. On Sunday morning, we cached in on the wintery weekend, stacking blower turns, popping in and out of the gum trees, wanting to stay until the snow was gone.

Huge thanks to Ben, Sui, Cass, Lachy, Sean, Hans, Boyd and the entire Oakley crew for hosting a wicked weekend. Great thanks to Tiene and Scotty for showing us a wicked time and to these two as well as Sage and Seb for ripping wintery side hits in all weekend long.

Oakley Prizm Weekend

Australians are full of heavy mettle. Few would dare to have a pool party in the middle of winter. The shindig went off, snow and cold temps be damned.

Oakley Prizm Weekend

Oakley Prizm Weekend

(l to r) Messing, Seb, Sage, Tiene, and Hans. Pre-midnight Tim Tams.

Oakley Prizm Weekend

This singer was too good. I thought I was listening to regular remixes played by the DJ, songs blending into and around one another, and then I realized she was singing everything live. It was crazy impressive.