words: T. Bird
The dead silence of my hotel room adds exponential weight to these words that I'm typing, as SNOWBOARDER Magazine has learned that New Hampshire native and Mammoth Mountain, California transplant Chelone Miller passed away yesterday.
The first time that I saw Chelone snowboard, he stole the show. It was a frigid and icy morning at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, a day when most people would pack it up and head home to the warmth of a crackling fireplace. In fact, my friends and I were about to call it when we saw a kid straight-lining toward the biggest jump in the park. That kid's name, we would come to find out later, was Chelone Miller. However, at the time, we only knew him as the anonymous madman sending backside rodeos over the sixty-footer. For the rest of that winter we would see Chelone in the liftline nearly every time we went to the mountain, and he had a smile on his face regardless of if he was lapping by himself or with a group of friends. We would follow him as best we could just to watch what he would do in the park, and he became somewhat of a legend to me. Aside from the occasional Scotty Lago, Chas Guldemond, or Pat Moore sighting, there weren't many people that could do the tricks that Chelone could do, and if they could, they weren't as big and they weren't as spectacular. Eventually, we became friends and when I was on break from school I would drive down to the southern part of the state where I grew up and regale tales to my friends of my buddy Chelone Miller who was destined to make it big one day.
In 2005, Chelone was involved in a horrific dirt bike accident and nearly died. He was in a coma for eleven days and his memory of the entire month was erased. When I heard the tragic news I was stunned, and after learning that he was in critical condition, I reluctantly came to accept the fact that I would likely lose a close friend. But, Chelone miraculously pulled out of it and began his journey down the long and arduous road to recovery. He eventually got back on snow and in no time, he started right back where he left off, only this time, Chelone was getting better by the minute. He relocated to Mammoth Mountain, California because of the world-class park jumps and within a year, we were hearing those age-old fables again. Chelone was back.
As a staff member of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, I organized a Super Sessions park shoot at Loon Mountain with Pat, Chas, and Scotty. One of the features was a massive kicker with a butter pad on the deck that restricted the riders' view of the landing. It was a heavy jump, and the night before we started shooting I called up Chelone to see if he would drive down from Franconia to try it out because he was in New Hampshire at the time. Needless to say, he was more than ecstatic and the next morning he was pointing the entire trail and sending those signature back rodeos deep into the landing in front of our assembled crew of superstars who then proceeded to hop on the back of a sled and session with Chelone. You see, that's what he was best at. Chelone Miller could get a session going.
I would see Chelone in Mammoth and I would hear tales of his feats at the bar or on the lift. Together with Lonnie Kauk, Chilly would ride Main Park all day everyday and the two of them became known as the best riders in the world with no sponsors. Lonnie and Chelone would lap the massive jump line with no filmers, photographers, or crowd in sight. Much like how I once viewed him back at my home hill, Chelone became a legend, a rider whose on-hill exploits were almost overshadowed by legend and lore, yet that lore was actually true. I was proud of Chelone and I made sure to tell him that every time I watched him hit a hundred-footer and ride away unscathed at terminal velocity.
In 2010, SNOWBOARDER hosted our annual Superpark event at Mammoth and we had decided to fly Loon Mountain out west to build due to the success of the Super Sessions shoot. The builders from Loon pushed up a gargantuan stepdown complete with a forty-foot cheese wedge takeoff, a hundred foot deck and a menacing, knee-buckling knuckle. For the first two days I hadn't seen anyone even stand atop it let alone test it with a speed check. On day three I was in line to get on the lift when I heard a conversation.
"Someone's lapping the Loon jump."
"Seriously. I have no idea who it is, but he's hitting it all by himself."
"Are there any photographers or filmers around?"
I knew instantly who they were talking about. It was my friend Chelone, the guy who always knew how to get a session going.
Chelone walked away with the Superpark Standout award that year and I'll never forget the look on his face when he won. He had finally made it, and I couldn't have been happier to see it in person. Everything had finally come full circle for Chelone.
Last night, Chelone Miller passed away, and snowboarding lost one of the good ones. The true ones. The entire staff of SNOWBOARDER Magazine would like to send our condolences to the Miller family and all of Chelone's friends and loved ones. He was a rider's rider, a son to the Granite State, a legend in Mammoth Lakes, and one of the nicest, most humble human beings I've ever known. Rest in peace, Chelone, and try to get that session going for us up there, because we'll see you soon enough.
Excerpt taken from Chelone's On Deck in SNOWBOARDER Magazine's Superpark 13 Issue:
"I've always been into big jumps. I've always been about progression, going bigger, and riding faster. There is always another level to where you can push your body."
Hours after the tragic news, I began getting emails from people about our friend Chelone. We will be adding more of these to the post as they come in.
"Chelone Miller had a purity of spirit that was contagious. From sending it at Superpark to being banned from the X Games for jumping off the chair while trying to get to his heat race on time, Chilly always sent it. Watching Chelone ride could instantly right my compass as he provided a counterpoint to the predictable state of modern riding. May the snow be soft enough, the speed fast enough, and the landings long enough wherever the next chapter takes you."
-Pat Bridges, Editor, SNOWBOARDER Magazine
"Chelone Miller was a true New Hampshire badass! If I could use one word to describe him it would be 'huge.' Huge smiles, huge balls, huge airs, and most of all, a huge heart! I was lucky to be his friend and see him shed so much positivity on the people he touched! All who knew him will shred on in his honor! R.I.P., Chilly."
"I still can’t even believe Chilly is gone. Some of my best days riding were with Chilly and Lonnie Kauk here in Mammoth. Chilly was one of the most positive dudes in the game if not THE most positive one. I honestly can’t ever recall not seeing a smile on his face. Even when were all scared as shit standing at the drop in for a 100+ foot jump at Superpark, there was Chilly, more stoked than ever and still smiling even though we were all scared! Like I said, I really can’t believe he is gone and it sucks knowing he’s not going to be here to shred with us anymore. But I know he is going to be looking down on us watching everyone in the industry ride in his memory. I wish I wasn’t here writing this message about such a good friend and one of the best riders to ever strap into a board. My thoughts and prays go out to the Miller family. Never forget Chelone Miller. Until we meet again my friend, much love and I hope you're getting the best powder lines in heaven. Legends never die. Love you buddy, your friend forever, Tyler Flanagan."
"Two years ago when Superpark first moved to Bachelor the setup wasn’t the best. I wasn’t feeling most of the jumps, hips, or rail setups. I ventured over to the super kicker and the one person that has already been riding it alone, no photographers, filmers, or friends was Chelone…riding the jump alone. I was so happy to see him and couldn’t believe he was sending the 95-foot jump solo and didn’t give two shits about anything. We found ourselves riding that jump for three days together with people sometimes joining and sometimes not. He knew what was real and didn’t care if people saw him or not. I am blessed to have been able to shred some of the biggest jumps ever built with the kid and more often than not been able to watch him send rodeos over every single 100-footer that ever crossed our paths. Chelone was a true snowboarder and did it for himself! He was a true inspiration to me and I'm sure many others and he will not be forgotten."
"I won’t forget the time I showed up for a SNOWBOARDER Mag park session at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. Chas had a jump built he called, "The Cube." There was a wedge jump that was pretty sizable with a huge snow cube in the middle that you had to clear before making it to the landing. Chas, Pat, Lago, myself, and some more riders were there for the shoot and Chilly showed up for the day. No one had hit the jump and the whole morning we were speed testing the run in, unsure of how it would turn out. Sure as shit, Chilly shows up takes one look at the jump and hops on a sled to the top. Next thing we know Chilly is pinning it into this jump and sending the biggest back rodeo double grab I’ve ever seen. He sends the jump to the bottom and catches the last little bit of tranny. When he came back up we asked him why went back rodeo first hit. His response was "Straight air, back rodeo, same thing. If things go bad they go bad, makes no difference to me." That’s just how he lived life. I swear it didn’t matter what he was doing he was going 100%, 100% of the time. Without a doubt, this guy lived every moment to the fullest!"