Story by: Harrison Gordon
Photos by: Oli Gagnon
Illustration By: Nik Baden
Pyramid Gap is one of the most famous jumps in all of big ass snowboard jump history. Tucked away in Grizzly Gulch at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Pyramid Gap sits adjacent to its much larger and far less sessioned big brother—known as Chad’s Gap (120 ft). Both of these behemoths exist as a direct result of the mining that was conducted up in this gulch long ago, and just so happen to form perfect landings. Due to the size of Pyramid Gap—approximately 90 ft—and the angles accessible to shoot it from, it has become synonymous with some of the most famous videos, photos, and riders for decades. Jason Murphy, Andrew Crawford, Josh Dirksen, MFM, Brandon Cocard, Parker Duke, Bode Merrill, Travis Rice, Roman De Marchi, Forrest Shearer, Ali Goulet and Bjorn Leines are all Pyramid Gap alumni... and that list speaks for itself. This past spring, we experienced a lull in snowfall mixed with some very high temps that led our friends Nik Baden and Jared Elston to come to the conclusion that maybe it was time they hit it themselves. I had the pleasure of watching them session it, but was left wanting to know more so I decided to call them up to see what they had to say about it…
I asked Nik where the thought started, “I’d wanted to hit it for about a year or so, especially talking to Butters [Brock Nielson] about it…I walked up there with Wiz [Alex Sherman] and my homie a few days before just to check it out.”
Jared said, “I think subconsciously, watching all the videos growing up, I wanted to hit it but only if it lined up naturally.”
After a quick scope from Nik and a comical text message convo, Jared arrived into SLC the night of March 4th. The next morning Nik, Jared, Ben Bilodeau, Alex Sherman, Brock Nielson, Tyler Orton, Bob Plumb, Chad Unger, Justin Meyer, and Oli Gagnon all met up at the base of Grizzly Gulch. Each morning, I’d see them in the parking lot as I was heading up to the valley of the cornices with the Salomon dudes and we’d shoot the shit about this and that. I had no interest in hitting Pyramid with them, but I was excited by the motivation and undoubtedly knew that they were going to throw down once they got it built. Nik had famously guinea pigged Chad’s Gap a few years prior and Jared’s been steady slaughtering big jumps for a bit, so I was sure they’d have all the necessary knowledge to fuck shit up on Pyramid.
The process of the build was not an easy one, as Jared explained, “We moved a lot of snow. There were a lot of rocks in the in-run. Every time we’d move some snow to get rid of a bump we’d uncover more rocks. Smoothing out the bumps took most of the time and energy.”
“It was similar to building Chad’s, but maybe shittier because we had way less snow to work with.” -Nik.
“Nik was ready to quit after the first day building it.” -Jare.
All in all, they took two full days of building and an additional half day to get the in-run and massive lip constructed before finally hitting it. With weather en-route in the following days it was time to get things going. The call was made for reinforcements and some additional shapers, filmers, and friends made the hike up to witness the sickness. The Mervin crew happened to show up and came through big time, helping to fill in the belly of the beast. Griffin Siebert sherpa’d up some Spedelli’s pizza to keep everyone’s stomach full and Grendys [Chris Grenier] came to provide rider support, as well as comedic relief.
Some speed tests were made and the consensus from the peanut gallery was that the speed looked too slow. Both Nik and Jare hiked up a bit further to where Bjorn had dropped in a previous session years past. A roshambo took place and Nik won, meaning the first hit was his for the taking. Nik dropped. The only noise in the valley seemed to be his board slicing through the recently salted snow—everyone went deathly silent as they watched in horror.
As Nik recalls, “From the moment I took off I knew I was going way too big. I was going for a frontside 360 which turned into a 540, then quickly to somewhere between a 720 and 900. The snow was pretty soft. I got lucky and was somehow fine.”
It literally seemed as if he was shot out of a cannon. He almost missed the landing—probably floating about 160 ft—to the nearly flat bottom, maybe the last possible spot where he would’ve been okay upon impact. A sight that no one in attendance will forget.
After witnessing the overshoot and subsequent communication from below that Nik was alright, Jared logically slipped down about 10 or 20 feet from Nik’s drop-in and proceeded to do almost the exact same thing. “I still went so fucking big. Same thing, tried a front three, ended up front 800, hot tubbed, and was fine.” Jare said.
At that point, the tides shifted in the session, and as the rest of us held our breath, Nik dropped again. He laced a double back 10 melon first fucking try. You could hear the cheers throughout the entire gulch.
“We didn’t discuss what tricks we wanted to do. I had been thinking about doing a front 12. When I saw Nik stomp his shit I thought I might as well try, and I went for it—Hail Mary style. I went front 14 on accident, but two tries later, rode away,” explains Jared.
After nailing the shit out of the frontside dub 12 tail, Nik dropped in and launched one of the slowest backside rodeo nose grabs ever done. He stomped the everliving piss out of it, rode out to the little roller below and gave us a beautiful switch 180. He then proceeded to ride straight into my arms and we hugged it out. I could feel how good it felt in his smile and it was a perfect moment shared by all. Jared still wanted more and went for a couple backside 180’s. Not being able to slow himself down in the air, he squeaked them into back threes and after a couple of those he decided to do a back seven instead. He essentially sessioned it solo for fun during the sunset. He did three back 7’s until it felt just right. After about two and half hours, the session was officially done.
It occurred to me that Nik and Jared are kind of like superheroes. The level of riding they are at is so damn high and the professionalism displayed this day was a sight to behold. They both move with confidence and style in their own unique way, and the end result is a display of undeniable skill. There is a phenomenon that can occur while watching videos where the technicality of what happens on the screen can distract from just how gnarly things are. To us regular-ass people, perspective can get lost in translation, but when you are actually there watching shit like this in real life, there is almost nothing as amazing to see.
When talking to Josh Dirksen about his experience hitting Pyramid he explained, “I remember it being a perfect run in, lined up to a big ass kicker. It was park jump-like, the way the landing lined up. I don’t remember being scared, but maybe I was just young and dumb.” Young, dumb, and full of...motivation. Nik and Jared personify all three of those attributes. They echoed Dirksen’s sentiment, explaining that once the speed was dialed, the jump felt really comfortable and fun. All the hard work put in paid off. Having a massive entourage of friends at the bottom fueled them up and Grendys screaming his head off was a bit of icing on the cake for both of them.
A little over twenty years ago, Jason Murphy hit Pyramid and got the cover of TWS with a frontside five off the toes. The next year, Dirksen did his back 9 in Brainstorm and subsequently set the bar for every year to follow with crews from around the world seeking the same kind of glory. It seems that if built correctly and ridden by people with enough skill, this jump will continue to be a spectacle for the rest of time. Some people would argue that hitting the same spot year after year is lame, and certainly some spots do get played out, but as long as a rider brings their own flavor and style to the session any spot can be put back in the game. There is something to be said for classic spots being timeless, especially when you consider progression over the decades. Nik and Jared were babies when the first crews stepped up and hit Pyramid. Only time will tell what the toddler today will bring to Pyramid in 20 years.