Like a herd of nonconformists, many mountain adventurers explore the same resorts and ride the same slopes, year after year.
Professional snowboarder and filmmaker Justin Lamoureux has seen those tours from the inside and outside.
“It just kind of hit me one day that basically the whole entire ski and snowboard industry goes up and down this highway and nobody stops and rides these mountains around my house,” says Lamoureux, a Squamish resident.
While his friends headed to Alaska, Lamoureux glanced at his skyline.
“I was looking around in my backyard one day and I was like, 'Wow, I've barely scratched the surface,'” he says.
With 30 peaks he'd never set foot upon, Lamoureux decided to explore each of them in a single season. Aided by his friend and camera operator Kyle Wolochatiuk, the experiment eventually became The Backyard Project.
Beginning in February, Lamoureux and Wolochatiuk headed into the mountains by 5 a.m., spending at least 12 hours on the slopes.
The first four or five hours were usually spent climbing, looking around corners and searching for a place to ride, according to Lamoureux.
“Some days we'd only get one big run in and other days we'd get lots of little tiny ones in,” he says.
There were other days when even Google Maps and Google Earth couldn't get Lamoureux on a good run before dark.
Asked if he and Wolochatiuk came close to killing each other in the mountains, Lamoureux laughs.
“That was a given,” he says. “You gotta move very big distances during the day and you have to balance that with trying to get the shot, so everybody's got to hustle as fast as they can. Sometimes it gets frustrating. We definitely wanted to kill each other but we're good friends, so it's all good."
As the snow melted and the slush cycle started, Lamoureux and Wolochatiuk headed back to civilization bearing a hard drive packed with 300 hours of footage.
Asked how he edited all that footage down, Lamoureux replies: “With an axe and a hammer. Ruthlessly.”
Speaking during a break from the final stages of editing, Lamoureux talks about cutting out the redundant and repetitive while holding onto moments that might resonate with an audience.
“You don't want to cut too much because you want to keep the things you might need for a storyline,” he says. “It's a bit documentary style but at the same time you've got to arrange it in a sense that's pleasing to the viewer and interesting but still true to the ski and snowboard videos I love so much.”
When he's finished, the movie will consist of four episodes totaling 50 minutes, Lamoureux says.
Like a Prairie dweller may be propelled to the coast by the prospect of the ocean, Lamoureux was lured to B.C. by the promise of the mountains. He initially planned to live in Whistler before the real estate market pushed him to Squamish. In some ways, The Backyard Project is a continuation of the search for fresh powder that began in Lamoureux's childhood.
“I started skiing as soon as I could walk and my parents just always had me outside,” he says.
The mountains are woven into the family's identity to the point that Lamoureux's parents were unperturbed by their son's plans to spend the winter searching lonely trails for untouched slopes.
“My parents are just like, 'Sweet, you're climbing mountains all day,'” he says.
While he's not certain, Lamoureux says he's likely the first person to ride some of those trails.
“Some of the stuff we did, I'm pretty sure it would be a first ascent because you need a special eye to see those lines and the ability and experience to get to them,” he says.
The series includes stirring moments of Lamoureux trekking out of the green and into the white of the mountains, looking like a drop of ink on a snowman. But aside from the stunning cinematography, the project is also about resisting marketing.
“I find society as a whole… we're just always told that something is better all the time,” he says. “You have to go to the end of the world to go climb some giant mountain or ride down some big face that no one's ever done before.”
The Backyard Project aims to encourage skiers, hikers, and snowboarders to explore what's in front of them.