When it comes to dream snowboarding destinations, the Midwest probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. With resort hills averaging 400 vertical feet and winter tempts that regularly fall far, far below freezing—it’s certainly an area where you learn to make the best out of the access you have.
At a place like Trollhaugen in Dresser, Wisconsin, snowboarders have developed an innate ability to sniff out features and lines in unexpected places. The result? A creative style of riding that, when paired with next-level performance, is unparallel to any other kind of snowboarding. Benny Milam is among the few to possess such a unique gift.
Milam’s latest creative genius comes to life in his new video, “Enchanted Forest,”, proving once again that the best riding is born from seeing possibility in the unlikeliest of places.
Red Bull caught up with Benny to get a feel for how it all went down.
Watching “Enchanted Forest,” it looks like one ultra-long line… but that can’t be possible. Can it?
[Laughs] We filmed it over five days, getting about three features per day. I wish the pace could have been faster, but every morning we had to spend a few hours dragging the snow in wheelbarrows through the trees.
Ok, that was my next question. It’s clearly shot in warm, summertime conditions. Where did the snow come from, and how did you stop it melting?
Trollhaugen actually took all the snow from their park and piled it up in some shade, then put a bunch of hay on it to preserve the snow. So every day they would fill up a truck with snow, drive it up the hill, and we’d fill up wheelbarrows and drag the snow in to the path. Then we’d add a little salt and it would turn to ice right way, it was kind of sketchy but also real fun.
It’s a really unique setup. I liked the variety, and the fact they’re all natural log features. Can you tell me a bit more about the designer and builder, Matthew “Boody” Boudreaux?
Boody is a local legend around here in the Midwest. He is a very talented snowboarder, and he’s also an Eagle Scout, which is part of the boy scouts. He’s really good at working with wood. He’s basically a lumberjack—he’s got the big beard and so on. He came over and just spent two or three weeks going hard building all these great features. He pretty much understood my entire vision from the first walk through.
Tell me a bit more about what makes the Midwest scene different.
I think what really makes the Midwestern scene different is the use of tow ropes out here. There’s only three or four features per run, but you can get two, three hundred laps in in a day. You’re constantly snowboarding. It does get cold, but even when it’s cold, you stay warm because you’re constantly on your feet, lapping the tow ropes. We don’t really have mountains here, but the hills get the trick done, and there are street spots everywhere. Which is what the Midwest is known for – street snowboarding.
Chad Otterstrom says that coming from the Midwest is about making the most out of what you’ve got. Would you say that’s true?
Growing up, we would always have the sketchiest jumps—just the worst lips, terrible landings, and, just ice, everywhere. But you got used to it. You learned how to ride that stuff, and when you went out west where there were way better jumps, it’s a different game, you aren’t scared because you’re used to landing on hard snow. I feel like it’s shaped me as a snowboarder, made me able to ride any terrain.
You competed a lot when you were younger. Did you make the switch from contests to filming slowly, or was it a quick transition?
I was doing contests quite a bit until I was 14 or 15, then I just started filming full time. The switch was a little bit of both, because I could never land a contest run. I’d always get into the finals, then never put it down. Meanwhile in Minnesota we had a bunch of filming crews, and the 1817 crew, they were my idols. So, once I started filming with them it was hard to keep both going, I kind of grew out of competing.
It’s always great to see when athletes have full licence to get creative with their video projects. The Danny Macaskill series comes to mind. Are there any that have been an inspiration for you?
The Levi [Lavallee] stuff is what really inspired me. Snowmobiling around the city, getting free rein on the city I’m from… that was a big deal when it came out in Minnesota. So Levi is the one who got me really inspired, and he’s the guy I filmed my first Red Bull project with, the tow session. I’ve been snowmobiling my whole life, and he was my idol.
So let’s say you could relocate to ride anywhere else in the world: where would you go?
That’s a really hard question, because honestly, I love the Midwest. I’ve tried to relocate to Salt Lake City, but…I just get dragged back to Minnesota.