COEN BENNIE-FAULL - INTERVIEW
For years we've been witness to the super talented and creative moves thrown down by Aussie freeskier Coen Bennie-Faull. He's been chasing winters for nearly a decade and you'll find him going after big lines in the FWQ, taking out winning runs at BullerX, or hucking backflips at the prestigious showdown "Kings & Queens of Corbets". Last year he spent his time in powder-packed Wyoming and we're pumped to see the resulting edit, aptly dubbed: "ALL WHITE".
Taking the high line in the Tetons. Pic @brookscurran
But before we get into the clip, we had some news from Coen which made everything stop for a second as we heard of a nasty spill he'd had this January. We're pleased to say he's recovering and were glad to get a chance to have a chat with Coen, get an insight into how he is and hear about this new clip.
LB: Hey Coen, we're really sorry to hear about your injury. What went down?
A few weeks back skiing here in Revelstoke I had a fall (that resulted in me landing on some rocks). Unfortunately, I fractured my left scapula and some vertebrae in my neck. I got extremely lucky. Considering the fall, things should’ve been a lot worse. I was lucky to have 6 good friends skiing with me, 2 of which had EMT (emergency medical training) which made a huge difference in getting me out safely. I was long lined by helicopter to hospital where I spent the next week. I’ve since moved back home to Revelstoke and am making a pretty fast recovery considering. I’m in good spirits and this injury has only fuelled the fire for skiing more and I’m hoping to get back on snow for springtime.
LB: How long do the experts say the recovery will take and what are you doing to fill the time?
Bones should heal in 6-8 weeks however the biggest challenge is going to be in getting my strength back up to scratch. Following ankle surgery in October my muscle mass is fairly depleted and will take time to get back moving properly again. However, I’m pretty optimistic and have already been back in the gym with light sessions this past week so I’m moving forward already.
With all this time on my hands I’ve been focussing mainly on rehab, however I’ve been working on some editing of past footage that I’ve been meaning to find time for, for a while. I’ve also been looking into potential opportunities to Australian kids training and competing in big mountain competitions overseas but it’s still early days with this project.
LB: You’ve been chasing down winters for a good few years now, both as a professional and as a creative line seeker. How do you balance injury with a professional career?
Well there’s not much you can really do about injury but take time to appreciate slowing down. I am finding time to work on the small things, habits and routines and plans for the future. Naturally, the main focus is to get the body back to fighting strength, building up slowly, so that when I get back on snow, I am fighting fit. However, like any profession there is also an admin side to skiing. Video editing, trip planning, project scoping and all the other fun things that keep the world revolving so injury is a good time to catch up on these kinds of tasks that get away from you when the skiing is so good.
So, I guess the balance is a natural one, pushing your body to the limits is going to result in some backward steps from time to time, so it’s important to recognise that balance and embrace it. You can’t have the highs without the lows, it’s just not possible.
LB: We cracked some popcorn and gave your recent edit “All White” a good watch. Damn there are some killer moves in there! Where did this all come together and where can we see more of this goodness?
“All White” is a combination of shots from a few projects I’ve worked on in Jackson the past 2 winters. I was lucky enough to get to work with TGR on a small project that was instigated by Tony Harrington as a result of BullerX. I’ve been watching TGR films since I was a kid so to get the chance to work with them as a skier myself was a dream come true so to speak. You can see more of this project HERE.
As well as this I got to work with my favourite film and photo combo from Australia, Hayden Griffith and Tim Clark on their passion project “The Moment” (a lot of the scenic shots come from here). On this project we travelled from Jackson, Wy to British Columbia in a sprinter van, courtesy of Van Craft, documenting the journey along the way. You can check out this and more of Hayden’s work or check out the lens magic of Tim.
Finally, the drone footage comes from good friends Sawyer Thomas and Riis Weibrecht. Sawyer was the first person I got introduced to in Jackson Hole when I moved there 5 years ago and has introduced me to just about everyone I know in town, whether directly or indirectly. Going to school in Bozeman, I don’t get the opportunity to ski with these two enough but every time I do its always a fun adventure. This year I was lucky enough to ski with them both while they were working on their project “Colter”, and if you want to get inspired definitely check this one out, it will blow your mind what they put themselves through in the name of ‘fun’. You can find that HERE.
LB: Do you have plans to get back into the mountains once you’re recovered and get the camera rolling again?
Here’s hoping. I’m hoping to work with Tony Harrington in late February, early March on an assignment for Chillfactor magazine if I can get the body in order. Apart from this, I moved to Revelstoke to get up and test myself in some bigger alpine in springtime so my timeline to meet this goal isn’t thrown out to far. I don’t really have any solid plans as yet but who knows with a few weeks more of couch time. I’d definitely like to work on doing some more filming once I’m back skiing but it’s going to have to depend on how my meat’s feeling.
LB: The last decade has seen a long list of people pushing the envelope in the backcountry, including your good self. What advice would you give to those who want to get out there and how they can equip themselves with the right skillset?
The best advice I can give is for people to get themselves a beacon, shovel and probe and book themselves on an avalanche course, (they’re now operating in Australia as well). Your gear is useless unless you know, not only how to use it, but how to read the environment you’re in. Weather elements in the backcountry are constantly evolving; wind, sun, snow, temperature, terrain and even human traffic affect the dangers you put yourself in when you’re out in the backcountry. More important than all of this is to keep a humble and open mind, no one knows everything when it comes to the backcountry, and everything changes minute by minute so to think you know exactly what is going on is one of the biggest mistakes you can make and more often than not it is the human factor that brings groups un done and places them in harm’s way.
Digging deep. Pic @timclark1
LB: It’s a very, VERY good thing that we can still sit down with you for a chat considering the recent accident. It’s a real shame to see you go thought this but ultimately, we’re just grateful you’re ok! How do you think this will this change your perspective on future endeavours?
I can assure you that it won’t change my drive to push myself in the mountains, however, following this accident I am much more aware of the personal factors that influence my decision making and the consequences these factors can have. Sitting there with a broken neck out of reach of immediate help definitely puts things into perspective for you. It’s a position I hope to never place myself or my friends in ever again. Whilst the circumstances that affected this crash weren’t entirely in my control there were definitely elements that I could’ve been more understanding of, such as the time of day and condition of my body coming out of ankle surgery that could have adjusted my decision making. It’s very important to be aware of all the factors that can hinder performance and adjust decision making accordingly.
One of the more prominent lessons I learnt from this accident, however, is the importance of obtaining the correct first aid knowledge and surrounding yourself with partners that have an understanding of how to deal with situations that go wrong. I am definitely more motivated to up-skill myself in this area so that I can be support for my friends if things go wrong in the future. I have a much larger appreciation for the importance of choosing the right time to push your comfort zone as well as equipping yourself with the gear, knowledge and correct backcountry partners to be more self-sufficient in the mountains. Living is learning and reflecting on experience is what helps you move forward.
I just want to say a huge thank-you to everyone that helped extract me from this potential horror situation, from my friends who were with me at the time and the diligence of the Revelstoke Mountain Resort ski patrol who were extremely effective in getting me to safety efficiently.
LB: Well Coen, we’ve taken enough of your time and we’ll let you get back to your recovery. We wish you a speedy recovery and hope you see you back out there in the mountains again soon. Glad to hear you're "all white" (yep, pun definitely intended).