Tom jungst bomb snow terry peak

Use Your Delusion

Memories of Meeting Tom Jungst at Bridger Bowl


Words BY:
Patrick Stanton
BY:
Thomas Stanton

This story was published in Issue 28 our most recent edition of Bomb Snow. Buy One: HERE.


My brother and I grew up straddling the advent of the Internet Era, born somewhere between the first home modem and the release of Greg Stump’s License to Thrill. It was a time of unchecked delusions and aspirations, when you didn’t have the comforts of instant access and thus needed a strong foraging instinct riding shotgun with your interests if you wanted to unearth anything new. A compensatory courage, if you will, that sometimes made you do dumb things. We are speaking specifically about thumbing your nose at the notion of “never meeting your heroes.”

To look back on old photos of us, the brothers Stanton, is to see a pair of feral animals organizing around our wild love of freeskiing. Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, Kevin Andrews—these guys were our ski life protagonists, giving us hope while we made the most of the measly 1,100 vertical feet of Terry Peak, our home mountain on the western edge of South Dakota. Despite the physical distance, we felt connected to a burgeoning ski culture when we popped anything made by Stump into the VCR. We were raised on the stuff. Aside from the amazing skiing, Stump’s efforts were conceptual; they had pathos and strangely alluring soundtracks. They were real films made in the time of the Hollywood blockbuster, but they could only take a viewer so far. Beyond the ending of each flick, you had the option of the rewind button (which we wore out) or to go out and make your own story. This is the story of two brothers choosing the latter.


Despite the physical distance, we felt connected to a burgeoning ski culture when we popped anything made by Stump into the VCR. We were raised on the stuff.

Tom jungst launch

Of course, regardless of our unobtainable youthful energy, South Dakota was a limiting place for making ski dreams come true. Thankfully, we were able to escape on periodic trips to Steamboat and Jackson Hole and Summit County, Colorado. Decades ahead of the #VanLife curse, our family would drop anchor in our Chevy conversion camper van and unleash us on mountains five times the size of Terry Peak. We’d been on skis since we were able to walk, and our home mountain training, however modest, had done us well. Eventually we blended right in wherever we went, skiing every inch of terrain on the biggest mountains. At some point, our family stumbled upon Bridger Bowl in southwest Montana. The resort was a closer drive than the other destinations, the snow was reliably better, and Bozeman was a jewel of a ski town in those glory days.

To a pair of kids (around 11 and 14 at the time), the extreme skiing lifestyle of those days was both absurd and alluring, like a guitar-solo or a fancy sports car. “Extreme” was everywhere back then. If something was possible, then it was also possible to do it more extremely and more ostentatiously, with bigger style, bigger bravado, and brighter outfits. More of a marketing onslaught than an actual cultural movement, the extreme scene’s logical (extreme?) conclusion was essentially the aesthetic equivalent of WWE wrestling, on-piste and off. It’s easy to imagine that the publicity poster for every resort during this era might have featured some mulleted maverick hot dawg, suspended upside down, Oakley Blades still hanging on his face, and something like “Take It to the Extreme!” scrawled in cursive hot pink lettering across the top.


If something was possible, then it was also possible to do it more extremely and more ostentatiously, with bigger style, bigger bravado, and brighter outfits.

Patrick Thomas and Tom

But Bridger Bowl was a wholly different thing, filled with low-key shredders in earth-toned second-hand gear held together by duct tape. These were not people swayed by promises of the extreme. In fact, most of them were trying to stay out of the spotlight and far away from the hype. It seemed the Bridger locals just wanted to quietly get some good turns in, avoid the crowds, and then retreat to the forest until the next big storm. These were not simple demands, though; the “progress” of development was both imminent and ubiquitous. Secret stashes were getting skied out quicker, the lift lines were getting longer, and the industrialists had their thirsty eyes on Bridger’s aging infrastructure, with plans percolating to tear down the rustic lodges and turn them into retro-futurist cafeterias. Just up the road, Big Sky was already turning into a global destination, festooned with tourists whose style far exceeded their substance. The Bridger locals were fast becoming prickly and secretive, as locals do. Of course, as kids (and wandering tourists ourselves), we didn’t think much about any of this at the time.

Our lodging of choice on this fateful trip perfectly matched the mountain. Bozeman’s Lewis & Clark Motel on Main Street, back then, was a kitschy motor lodge with geometric wallpaper and blood-red shag carpets. The floor to ceiling glass of each room’s exterior wall frosted over on winter nights. We skied by day and played in the motel’s basement pool at night, a clammy dungeon with a shallow lap pool and a rock-lined hot tub. It was all a little sketchy, and also very awesome.

A few years earlier, a machine tech engineer named Tom Jungst flung himself one hundred yards through the air on a world-famous kicker inWhistler, B.C. called “Jump for Joy.” Backed by a new wave synth soundtrack, every second of that arced flight—and eventual cratered landing—was captured inLicense to Thrill, the moment forever seared into our collective imagination. A new hero had arrived, a fantastic addition to Stump’s cinematic circus. Eventually, we were able to decipher from the films that Bridger Bowl was probably Tom’s local mountain. And so, one night while bored at the Lewis & Clark, we half-jokingly perused the Bozeman phone directory for his name, and there it was: “Jungst, Tom,” followed by his personal home number. It took us a few minutes to register that this ski star we idolized was publicly listed before we started daring each other to make the call. Eventually, Patrick picked up the bright red rotary phone in our hotel room (it matched the carpets)and spun the digits. It rang and rang and then a voice on the other end: “Hello, this is Tom.” Patrick stammered and then spit out, “Hi Tom, my brother and I are big fans, and we were wondering,” a pause, deciding how far to push this, “We were wondering if you would take some runs with us at Bridger Bowl tomorrow?”

This was followed by a very long moment of silence, the obvious delay of someone who had just been cold called by juvenile randoms who wanted to spend an afternoon with him. The silence eventually broke, and Tom, understandably, had a few questions of his own before finally saying, “I’d love to.” A plan was made to meet us at Bridger Bowl’s midway lodge at noon the very next day.


Hello, this is Tom.” Patrick stammered and then spit out, “Hi Tom, my brother and I are big fans, and we were wondering,” a pause, deciding how far to push this, “We were wondering if you would take some runs with us at Bridger Bowl tomorrow?

Now, being on the snow makes you think about time differently. It is more than just the measuring of days in runs and rides. You take your eyes off the clock for a bit and focus on a single physical activity, free of other distracting mental calculations. Waiting for someone, anticipating their arrival, also makes you think about time differently. We didn’t sleep much that night, nor did we ski much the next morning. We posted up at the meeting spot half an hour early. At the time, the now-rebuilt midway lodge at Bridger Bowl, Deer Park Chalet, was a steep A-frame building. You entered its rustic confines at ground level, and then a set of stairs took you down onto a sunken main floor. It was a cozy, poorly ventilated structure, usually swelling with the scents of the central wood-burning fire, homemade chili, and drying wool. It was here that we waited an hour, then ninety minutes, and still nothing. The air got heavy. Gravity pulled us further into the lodge couches. It became obvious that Tom wasn’t going to show. We could have just left it at that, a lighthearted close call. It was still a big deal, a brush with one of the absolute greats by means of dumb gumption, luck, and a phonebook. We knew friends who had briefly crossed paths with some of their ski heroes at signings or contests, but nothing quite like this. Indeed, at a certain angle, being completely ghosted by Tom Jungst was a great story. After all, heroes are made at least partly by mystery. But we weren’t built that way; we were tenacious youths, and this lucky streak (the phone book listing, the pick-up, the invitation) had only made us more resolute.We paced the lodge. The smoke started to burn our eyes, so we walked outside for some fresh air. There, before us in the doorway, was a lone payphone. To contemplate the possibility of a pay phone in the middle of a mountain is to contemplate the possibility of fate. We searched our pockets for quarters. We still had the torn page from the phone book as evidence to prove to our buddies back home that we’d actually made contact with Tom.

“Sorry, my kid is homesick,” said Jungst on the other end of our second unsolicited call to his home. “I didn’t have anyway to get in touch and cancel. Can we meet tomorrow?”It was the last day of our trip. We let him know this unfortunate detail. Tom must have sensed the frantic desperation of our situation. Also, it quickly became clear that—in addition to all his incredible outdoor accomplishments—Tom was an extremely nice guy. “I’ll figure something out,” he said.“I’ll meet you at the lodge in an hour.”


Eventually, the ski day ended and our mom snapped a few photos with the family camera. We figured Tom would cut out, but in a final act of graciousness, he suggested we stop by his house on our way back to Bozeman. And so, the day got even more surreal, even more weightless. We met Tom’s family. We clocked the holiday card from Scot Schmidt on their fridge. Tom and family were suddenly real, normal, and all impressively cool and inviting people. He gave us a poster and a VHS copy of the newest Stump movie, Groove, another flick we completely wore out.

We returned home to South Dakota, to middle school and high school respectively, but our heads stayed back at Bridger Bowl for weeks after. We brought with us a hell of a story, but also saw first-hand that, whether or not you can fling yourself a hundred yards into the air, you can still take the time to be tethered to the earth.


Sorry, my kid is homesick,” said Jungst on the other end of our second unsolicited call to his home. “I didn’t have anyway to get in touch and cancel. Can we meet tomorrow?


Tom Jungst
Jungst slides


SHARE THIS STORY

   
MORE FROM BOMB SNOW
Matt skoglund bison
Of Bison, Ranching, Land, and Life
Main image FIAT 1440 670 95
In Praise Of Fiats
Intro letter bomb snow heath
The Heat is On
Pow day ryan creary
Does Skiing Really Matter?