FRESH LITTER: The Chooches of Killington Vermont

Rebirth: (noun) a new or second birth, a renewed existence.

Featuring: Jake Fournier, Tim Major, Thomas Westcott, Will Steller, Trevor Eichelberger and Joey Leon.

Friends: Nate Haust, Max Lyons, Austin Esposito, Alfonso Esposito, Savannah Shinske, Jeremy Ellenberg, Levi Gunzburg, George McKeever-Parks, Spencer Davis, Omar Haidara

Words: Mike Garceau

Rebirth is a title more significant than the local Killington, VT crew, affectionately known as Chooches, may have realized when dropping its first full movie. To the Chooches, it meant winter of 2015/16 was basically trash on the East Coast, and for 2016/17 winter had a “rebirth.” So, they got to work filming around the Killington area and throughout Vermont.

Killington, VT is steeped in snowboard history. It’s been breeding ground for industry moguls such as Bridges, Land, Zimmerman, Geery and beyond. It’s the home base for The Gremlinz/GBP, has hosted major televised events such as the Dew Tour, and these days, is a destination for cash-hungry pro/ams looking to claim Rails 2 Riches.

In recent years though, a lull has existed. A gap in time without a recognized crew of riders, snowboarding their faces off and capturing it on camera. But that lull is over! With Chooches’ “Rebirth,” we get adolescent joy in an unpolished, feel-good flick about a group of friends making it happen. We caught up with Mr. Joey Leon, post-lecture at Groovy Uvy (UVM) where he’s currently a freshman to find out more! 

So we know the crew and why the movie is Rebirth… let’s look back at your arrival in Killington, VT.

Well, I was actually born here, and then moved to Simsbury, CT at two years old. In 2011, my family started to spend weekends and holidays back in VT at our family home. I was part of the weekend program at KMS with my sister (Maggie Leon) and that’s basically where it all began. I was being coached by Evan Ricker at the time, who introduced me to Darkside Snowboards, and from there I met Will Steller, Jake Fournier, and George McKeever-Parks. That’s really when the crew formed, when we were like 12 or 13, and we picked up friends along the way.

 

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2011, your family starts spending time in Killington, VT again. You’re all of a sudden the young bloods at Darkside Snowboards, talk about that impact on you and the crew.

Darkside has seriously been the biggest influence on my snowboarding, and everything that our crew has accomplished. The support is difficult to put into words. We’d spend hours there, binge watching snowboard movies, hanging with Ricker and Mills. If we weren’t out riding, we were at Darkside, probably being annoying little kids, but we just loved being there. That place is home. Even in the summers, my parents would go golfing, Maggie and I would just spend the day at Darkside, skating the miniramp. It’s crazy to think how it might be different if we hadn’t had the support of Darkside from the very beginning.

Darkside Snowboards has really been the ticket in Killington, VT and really across the state, supporting so many riders and the local community. What was it like coming into the shop that young, with guys like Tim Major, Ricker, Mills, and I’m sure many more having such a strong presence.

Yeah I mean, Darkside for life. It’s so sick that they support us all like they do. Ricker and Mills were a big influence on the direction my snowboarding went. Ricker was literally my coach at KMS for a few years, and Mills always had the camera out. I looked up to Timmy, I still do. He works harder than I think a lot of people realize, like insanely hard when we’re out at spots. In the beginning Timmy always supported my riding, helped out when I couldn’t get a trick, shit like that. I’ve really learned from him, when you’re at a spot the only important thing is to get the shot. Timmy is zero bullshit, it’s just hard work, the second we roll up until everyone has their shot. It’s so sick to have him in our movie now, as a homie that I can always count on, it really brought it all together for me. He’s put out some solo parts, and has had some shots in other movies, and it’s sick for me to give the dude that I look up to a spot in our movie. It really completes it.

 

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Joey, down for life with Darkside Snowboards

We’re coming into 2018, why now? It seems like it took a while to get to this point, releasing your first film as, Chooches.

Yo, well there’s more to it. It really goes back to when I met Jake, when we were like 13 or something. We have always been filming, putting shit out on YouTube, really just for us at first. We had no idea what we were doing, and we’re honestly still figuring it out. But anyways, a few seasons back, we filmed an entire movie. It was going to be so sick, Darkside Young Bloods, we were so hyped. We’ve moved on and learned a lot, so not going to point any fingers, but we lost the entire movie to a crashed hard drive. It was really, really bad. That experience makes Rebirth mean that much more to us all. We’re stoked to be releasing this, and already we know what we’re looking to change for next year.

Not talking about next year yet… What’s your favorite clip in the movie?

Timmy’s layback, back 1 out of the wooden close-out. It was so fucked. That was a two-story drop off the back, into a sketchy bank that you can’t even tell in the movie, was all ice. Gnarliest thing I’ve ever filmed, and he just rode away like a G. Oh, and I have to mention Omar! He doesn’t even really snowboard, he’s just part of the crew, and like does his own thing. The ender in the friends segment is Omar, so fucked that he landed that. We were all probably more stoked on that than anyone else putting down a trick in that whole movie.

And there were some decent bails… Any shot that was way harder to get than it should’ve been?

Definitely. We were actually right in Killington, on this wooden rail. Well, most of the movie is wooden rails, but anyways. Yeah, we were working on this rail, sawing down knobs, and yo we actually ran out of there the first day. So creepy, I looked up in this tree and this mannequin head just locked eyes with me, I swear. We literally ran. Went back the next day, the mannequin head wasn’t even there!! But this spot took both Jake and I, a couple hours to get our shots. George is so sick when we’re at spots and we just can’t get it. Honestly like George is just always down, he’s got a few shots in the friends part, and really he is always there to help make it happen. He’s actually sitting next to me right now, reminding me how hard it was to get that shot, ha.

The crew seems super close, even though you’re all spread out now at college, right?

Yeah, most of us are away at school. It was hard at first. Will was the first to head out, he’s a bit older than me and he went out to Utah. We’re still super close, and literally we film as much as we can when he is back East on school break. This year more of us are at school though, and I actually think it’s really going to help us. Jake is at URI, George and I are roommates at UVM, and Thomas is up here in Burlington now too. We’ll all meet in Killington for the most part, and we can always link with Timmy there. I’m also really stoked to be close to Maggie again, she’s here at UVM too, and we are definitely focused on a full part for her this season. It’s going to be sick to have places to stay, like go hit spots in Rhode Island now, around Burlington and really just get outside of Killington more. The fact that we aren’t around each other as much, I think we’re going to work that much harder at spots and it will all come together, just making us better.

 

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Now seems like a good time to talk about the plans for this season.

Travel. The more I think about it, the more I realize like 90% of Rebirth is on wooden rails. That’s seriously just because we rarely left Killington, and if we did, we were still really close to the area. It’s going to be sick to hit some shit we’re actually comfortable going sideways on, wood is so sketchy. We’re looking at hitting some spots in Canada, and like I said, seeing Jake in Rhode Island and shit. We got a new lens too, been a dream for Jake and I forever, that we never really expected to own. Maggie bought a HVX and her part is really a big focus. Other than that, just going to focus on getting better, filming some more b-roll, new angles… we’re learning a lot and can’t wait to keep going.

Looking forward to seeing it go down man. Any last mentions?

Shout-out to my Mom, have to start there, she is #1. Darkside Snowboards and the whole family there, Billy Langlands, Evan Ricker, Tyler Mills, Tucker Zink, Ron Chiodi for all the help on the movie, Killington Parks, and I mean you’re interviewing me, but Mike Garceau. There’s really been so many people along the way, and I know I talk for the whole crew when we say we can’t thank everyone enough for all the support. We’re stoked to start filming again, and I hope everyone has a great year.

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