In the beginning, TGR’s founders were a plaid-clad, duct-taped, long-haired band of brothers. During the mid-1990s, work was long and hard for Steve and Todd. The boys fished commercially from a series of two-fisted Alaskan ports to buy their first batch of camera equipment. “We spent months in fish guts to get this stuff,” says Steve. And with it, they pieced together their first film, Continuum, in 1996.
The brothers—along with TGR co-founders Dirk Collins and Corey Gavitt—simply went out with their friends and performed acts of deep-powder ski bravura. They worked as a collective, more a loosely affiliated crew of like-minded rippers than anything resembling a legitimate company. “In the beginning, it wasn’t even clear who was the talent and who were the filmmakers,” says Steve of the early days in Jackson Hole. They hiked in, ducked the ropes, and ignored “trail closed” signs. Radio contact kept them one step ahead of the ski patrol. Jackson Hole was where most of the early action went down, and where they continue to shoot segments today even as their travel budget has grown and allowed them to track snow from Alaska to New Zealand.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t even clear who was the talent and who were the filmmakers.”
They were simpatico with another local crew, the Jackson Hole Air Force, an extreme ski cadre whose motto is “first tracks out of bounds.” This guerrilla ethos served TGR well. It helped matters that they had some of the best riders in the world at their disposal, from their younger brother Jeremy Jones—who in 2000’s Mind The Addiction deadpans, “I learned to snowboard on a Cape Cod golf course,”—to Jason Tattersall and “Sick” Rick Armstrong. They were shucking themselves off cliffs and into couloirs, and soon redefining—and capturing on film—what was possible.
Some early reels of the expensive film were loaded backwards, producing weird, skiing-on-Mars shots that were useless. But they kept at it, learning on the fly. “We didn’t know what we were doing, we just threw ourselves in,” says Todd. In an office that consisted of a plywood desk on milk crates, Todd says, “We plugged in the phone, and we were like, ‘I wonder if it will ever ring?’” They mixed the footage down, added some music, and hoped for the best.
Continuum premiered in Jackson Hole and was an immediate sensation in the ski bum underground. In ski towns across the West, word spread that these guys—fishermen from Cape Cod, dish washers, scruffy high-plains drifters—had made a legitimate ski film. They followed up a year later with a bigger production called Harvest and began releasing yearly features to coincide with the opening of ski season.
They helped their cause by embracing technology. Their website, tetongravity.com, went online in 1996, years ahead of many ski industry giants. “Others didn’t understand it, thought it wasn’t part of their business model,” Todd says. Today, tetongravity.com is ranked as the highest trafficked snow sports web site in the world, exceeding hits from both the big ski magazines and ski manufacturers.