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Profile: Micah Evangelista’s playful approach to Mt. Baker

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Micah Evangelista tosses a flat spin 360 in the Mt. Baker backcountry. Grant Gunderson photo.
By Oliver Lazenby

The first time Micah Evangelista experienced Mt. Baker’s deep snowpack, he was less than a year old and swaddled onto his ski-patroller father. He started to ski as soon as he could walk, and by high school Micah and his older brother Mattias were skiing more than 60 days a season. With a childhood like that, it’s no surprise that Micah, now 21 and a sponsored skier, is at home on Mt. Baker’s steep terrain and rumpled cliffs.

It’s the way Micah skis those features that’s surprising. He spins and flips through the air with a relaxed style that’s impressive by any standard. But the airshow is improbable for someone reared at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, where there are no manicured terrain park jumps, just the flawed and ever-changing launch pads and variable landings that Mother Nature provides.

Micah Evangelista. Cameron Munn photo.

“He views the entire Baker area as one giant park, but with soft landings,” said Grant Gunderson, a top ski industry photographer who lives in Bellingham. “Micah has some of the best style of any athlete that I have ever worked with. He is still quite young and I only see him further progressing in the sport.”

This season, Micah has some new sponsors and he’s hoping to build a future in the ski industry. After some time off from school, he’s back at Western Washington University working on a visual journalism degree and hopes to finish by next winter.

For those who’ve followed the Evangelistas’ skiing, the brothers could seem like a package deal. They have a close relationship on and off the mountain, having explored Mt. Baker together their whole lives. They also share a passion for filmmaking. Since at least 2011, Micah and Mattias, 24, have released to the internet yearly “edits” of each other skiing at Baker. They traded film duties and both contributed to the editing process.

Their videos got them noticed. Micah was 14-years-old when he and his brother started shooting with Grant, who had seen their video projects.

“Even at such a young age, I could see they not only had a lot of talent as skiers but a lot of motivation to do something with that talent,” Grant said. “Not to mention, their parents had already taught them a ton about how to safely travel in the mountains.”

Thanks largely to Grant’s photography, the Evangelistas landed in glossy national ski magazines as teenagers. Along the way they picked up a few sponsors. Steve Christie, director of sales for Backcountry Access, was one of the first to sponsor the brothers. He praised their marketing ability and gratitude. “They never left a brand logo out of their videos. They were also very grateful and inclusive of all the people they worked with,” he said. Christie also appreciated how humble they were.

Eventually, Micah started to outpace his brother in skiing and Mattias decided it made sense for him to concentrate on filmmaking. “I’m a good skier but I don’t have the natural ability that Micah does,” he said.

After graduating from Western, Mattias moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and now works with Stept Studios, a filmmaking company with roots in the ski industry. Though he still loves skiing, Los Angeles offers opportunities in film that are hard to find elsewhere.

“I’m super fortunate to get to work where I work and with super talented people,” he said. “I miss the Northwest, but for the time being there’s nowhere better for me.”

Micah Evangelista on the home run gap at Mt. Baker. Grant Gunderson photo.

This winter was Mattias’ first in Los Angeles. For 2017-2018, the Evangelistas spent most of the season together. Mattias got a gig shooting promotional videos for a chain of resorts in Japan, and Micah, Grant and a few others made their way north to south, skiing 10 different resorts in 28 days.

Micah and Mattias then spent three months at home in Glacier skiing and filming together. They’d ski all day and then come home to the editing cave set up in one of their childhood bedrooms. “It was so much fun,” Micah said. “We both have always enjoyed doing that with each other.”

The resulting film, Micah’s 2017-2018 winter edit, is their best work yet, both for the skiing and production quality. Mattias has come a long way as a filmmaker and Micah’s skiing has taken off in ways that surprises even his brother.

“I saw him do switch double corks in the backcountry and I’d never even seen him hit jumps switch before,” Mattias said. “He’s just good.” 

MBE: When did you and Mattias start filming each other?

Micah: I was probably 10 or 11 and he was 14 or so. We’d go and find little wind lips and jumps around the resort and just trade off filming each other. When we wanted to learn backflips, we built a little jump and filmed each other trying to backflip. Then we got some editing software and we’d put together the classic fun goofy video.

Did you learn tricks without the benefit of a terrain park?

Yeah, and I realize now that for trying to get good at doing tricks on skis, it helps a lot to have a terrain park. We’d always have soft landings because we’d build backcountry jumps, which are my preference, but it meant we had to hike the jump, try a trick once and hike up again.

We had a trampoline in our yard and I think that was actually a huge factor too. Bouncing on that for hours gives you air awareness. But it also does take repetition and building jumps and crashing a lot.

How did you start to get recognized for your skiing?

When I was 14 or 15, we started to make better edits. Now when I watch them, I laugh, but for our age and experience, I think they were pretty strong. We had short videos in the Mt. Baker Film Festival. We started to shoot with Grant and we got a few sponsors. Shooting with Grant was a great opportunity because we had never worked with a photographer of that status. We met him at the film festival and he’s always looking for people to shoot with. He was really kind to us and we got along great with him.

As kids we would just email a bunch of companies. It would be funny to look back at some of those emails because I was just a 15-year-old sitting at the computer. I didn’t know how to talk to these people. But it worked out and we made some connections. We first rode for this small company called Surface Skis based out of Salt Lake City.

I got a message a couple years later from the team manager at K2 and he had seen our videos. That was the first time someone reached out to me. I rode their skis for five years up until this year and loved them; there are a lot of really cool people on the team. I certainly didn’t make any money or anything but it fueled me to keep skiing and I really appreciated it.

Why did you switch to the Faction Skis team this year?

I’ve always looked up to them and admired them. Their riders really inspire me. What I loved about them is that they focused on media production more than any other ski company. They’re bringing riders together to work on video projects. That’s something I wanted to do at K2, but it never lined up and I think Faction is doing that better than anyone.

Dylan Hallett photo.

Do you have plans with them this winter?

I’m going to have a little athlete profile on the team website. They just sent me one of the brand-new GoPros to film a Mt. Baker POV episode. And just that is more support than I’ve ever had. It was really cool for them to do that.

I also just got on with this cool outerwear company called Picture Organic Clothing. They just struck me as a really solid and cool company. All their gear is made with recycled plastic from bottles and they use organic cotton. I think that’s something I can represent in this area pretty well. I’m hoping to start small with these companies, stay in contact, provide them some good content and build upon this year and take it from there.

Is skiing for a living something you’re trying for?

My goal is to be able to combine a career with skiing. If I could spend my winters making a little bit of money being an athlete and then spend the summers making video projects or writing for a magazine throughout the winter … something like that would be ideal.

I did take a year off from school and I was so stoked to just ski. But I realized I want to finish something in school and have another skill set. I always realized I was a pretty good writer and I thought journalism was a good path where I can combine my skills in school or as a writer with my love of skiing. Even in this shifting industry there are ways to find a role.

Does your brother’s move to Los Angeles make it challenging for you to document your skiing?

Yeah, it does a bit. We’re trying to figure out how we can collaborate because we do love working together. I know he would love to film skiing all winter and it’s on me to figure out how I can make it happen with him.

In the meantime, I’m doing a project with my friends Colby Mesick who’s a local and Sophia Rouches. She’s one of the best skiers around. We’re doing a three-episode series at Baker this year and we just finished up the first video of our series (called Waiting for Winter). It’s nice to work with some other people and see their different outlooks and perspectives.