Silver Couloir: Cody Townsend Turns the Camera on Bjarne Salén

This season, we’ve joined Cody Townsend as his mapping partner to bring you in-depth analysis on the lines he skis, beta on how to replicate them yourself, and some behind-the-scenes looks you can’t find anywhere else.

The Line

Located just outside of popular Silverthorne, Colorado, Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain is an iconic line that peaks at just over 12,500 feet in altitude. Its most notable feature is an amazing nearly 3,000 vertical foot descent. It’s frequently skied due to the access from I-70 and oftentimes a skin track will already be laid. The route starts at the Buffalo Cabin trailhead at the end of Ryan Gulch road. The entry point to the couloir begins at the top of a large “Y” shape in the rocks. The choke point of the couloir is roughly 30 feet, leaving ample room for turns. From there, enjoy the rest of the legendary descent.

Oh, How The Tables Have Turned

Everyone, knows Bjarne right? The guy giving high fives, fist bumps, and asking Cody how he’s feeling all the time? He’s one of the few people in the world who can keep up with Cody, let alone while filming. In this episode, though, the roles flip leaving Cody behind the lens and Bjarne in front of it.  

Who Is Bjarne Salén?

The Swedish-born ski filmmaker got his start as many budding videographers do—shooting his friends in his backyard. He documented “natural moments” following his friends around. At 20 years old, he moved to Chamonix, France, to start skiing six days a week for seven years doing what he loved—skiing and filming. He started professionally filming at 21 and the now 32-year-old owns his own production company named Endless Flow based out of Hood River, Oregon, where he pursues whitewater kayaking in addition to skiing. 

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The van-dwelling vegetarian has been known for his many interesting recipes such as the peanut butter and mustard sandwich. The affinity both Cody and Bjarne share for mountaintop snacks is reflected in Cody’s decision to name his own production company, Summit Lunch Productions. They both spend a lot of time with cameras in their hands during the making of The Fifty. The name of the game for this duo is light and fast. “The bigger the mountain, the smaller the camera,” says Bjarne. “In general, I’ve been using a Sony A7SIII with two different lenses—one narrow and one wide angle. I carry a couple of extra batteries, GoPros, audio equipment, and when allowed, a drone.”

Bjarne Salen on Silver Couloir
Ski filmmaker Bjarne Salen, ripping it up on Silver Couloir.

Avoiding Rookie Mistakes

The biggest piece of advice Bjarne had to share with budding ski filmmakers was to shoot within the means of the project. “For what we’re shooting, it doesn’t make sense to bring a big RED camera and stop the whole crew for just one shot. Just capture the moment. The key isn’t the equipment you have, but how you capture the authenticity of the moment,” says Bjarne. For them that often means just clicking on the GoPro or taking a quick snapshot. 

During the episode, Cody has all these cameras turned on Bjarne. Only thing is, in order to record you have to push that little record button. Well, as Bjarne recounts, “Cody is filming in the morning when it’s dark. He has a GoPro on his helmet and he looks hilarious because he doesn’t have his shit together with his cameras. So we’re filming for hours in the morning, and he’s like ‘I’m getting some good shots, man!’ and I say, ‘that’s awesome!’ And then when it’s brighter, he takes his headlamp off and looks at his GoPro and says, ‘F*&$, I forgot to take the lens cap off.’” Cue another tip for budding filmmakers—always check the lens cap. In this case, it was inconsequential because Bjarne had his own GoPro running.

Despite that snafu of not removing the lens cap, Bjarne has this to say about Cody’s presence on camera: “It’s a skill to be in front of the camera and say interesting things in a short amount of time so that the audience understands, and be natural about it. And Cody is really good at that.” With both of these guys out of their element—slightly—this episode is certainly a fun one.

Cody Townsend
Cody Townsend making sure he’s rolling with the lens cap off.

The Duo

Back in 2015, Cody and Bjarne crossed paths as the moon and sun did the same during a total solar eclipse in Svalbard, Norway. Cody was a skier on the Salomon team and Bjarne on the production team to make the award-winning film “Eclipse.” Upon moving to the States, Bjarne linked up with Cody a few times to rip around Tahoe. 

One of the reasons onX Backcountry partnered with Cody, and something that transcends many of the conversations about him, is the way he goes about decision making in the mountains. Bjarne says, “We’re a good match because we were on the same level. I told him at the start, ‘I want you to know I’m turning around a lot. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t give a shit about the film project.’ He liked that because he has the same mindset.” They both have similar approaches to risk assessment and the levels of risk they’re willing to take. Their combined mountain knowledge is something to aspire to.

Above all else, Bjarne is trying to give the viewer an experience in which they feel like they are right there on the line. He aims to capture genuine moments, cinematically but also with an eye toward authenticity. It’s a really ambitious project to ski all 50 classics, and one that has a great amount of ups and downs. While we can’t all be there with Cody, this series makes you feel a part of it. He’s one of the most affable people in skiing, and Bjarne plays a big role in painting that picture. And after all of the suffering, sleepless nights, and sweaty van rides, he still has this to say, “It feels great to be in the mountains with Cody.”

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Mitch Breton

Mitch Breton was raised on the shores of Maine's coastline chasing fresh snow, trout, grouse, and the best darn mosquito repellent money can buy. Covering topics from fly fishing, car camping, and beyond, he thrives on a story well-told.