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Video: Catching up with Air Jordan’s viral ‘Running Man’

Lifelong Whistler local Jaden Legate, 18, left a lasting impression when he put on a show for the Peak Chair lineup earlier this month.

It’s among the most beloved of Whistler traditions.

When the skies clear and the alpine lifts crack for the first time after a heavy storm, the lineup for Peak Chair fills with people eagerly anticipating steep, deep, untracked laps.

The crowd’s collective attention will eventually turn to looker’s right, towards the resort’s most famous double cliff drop. Inevitably, skier after skier (or snowboarder) will make their way to the top of Air Jordan, take a deep breath, and send it, treating the audience to a spectacular series of bails, stomps and the occasional backflip.

Some performances—like the time Julian Carr cleared both cliffs with a single front-flip—go down in the history books, but this season, few attempts (successful or not) have been quite as memorable as Jaden Legate’s.

Legate has lived in Whistler for all of his 18 years and has been ripping around the resort on skis since he was two. He attempted the iconic drop for the first time on April 5, one day after a spring storm dumped more than 70 centimetres of fresh snow over the resort in a 24-hour period.

It didn’t exactly go according to plan. Though the 18-year-old was one of several skiers to stack the landing off Jordan that day, footage showing Legate hucking himself off the first step, losing his skis, running forwards off of the second step—not unlike a stuntman jumping out of a burning building—and, most importantly, emerging from the tumble unscathed, earned the most attention as it made the rounds online. It even earned a spot on @jerryoftheday’s Instagram feed, where the video has since amassed more than 1.6 million views.

With Peak Chair now closed for another winter, Pique caught up with Legate to find out what it actually feels like to double-eject off Air Jordan—and go viral for it.

(This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Pique: Growing up in Whistler, has hitting Air Jordan always been something you’ve wanted to do?

Jaden Legate: Yeah, I've been looking at it for a long time. I was planning to do it for a few years but just didn't have the right people to go with or the right conditions.

P: What made that day the right day?
JL: Well, a friend of mine did it—we had kind of been deciding we would do it, and then he did it a week prior, so now the pressure was on for me to do it. And then the conditions lined up. It snowed quite a bit, and it was kind of the last day of the season that I thought was going to be good.

P: Walk me through what it feels like to ride up Peak Chair, drop in and know that you're about to stand on top of this cliff?
JL: It's a little nerve-racking, just because Air Jordan is so legendary in Whistler. But I've done cliffs that are similar sizes before, no problem, so I knew that I had the ability to do it. Or at least I thought I did. (laughs)

P: Part of Air Jordan’s legend is that it's so visible. Did the massive Peak line that day add any extra pressure for you, or did the cheering make you feel more stoked and supported?
JL:  It definitely got me hyped up to do it. I think there were four or five people who dropped in before me … by the time I was in there looking at it, everyone was cheering—or I think they were cheering—so I couldn't really back out at that point.

P: What was your strategy heading in? Was it just all about survival, or did you have a plan?
JL: My plan was just to do the first drop, which is pretty small, and then do one turn, and then do the second [drop], but as you can see in the video, I dropped in and right away, I just kind of hit a bump or got bucked somehow. And that's when I fell.

P:  What went through your mind when you realized things weren’t going well?
JL: If you watch the video, I kind of spin around, and as I'm getting spun all I could think about was getting forwards because I didn't want to fall on my head or backwards.
So I tried to flip around forwards, and at some point I lost my other ski, and then for a very brief moment I was sliding on my butt. But I knew I didn't want to just drop off the cliff … because I knew there were rocks down below, so right at the last moment I just tried to push off as far as I could … and I just was flailing in the air to try to get my balance so that I wouldn't land funny.

P: How scared were you after realizing you were about to ride a cliff without skis on?
JL: Yeah, I wasn't sure. I was midair and I was worried I would just hit the snow and my feet would go in and my legs would just break off or something, or I would hit the rocks … But thankfully the landing was really soft, and there was tons of snow.
It's hard to see from the video because there's a big cloud of snow, but I think I tomahawked once, slid down a little further and stopped.
I was a little bit shocked that I was OK, because I was totally fine—like, I didn't even pull a muscle.

P: How did it feel to watch the video after and see it go viral?
JL: I mean, it was cool, but I feel like there are a lot of other videos of people doing actual cool stuff on Air Jordan that should have gone viral instead of my video. There's people that land backflips off it, or other things that are actually skilful. (laughs) And then my video of me failing goes viral.

P: Have any of your friends been making jokes about it since that happened?
JL: Not really. I mean, I guess everyone's kind of calling me ‘The Running Man,’ but that's about it. There's one guy on Facebook, who made this T-shirt, I think it was in reference to that day about people hitting Air Jordan. He posted in Whistler Winter and said if you can prove you hit Air Jordan that day, then you get one, so I asked him and he said he was going to make a special-edition Running Man version. So that was pretty fun.

P: Amazing. Do you have plans to try to attempt it again next year?
JL: Oh yeah, I'll definitely go back.

P: Do you have any tips for anyone else who wants to try it out for the first time?
JL: You’ve got to be pretty confident that you can do it—it's a pretty serious cliff. It’s big, but it’s also that you need to stick the first landing in order to do the second one—that's a must, so that adds a challenge.
Also, some people that day, I think, did get pretty seriously injured when they fell off of it. I was pretty lucky in that sense, but it didn't go so well for other people.

P: What lessons are you taking away for your next attempt?
JL: I'm going to crank my DINS a little higher next time (laughs) … and just to know, also, when to back out. I could tell that the landing was pretty firm when I was going to go, and I kind of went for it anyways, so that may have played a factor in why I fell. But yeah, if you're not fully confident, don't do it and just wait for the right conditions, because you can always wait. It's not worth risking your life over; it’s just a cliff.

The featured video at the top of the story was shot by Andrei Mortila.