Behind Tom Wallisch's world record
In the beginning, there was a dream -- and 480 feet of four-inch steel tubing welded into 12 sections for Tom Wallisch to attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the longest rail slide done on skis.
A snowcat moved individual sections to the pad of snow. When the rail was in pieces it seemed, well, doable. When they were lined up and welded together? Not so much. Watching it get put together, "I get more and more nervous when I see it," said Wallisch.
To ensure official status for Guiness, Wallisch hired a survey crew to measure the rail. The original setup measured 484.304 feet and, after the rail was reset, he cleaned 440 feet.
Nick Martini, Kyle Decker and AJ Dakoulas, of Good Company, are practically family, so of course they were there to capture every moment of the record attempt.
After twisting and turning the rail on snowcat forklift blades, a system of straps and levels and brute human strength were necessary to manipulate each section into place. "We tighten the strap," one member of Seven Springs' park crew explained. "Then we loosen the strap. Then we tighten the strap again."
How many attempts?
With more than 400 near misses in the attempt to get the record, frustration bubbled to the surface.
Over the course of the attempts, songs and audacious bets rang out over radios that kept skiers, film crew and park staff in touch. During one break in the action, as spectators at the bottom of the rail danced to Justin Bieber, or something equally as ridiculous, Wallisch could only say in a weary voice that he was, "glad to see all of you are going crazy, too."
Is that all you've got?
On the third day the wind kicked up, increasing the difficulty considerably. But by then Wallisch was already sliding far enough on the rail that an attempt that topped 300 feet barely prompted cheers.
It's not funny
"I think I've only got one credit left and it takes two," said Wallisch about the jukebox after his first full day of trying the rail. "So you're coming up short again," responded Tom Yaps, Wallisch's agent and producer of the shoot. Gallows humor, while cutting close to the bone, was not an unwelcome respite from the unrelenting pressure to get "The Record."
After skiing until sunset on three consecutive days, Wallisch and the crew focused in on bar food for sustenance.
"I can hear my mother screaming in the middle of sliding the rail," Wallisch claimed one day while his parents were watching. Only a skeleton crew remained when he finally conquered the record. Many who had been there for the attempts never got to see the one that will written in the history books.
Beginning to end
The view from the start was daunting. At the end: champagne.