Last week, it snowed in the city of Boulder, Colo., which led to an onslaught of missions for urban features of all types. Film crews from Level 1 and Stept were on the streets trying to take advantage of the uncommon opportunity. Cam Riley might have been the biggest go-getter of the storm, hitting rails from dawn to dawn with his friends at Stept Productions for as long as the snow persisted. Riley has made a name for himself with his high-risk urban antics and segments in Stept and Poor Boyz films. I caught up with Riley last week while he was on a brief respite between rails.
What rails did you do today?
We didn't have too much success in terms of movie worthy stuff. But we hit this closeout that we found on the CU campus a few weeks ago. And that was the first rail back for the season. Kind of gnarly, but a good way to kick it into gear got me back into the mode really quick. We ended up getting kicked out of that one. Then we moved onto this little kinky rail, that one was too sticky because it's pretty warm today. Then we went over to this rail a couple of blocks away from where we've been living the past four years and we all kind of sessioned that. It was a blast. Maybe got a shot on it, it's a C rail by the river.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to get something gnarly, since it doesn't snow in Boulder very often?
Yeah, in a way I do. I'm feeling a lot less pressure overall this year, more than I did last season. One, I'm not coming off of an injury, so I'm feeling really healthy. And then in terms of the Boulder scene, it never snowed last winter so it's been like two years since I've hit handrails in Boulder. I'm thinking about the ones that I did want to hit, and now that there's snow on the ground, I feel kind of like I need to get them.
What's the injury you're referring to?
Two seasons ago, on closing day at Breckenridge, I snapped my tibia and fibula. I ended up getting a whole bunch of hardware put in my ankle, and that made it kind of a tough recovery. I was out for seven months before I had all the hardware out and was feeling good enough to ski, so it was a slow start to last season.
Urban skiing is tough on the body. Didn't you also collapse a lung at some point?
Yeah. Right after I got over coming back from the ankle thing, I hit one urban rail, got one shot, and was sort of starting to feel it again. And then, the next feature I hit, I ended up falling 18 or 20 feet off of a roof to the pavement. I broke a couple of ribs and blasted one of my lungs. I was in the hospital for five days and out for another month.
Knowing you can get hurt so badly, would you say you actually enjoy hitting handrails?
I wouldn't say I enjoy it at all times, necessarily. I mean, I get really frustrated and pissed off at times. But there's a lot of fulfillment that I get out of the end result. I do enjoy the thing as a whole. I'm doing it with my best friends, and we've all got a common goal, trying to put together the best movie we can. It's a lifestyle we get into. It's nocturnal at times, staying up all night hitting rails. It's like going into battle. Something like that.
What's the most scared you've ever been on a rail?
It was a rail that we filmed for my segment in "Network" two years ago. It was a big closeout up in the hills in Mapleton, outside of Boulder. It was one of those things that I'd been eyeing all season and there were a couple days of work to get it ready. When it was time to finally hit it, a lot of things went wrong. I couldn't get enough speed, the jump kept falling apart. It was about the highest adrenaline level I've ever felt. We finally made it work and I remember doing six of the gnarliest hits on a handrail I've done in my whole life near death, near serious injury, every time, pretty much.
Have you ever backed down from a rail?
The first week I came back from my collapsed lung, I was just getting back into things and there was this really gnarly down-flat-down, like 18 stairs, flat, 18 stairs. I set it up and probably took about 20 speed checks into it and was about to have a mental breakdown. I couldn't handle it, and at the same time I couldn't handle walking away from it. It was a really big battle for me. I ended up walking away. I was extremely bummed out. I went to two more rails, ended up getting kicked out of the second one. Then I was like, '[Forget] it.' And I went back to the one I'd walked away from, and ended up getting it.