Benny Milam’s snowmobile session with Levi LaVallee
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Action sports, in its essence, is a community at its core. Be it snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, motocross, snowmobiling or any other plethora of adrenaline-seeking activities, the one thing we all have in common is the urge to push ourselves to the limit and have fun at the same time. That was precisely the ideology of up-and-coming snowboarder Benny Milam and snowmobile legend Levi LaVallee when they had the idea of utilizing both of their crafts to start a session in their home state of Minnesota. “You know, one of the hurdles you have in the Midwest is perhaps the lack of mountains or the lack of good riding but if you get creative, you can still have fun in any situation,” said LeVallee, and that’s precisely what the duo did on that day.
In a flat farm field, you’re limited in your options of both natural speed and features to ride, but toss in some hay bales that The Land of 10,000 Lakes is known for, and the work ethic instilled in many flatlanders in action sports and it’s game on. Though this was Milam and LaVallee's first time riding together, it was fluid from the start.
“Levi is a really cool dude," Milam said. "He’s kind of like your stereotypical Northern Minnesotan that drinks a lot of Red Bull. He's a super nice dude with a classic Minnesota accent, and a lot of energy and hype. He’s the man. I had never met him before but I’ve always been a big fan.”
LaVallee shared in that sentiment. “The first time I met Benny was just before the shoot and, man, what a cool dude. He was just so laid back. It’s funny ’cause, thinking about where I come from in racing and snowmobiling — and all the Red Bulls that I drink [laughs] — I’m a pretty wide open guy. My whole mindset is wide open and Benny’s is just so chill. He’s like, ‘Yeah man, I think I’m just gonna go flip that,’ but when I go to do something crazy, I hype myself up. I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s do this!’ like, freaking out. But what a cool cat he is. He was super fun to be around.”
That camaraderie translated almost instantly, as the session not only escalated in Milam and LaVallee's tricks, but in the features themselves. As LaVallee hammered the throttle and Milam hit the bales, the idea to rearrange them into different combinations started to unfold. And then LaVallee started sending with Milam.
Though Milam is accustomed to ripping around on sleds, it was evident that he was in awe of LaVallee's capabilities on his machine. “Believe it or not I actually used to race 120’s when I was a little kid,” Milam claimed. “I don't own my own (yet), but I’ve been snowmobiling ever since I can remember. My old man always had a couple sleds growing up so I always had access. Everything Levi does is crazy, though. Watching him casually flip a 500 pound machine on a 20-foot jump was pretty unreal though.”
By the end of the session, nearly every combination of hay bales had been experimented with and almost every trick that could be done on them — be it snowboard or snowmobile — had been stomped, and Milam and LaVallee look back on it as an incredible day to show the action sports community and the world what can happen when two true talents collaborate.
“Who would ever think that we could shred a farm field with some hay bales?" LaVallee said. "Being able to figure out how to do that and build off of each other, I thought that was a really cool thing. Showing people that you don’t have to have the best of everything to still have a good time, and that’s exactly what we did out there.”
Milam's sentiments couldn’t mirror LaVallee's any more perfectly, as he looked back on that iconic day. “People will do what they gotta do to have fun mid-winter in the Midwest," Milam said. "Whether it’s finding a homie to tow you behind his snowmobile or building a snow drop-in to get speed for a backyard rail. We’ll do anything to have a good time in the cold. We wanted to give people a taste of the Midwest, and show them that you don’t need a mountain to have fun snowboarding.”
What Minnesota lacks in looming peaks, it more than makes up for in creativity, and in our culture and our community, that’s honestly all you need to have a good time. Take a note from Milam and LaVallee and enjoy whatever your environment provides you.