Parkin Costain could ski before he could walk.
The Whitefish freeskier cut his teeth on the slopes at Big Mountain and is now getting national attention for starring in the ski movie “Far Out.”
“I just feel super fortunate for how it all worked out,” Costain said. “Being like the younger 4-year- old kid or 7-year-old kid up on Big Mountain, all I ever used to think about was skiing — it still is all I think about.”
When he was 6, someone asked Parkin what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without skipping a beat, he said he was going to keep skiing and kept that passion throughout his life.
His parents, Pete and Linda, were avid skiers and it wasn’t unusual to see them toting Parkin and his younger brother, Ladd, around in backpacks while they hit the slopes or the backcountry.
“It was just us seeing if there were other ways to keep the kids involved from the get-go,” Pete said.
At 18 months, Parkin was skiing on his own. His talent showed through from the beginning, and Pete recalled his oldest son having good balance early on.
“The earliest memory I actually have on skis is probably when I was like 4,” Parkin said.
When he was 10, Pete suggested Parkin come along on a ski trip with a group of his friends, including some accomplished ski instructors. At first, they laughed. “They looked at me like, ‘what?’” Pete said.
Then he had an idea. If Parkin could beat them in some type of a competition, he could go on the guys trip. Later that day, they went up to Chair 4 at Big Mountain, which isn’t the fastest run. If Parkin beat them to the bottom, he’d go on the trip.
“It’s not a groomer, it’s a big, gnarly tree run,” Pete said. “They were just like ‘Whatever,’ and he did. He beat all of us.”
Now 19, Parkin is teamed up with Teton Gravity Research, a media company based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that creates films, advertisements and products geared toward extreme sports athletes and is producing “Far Out.”
It’s Parkin’s first film with the company. It follows several groups of freeskiers and snowboarders to Montana’s Crazy Mountains, the Albanian Alps, Slovenian Alps, Girdwood, Alaska, and Jackson Hole. Parkin filmed his part in Terrace, British Columbia, where he spent a month with the production crew.
“Now that things went well, we’ll just be stepping up from there,” he said.
It all started with Pete filming family trips, which turned into backcountry excursions, edits and video contests. Parkin did his first big mountain event at the age of 9 and around the same time started making edits, which are essentially supercuts of video footage set to music.
“He was the one who seemed to want to ski for the camera so it just kind of naturally evolved,” Pete said. “He took a really different path than most kids.”
Before things really took off, Parkin competed on the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association circuit for several years. It took him all over Canada and the central Rockies, and all the while he kept shooting and editing video.
At 13, Parkin heard about someone around the same age who won a TGR video contest and a part in one of the films.
“I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do the next season,” he said.
He submitted an edit to TGR’s Grom Contest in 2014 and came in second, which didn’t earn him a spot in a film but it made him even more motivated to win the next one.
“A year after that, we just went out and filmed everything we possibly could to make a really good edit and we were able to win the contest that year,” Parkin said. “So then I got in with the TGR guys and they started to know who I was.”
It wasn’t until he won Quicksilver’s Young Guns Ski Contest at 17 that things really started to take off.
“That was almost one of the biggest turning points for him,” Pete said.
The prize money from the contest allowed Parkin to buy helicopter time with a company called SEABA Heli in Haines, Alaska. Skiers are transported by helicopter to remote mountain ranges in Alaska’s northern panhandle.
After that, sponsorships started rolling in. And perhaps most importantly, TGR wanted to film with Parkin. He’d been on their radar for a couple years and stayed there through networking with staff and continually producing quality content.
“The owner of that company said ‘we’re not sure what Parkin did, but somehow he cracked the TGR algorithm’,” Pete said. “Getting with a major film company like TGR is super exceptional at that age. Part of that is he’s just a people person. It’s neat to see a kid — he wanted to be a pro skier when he was whatever, 6 years old? Lo and behold, there are you now.”
Parkin certainly isn’t the youngest skier to work with TGR — Idaho-based skier Kai Jones is 12 — but he possesses a maturity beyond his 19 years and an innate ability to anticipate potential danger.
“He’s got a great sense of direction, a great sense of what the weather has done or what it’s going to do to the snow,” Pete said. “He’s really environmentally aware. That’s kind of part of his personality. He’s very situationally aware, which helps a lot. He stays focused on what could become a problem, not just what’s going to be fun.”
Most of that is thanks to time spent in the backcountry with Pete and taking safety courses every year. Pete said he isn’t worried about Parkin getting injured because of his training and preparation, though there’s always an element of danger.
“I’ve kind of just been brought up in the mountains in a way where I always kind of look at the terrain in a certain way and I know I can ski it, I guess,” Parkin said. “Some of them can get pretty gnarly. I always feel super confident on what I’m going to see.”
Parkin trains in the gym daily, and during the summer he’ll train tricks and jumps in Park City, Utah, mountain bike and help his parents with their business, Terraflow Trails, a company that builds bike trails.
“He’s really methodical, actually,” Pete said. “In fact, he’s almost methodical to a fault in the sense that it’ll seem like he almost has a trick learned and it’ll take him a year to master it because he just doesn’t want to put himself in harm’s way so he just kind of waits until the time is right.”
Montana will always be home for Parkin, who will ski Big Mountain and areas like Upper Whitefish Lake and Seeley Lake and some backcountry spots when he’s around. He spends most of his time in Big Sky these days.
“Far Out” is available for digital download through iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Vimeo with select showings around the country. A showing in Whitefish in late October gave Parkin an opportunity to reflect on his accomplishments, while surrounded by family and friends.
“I didn’t really think it’d be happening at such a young age — I’m definitely not the youngest kid ever, but I still have a lot of years that this could happen and I’m excited that it’s already started,” he said.