Category Archives: Ski Movies

Lightning ski movie reviews

I had good intentions of building the reviews section of this blog into something of interest to more folk than just the friends who like to know what I’m up to, a sort of gear-and-related-items guide for folk like me who still have a lot of learning to do. But time seems to have been at a premium lately, and no-one wants to read a review of a ten-year-old downhill bike, so I’ll have to settle for a lightning round of ski movie reviews.

Way of Life, Teton Gravity Research: typical ski porn. Very enjoyable, absolutely nothing to make it stand out from ski porn of the past or ski porn to come.

Into the Mind, Sherpas Cinema: amazing spectacle on the big screen. Totally outstanding cinematography and some fantastic lines. Good effort at digging into the skier’s psyche, but ultimately it was about spectacle rather than storyline.

Valhalla, Sweetgrass Productions: on the small screen, this felt like it spent far too much time on hippy cliches. On the big screen, it felt like a hazy, beautiful dream from which I never wanted to wake up. Lacked the depth and resonance of Solitaire.

Elevation, Powderwhores: an entertaining romp through a variety of different ski worlds. Really appreciated the atypical coverage of things like the skimo brothers.

McConkey, Matchstick Productions: even if you’d never heard of Shane before watching this movie, you’d miss him by the end. A fitting tribute to the man who changed skiing for all of us, forever.

Lets Go Get Small – Official Movie from Peak Performance on Vimeo.
 
Let’s Go Get Small, Norsemen Productions: my personal pick for movie of the season. This is real in a way that none of the other movies are. To see Henrik Windstedt shaking his head afterwards, saying he’s not sure he’d want to attempt something like that again as Dave Treadway explodes with pure joy: it really lays out in black and white just how far some of these adventurers are going in their own backyards, day in day out, whether the movie cameras are there or not.

Choose Your Adventure

My latest download was Choose Your Adventure by the Powderwhores. It’s kind of funny that when I watch these things at home, I keep finding myself wishing for a larger television. Our current model is a 37″ HD, which isn’t exactly small, and I only use it for watching ski movies, offensive cartoons and the occasional zombie flick. We watch a handful of hours of TV each month and haven’t had cable in years.

But CYA did make me wish for a larger screen. This is a movie with heart. TGR and MSP movies are awesome, year in and year out. You know without a doubt that they’re going to provide big lines, heartstopping falls, and deeply moving moments like the In Deep Shane McConkey tribute or the CR Johnson interview in Seven Sunny Days. But what they rarely provide, in spite of each year’s effort to create a unifying theme for the movie and have some of the athletes reflect on it, are true stories. CYA is packed with them: intriguing, eccentric characters whose love for the snow is somewhere beyond rational. Sure, it also has the epic turns, the deep powder, and the unbelievable shots of skiers slashing slopes above the Antarctic ocean. But they’re almost secondary to the people in this movie, and that’s a refreshing change.

So far, this is my pick of the year. But there are a lot of movies still to come.

We: A Collection of Individuals

I always enjoy Poor Boyz movies, but they’re not normally at the top of my winter pic list. I tend to prefer the movies that focus more on backcountry and big mountain skiing than urban or park. There are only so many times I can watch someone slide down the same rail or hit the same jump, however neat the trick they’re pulling off, whereas I never get sick of seeing skiers rip big lines.

Having said that, I thought We was definitely one of Poor Boyz’ better offerings. Leigh Powys’s urban segment got off to a stomach-churning start – a flat landing and blown ACL – but he took jibbing to a whole new level that even I could appreciate. The big mountain cinematography was awesome, and some standout individual performances made up for a slightly lacklustre soundtrack and some rather cheesy dialogue about the importance of skiing with your bros. It was refreshing when Bene Mayr ‘fessed up near the end that he actually likes skiing alone, and the solitude of those moments with the mountain. That said, I’d be the first to admit that there’s never a better beer than the one you lift with your ski buddies at the end of an epic day on the white stuff.

Stoked for Superheroes

Fall is in the air. There’s a lingering chill in the mornings, small drifts of golden leaves gathering against curbs, a hint of mist hovering around the downtown skyscrapers at the start of the day. Now that I live near the mountains, this time of year is filled with an almost unbearable sense of anticipation. I’m sorry that summer is done – especially this year, when it passed me by in a fog of nauseated misery – but the air is full of promise for the winter to come.

It reached a fever pitch on Thursday, with the start of ski movie season. You can always count on MSP, and this year they didn’t disappoint. Huge lines, beautiful sunset shots on the jump I watched them build on Seventh Heaven, touching tributes to the amazing people who have come and gone in a sport that isn’t forgiving when you take it to extremes. Superheroes of Stoke is longer than the typical MSP movie, and yet somehow felt much shorter. It was a perfect balance between paying tribute to those who have gone before, and appreciating the astonishing feats of the current generation of superhero skiers.

Next up, TGR’s Dream Factory. I can’t wait.

Solitaire

It’s ski movie season, and J and I have been taking in as many as we possibly can. Attack of La Nina was so epic and deep that it made me mad all over again about missing two-thirds of the best season in history; at One for the Road it was reassuring to see Ian McIntosh looking in good shape after the horrifying femur-breaking fall that featured in the movie. The films, as always, were pure ski porn: huge cliff hucks, near-vertical Alaska spines, blower powder in the BC backcountry.

Then last night we hit the new Sweetgrass Productions’ film, Solitaire. Filmed over two years in South America without the aid of a single heli, cat or chairlift, this was a work of art as much as a ski movie. Lingering shots of windswept icefields and bones bleaching in desolate grasslands juxtaposed with the flickering embers of fires and a cat luxuriating in the sunshine filtering through the window of a remote mountaintop cabin. The action shots lingered on crystals hanging in air, the sheer scale of the landscape, and the power and beauty of the lines carved by skis in the snow. The movie was a testament to the stark beauty of the South American landscape, and the endurance and skill of the individuals exploring it.

If you only see one ski movie this year, make it this one. It’s a stunner.

SOLITAIRE: A Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding, and Telemark Film from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Ordinary Skiers

Last night I watched The Ordinary Skier, the two-year-in-the-making Seth Morrison biopic. There’s a section in the middle of the documentary where JP Auclair talks about Seth’s broken ankle and the impact of his year on the sidelines that put into words something that I never fully managed to articulate during my long recovery from injury and surgery. When sport is your heart and soul, an injury is more than just a limit on your physical activity. It’s more than the frustration of being set apart and left out. It takes your voice away; it leaves you mute.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of being injured again; especially another ACL injury. It’s going to be interesting, this year, to ski without the restrictions from last season. I’ll have the freedom of the mountain again: the open bowls and couloirs, the powder, the tree skiing and the jumps. It’s not like I didn’t venture into a few places that I shouldn’t have gone last year, but I was so painfully conscious that I wasn’t meant to be there and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes.

It’s the question hanging over me right now: will I be able to get back to where I was before? I look back at the days I had in 2009/10, in the early part of the season before I wrecked my knee, and I know that these aren’t things I could have achieved last year. Top-to-bottom runs in Couloir Extreme; full speed through West Bowl late on a powder day; dodging trees on Bark Sandwich. I’ve got a whole summer of strengthening under my belt and these days there’s nothing that my knee stops me doing, from hiking the Lions to trail running. But it’s not the same as it was before, and I don’t know yet if my head’s the same either. Last year I started the season with extreme caution that gave way to wild abandon when I first got back to Whistler, and then had to reign myself in after the abrupt wake-up call of the first falls. I don’t want this year to be about reigning in, or caution. I want it to be about getting back into the game, and moving forward.

I may be overthinking this. One thing I learned last season is that no matter how much I turn things over in my brain, not one of the thoughts matters the moment I get back on snow. All I really need is for the new season to start.