From porn to docs: the ski movie revolution

Image courtesy Edge of Never Films

Image courtesy Edge of Never Films

Pre-season skier tradition dictates that watching a new ski movie in a theater is downright mandatory. The imminent arrival of winter buries the needle of anticipation into the red when snow lovers gather to watch the latest powder flick. This ritual usually involves teenage jibbers intermingling with faded, fleece clad free-heelers, sitting hip-to-hip in front of a hyper-active MC over-enunciating into a microphone while giving away ski swag and gear. When the lights go down, the entire room erupts into cheers as the first vision of winter in months flickers on the screen. However this year, skiers may be seeing a different kind of ski movie with the release of “The Edge of Never.”

Maybe due to the attention span of the current generation, the ski movie trend in the last few decades has been of the energy-drink, spastic variety. The films have gone from classic Warren Miller-style narrated features of people skiing on their home mountains, to the flash-bang, and gee-whiz tomfoolery of rock-stars-on-planks performing an assembly line of cliff jumps and park tricks set to floor-shaking hip-hop soundtracks. But changes in attitude toward ski porn is in the air, as skiers who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s have matured, and are looking for something new; namely ski movies with a lot more substance.

Enter ski filmmaker Bill Kerig, who has listened to (and vocalized) these complaints. Because of this, he has committed to changing the way we think about ski movies. He says, “For the past 20 years I’ve been griping and waiting and wondering why skiers didn’t have their big film. Every other sport I know has got these wonderful films. Skiing has never had it.” So, he set out to make one himself. In order to do that though, he needed a good story more than he needed deep powder and a camera. That story fell into his lap when he called up Glen Plake and said, “Let’s do a movie on the heart and soul of extreme skiing. Not ski porn, let’s do a real movie.” And Plake told Kerig, “’You gotta go to Chamonix… and if you’re going to go to Chamonix, you gotta go find Kye.’”

The tale Plake unearthed, which became the film “The Edge of Never” and is currently touring through mountain towns, is the story of Kye Petersen. Kye is the son of extreme skier, Trevor Petersen, who died in 1996 while skiing the Exit Couloir on the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France. Plake’s idea was bring take Kye to that place, where the boy would ski the slope that took his father’s life. Here was a real story, one that seems downright mythological in substance, featuring a young man who dares to ski the labyrinth of snow and ice that killed his father. At its core, “The Edge of Never” is a story about family, despite that fact that it’s taking place amidst the carnival of big mountain skiing.

edgeofnevershot

Chamonix, France. Image courtesy Edge of Never Films

Maybe “The Edge of Never,” will be the film that gives griping skiers what they’re looking for, since it’s a ski movie with (gasp) a plot. Sure, it stars all the usual suspects we expect to see, including Plake, Mike Hattrup and Kasha Rigby, only this time around they are characters in a narrative filled with subtext and meaning, a far cry from being caricatures of rawked-out stunt skiers mugging at a wide-angle lens while flying in a sponsor-funded whirlybird.

But the question remains, will a ski movie filled with such weight play well in front of crowds expecting jet-fueled ski stoke? Greg Stump, the filmmaker who revolutionized ski movies in the early 90’s, thinks powder hounds are ready. “It’s about time,” he said, adding that, “people aren’t stupid” when it comes to the hollow nature of modern ski movies. Stump is currently working on his first movie in 11 years called “The Legend of Aahhhs,” a “semi-autobiographical” documentary about the history of modern skiing that should continue this new storytelling trend. Add “Signatures,” an art-house ski film from Sweetgrass Productions, and a documentary about the Jackson Hole Air Force titled, “Swift. Silent. Deep.,” and the ski film evolution seems to be well underway.

As for “The Edge of Never,” Bill Kerig is rolling his movie across the continent in an old RV, offering up what he hopes will be the ski film that changes the game. “It’s a story about family; it’s a coming of age story. And I think it’s a story that will appeal to everybody.” If Kerig succeeds in giving us skiing’s big film, then maybe the future of ski movies will change for good, and film-goers might someday walk away from the theater with more than just fleeting ski-porn images that are soon forgotten.


UTAH outside

Promote Your Page Too

Leave a Reply