[Editor’s Note: Ski movies are great, but there are too many to see them all. Fortunately for us, Blister photographer and associate editor, Cy Whitling, makes a point each year to watch as many of the new ski movies as he can. So over the past couple months, I’ve been asking him to update me on (1) what he’s been watching, and (2) what’s good.
And since Cy is kind of a walking primer for what’s going on in the ski movie world, we’ve asked him to share his impressions to give you a better sense of the two or three movies that you might be most into this season. And Blister’s Noah Bodman and Jonathan Ellsworth have jumped in, too, to offer their take on a couple of these films (Conquering the Useless and The Great Siberian Traverse.)
So here is our take on the current crop, and be sure to let us know in the Comments Section about the movies you’re most into this year.]
After the Sky Falls
When the trailer for this film dropped I watched it immediately. Then I watched it again. Then I sat back and sighed a little, because I assumed there was no way any ski movie could live up to this trailer.
But After the Sky Falls didn’t just live up to its nearly perfect trailer, it surpassed it.
If you’re looking for the same old interviews about how “inspiring it is to ski with your bros and feed off their stoke and progress the sport,” then this is not the movie for you.
And if you’re looking to watch daredevils dance with death at every turn, this is also not the movie for you.
There is no talking, and precious little in the realm of “Holy Cow, he is going to die on this line!!!!”
However, if you want to watch the lines between art and skiing blur for 29 minutes, go purchase After the Sky Falls now.
From the understated opening credit sequence, through every well-chosen song, well-timed pow butter, and finely shaped booter, Eric Pollard, Chris Benchetler, Pep Fujas and crew paint a perfect picture of skiing, travel, and life in the outdoors.
I’ve watched After the Sky Falls four times now, and my interest hasn’t begun to wane. This is my favorite ski movie of the year, and it easily makes my top 5 list of all time. It’s tempting to wax poetic and try to sell you on how good it is, but instead, you should just watch the trailer.
Teton Gravity Research
Sometimes when you go to ski movies, you run into friends that you haven’t seen in awhile, and you end up talking to them during the show. This happened to me at the Paradise Waits premiere in Jackson Hole. That meant that during any slower segments, I regaled my companions with stories of my mishaps skiing directional skis for the first time down in New Zealand. Thankfully, the crowd cheered when anything gnarly happened, so I saw enough of the film to form an opinion.
If you’re looking for some straightforward ski porn with an upbeat vibe and some hard-charging rippers, Paradise Waits definitely delivers. It’s not the overly dramatic TGR movie of the past, and while there is still some incredible (and terrifying) skiing on display, it’s a much lighter film.
There’s the mandatory Japan segment, of course, a solid Boston segment from Cam Riley and Clayton Villa, and a light-hearted inbounds segment at Jackson Hole from Tim Durtschi. Yes, we do get to see Tim ski Corbet’s to a certain Cyndi Lauper song, and Yes, I did sing along. This movie is fun to watch.
But really, Dane Tudor and Angel Collinson steal the show. Angel’s segment has already gotten plenty of attention and all of it is deserved. If that’s what “skiing like a girl” means, then I’m going to spend the rest of my life in the futile attempt to try to ski like a girl.
However, the most surprising part of the film for me was Dane Tudor’s. If anyone thought that Dane had fallen off the radar, this is a rude reminder that he’s still here and that he still rips. Sure, the Magic Suit-wearing Dane of Every Day is a Saturday may be gone, but the spine-destroying, high-speed-straight-lining Dane of Paradise Waits is something to behold.
Paradise Waits may be the most well-rounded film I watched this year. It doesn’t cater exclusively to any one audience, it just delivers high-quality skiing that’s easy to love. So if you’re looking for a ski movie, pure and simple? Grab this one.
Conquering the Useless
Hot off his role as “that guy I saw on TV who skied that super skinny crack” Cody Townsend jumps right into Conquering the Useless and shows that not only can he turn, he can also walk up really steep things and ski down them. Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to ski films in the last few years, that’s no surprise. But what’s unique here is the story and the theme of the film.
Sure, this is a “ski movie,” but to write it off as merely that is to miss the point. This is a great story that should resonate with skiers and non-skiers alike. While some strong skiing helps carry the film (and ultimately moves it to culmination on one enormous face), the viewer is left with a lot more than nice images of good athletes skiing pretty lines.
In some ways, this is a coming of age story, a passing of the torch. Dave Treadway’s take on our dangerous and addictive relationship with the mountains is the kind of sentiment you never hear in a ski movie, and in some ways, it’s a sentiment we don’t want to hear. Conquering the Useless takes a tale worth telling and does it justice. If you walk away from it without your perspective on skiing and the mountains being impacted, that’s your fault, not the film’s.
Cy’s comments about Conquering the Useless hit the nail on the head, but the film is rich enough that there is still a whole lot more to say and to explore about it. As Cy notes, Conquering the Useless raises questions about our relationship to skiing and the mountains, but also (and in a way that feels very authentic rather than forced), asks us to examine our broader relationships, and what matters most to us. I’m not sure that this film is really about conquering anything, but it is certainly about examining everything. And it does that very effectively in a variety of ways.
This movie has plenty of adventure, beautiful skiing, and beautiful scenery, but those aren’t the reasons I’ve kept thinking about it since I’ve seen it. Elyse Saugstad, Cody Townsend, Chris Rubens, and Dave Treadway and all those who worked on this film have put together something special. And we’re going to be talking more about this movie soon…
NEXT: Small World, Fade to Winter, Passenger