Ski Movie Roundup

Small World
(53 minutes)
Level 1

Level 1 broke the mold this year, switching from individual athlete parts to location-based segments. So if you’re looking to just get your fanboy fill of Skier X and then skip the rest, you’re out of luck. However, Small World still delivers Level 1’s signature mix of heavy street skiing, creative features, and enough big mountain jibbing to keep everyone happy.

Level 1’s theme last year may have been making the most of Less, but that creativity definitely shines through in Small World as well. Sure, there’s no shortage of traditional, snowy segments, but for me the defining feature of Small World was the creative builds and features.

Tatum Monod drops some hairy lines, and Hoji, Kye Peterson, and Wiley Miller all bring their usual big mountain A-game, but the pivotal moment in the film is the wild Grizzly Gulch segment. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say Level 1 took creative features to a new level with this segment. And Mitchell Brower certainly proves that he deserved his win in Level 1’s Superunknown competition last year.

 

Fade to Winter
(58 minutes)
Matchstick Productions

In the interest of full disclosure, MSP is a big part of what got me into skiing, and I’ve watched more of their movies than anyone else’s. Claim will always be for me the “greatest ski movie ever made,” and I listen to “Jukebox Hero” whenever I pretend I’m getting rad.

So it pains me to say that Fade to Winter felt like a pretty massive miss, particularly when judged against MSP’s previous films.

Ok, except that I also really disliked their previous film, Days of My Youth. (I acknowledge, however, that others loved it.) But to me, Days felt like Matchstick was trying to force feed me a poorly told and overly dramatic story, and that undermined some incredible skiing from some of my favorite skiers.

I’ve talked about all of this quite a bit with Jonathan Ellsworth, and asked him if he wouldn’t mind just summing up Fade to Winter. And hopefully next year, I can go back to gushing about MSP’s new film. But here’s Jonathan’s take on their latest:

Fade to Winter focuses on the fact that the search for deep snow isn’t always a successful one, but that deep snow certainly isn’t a necessary ingredient to make for skiing fun.

That’s completely true and a good message, but it wasn’t enough to carry this particular film. The visuals just aren’t there; this movie doesn’t look good, and I’m not sure how that’s really even possible in an age of 4k cameras, etc. — unless it was an intentional move by MSP: take good footage and give it that instagram-filter look. Maybe you’ll disagree (and I hope you do), but this is an aesthetic we can’t wait for the ski industry to move away from as quickly as possible.

There is some good skiing (a brief Alaska segment provides a short-but-sweet ski-porn fix), and it’s genuinely fun to see Bobby Brown chase some kids around their home mountains on the east coast. But mostly, Fade to Winter left us asking, “What’s going on with Matchstick?”

 

Passenger
(65 minutes)
Legs of Steel

The production crew, Legs of Steel, isn’t on everyone’s radar, but they should be. Their films have a definite European feel that North American viewers may find foreign, but that is a terrible reason to disregard this ski film.

There’s a bit of a story here, but the skiing is strong enough that it carries the movie. Not all the skiers here are household names, but Sam Smoothy (whose FWT run last year still has everyone swooning) lays down some great lines, Tom Leitner makes Alaska look easy, and Russ Henshaw, David Wise, Rob Heule, and Markus Eder all make appearances.

There are the customary segments from Alaska and Japan, but there’s also a lot of great skiing at European mountains that those of us across the pond probably aren’t so familiar with.

Spoiler Alert: there’s no quad cork in this film (what you’re seeing in the trailer is just a huge, layed-out triple), but there’s certainly no lack of rotations, and Legs of Steel once again pulls off their signature move that makes you go, “What the $#*!? How did they get that many people in the air at once?!?”

If you are bothered by the sight of skiers in matching skittle-colored jackets and pants, you should probably avoid this movie. But if you like to watch impressive skiing (and in locations that you maybe aren’t so familiar with), you should definitely check out Passenger.

 

The Great Siberian Traverse
Sherpas Cinemas

I haven’t seen this film yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. However, our mountain bike editor, Noah Bodman, has seen the film, and this is what he had to say:

The Great Siberian Traverse feel like Wes Anderson was forced to make ski porn. It’s beautifully shot, and deliberately quirky every step of the way. Callum Pettit, Ingrid Backstrom, and Nick Martini [spoiler alert] travel by rail across Siberia in search of skiing, and partake in some uniquely Russian cultural experiences.
While these type of trips often seem to produce a film that is more about the adventure than the quality of the skiing, TGST actually does a pretty good job of capturing both. But in true Andersonian style, the strangely comic, squared and centered shots of day-to-day life provided the most entertainment.
At times it felt like TGST was searching for a more ambitious story, but ultimately, the brief vignettes produced from the various stops across the motherland are entirely satisfying in their own right, even if there isn’t a very strong Grand Unifying Plan that brings the package together.
If you’re just looking for a half hour of banger pow shots and hucks, this film most certainly is not that. But if you want to watch one of the Russian locals rip it up on hand made skis with sketchy leather bindings and climbing skins made from actual skin used to get up the hill, TGST has you covered. (And there are still some banger pow shots, too.)

Jumbo Wild
Sweetgrass Producitons

While I’m a huge fan of Sweetgrass (Valhalla is another one of my top 5 ski movies ever), I haven’t given Jumbo Wild a watch yet for several reasons. First, because it looks like more of a political documentary than a ski movie. That’s great, but I already agree with the point of the film (keeping Jumbo wild), and it’s not yet available on iTunes. That said, Jumbo Wild will probably be a film well worth watching

3 comments on “Ski Movie Roundup”

  1. I’ve had the privilege to show Degrees North (Giudo Perrini’s movie with Xavier de Le Rue, Ralph Backstrom and Sam Anthamatten, in Svalbard and Alaska) in the Milano Montagna Festival and it’s a stellar movie. Highly recommended.

  2. No upcoming review of that other Petit brother’s (remember when Callum was the other Petit)? Superproof indie flick The Masquerade?

    • Good catch Liam! Haven’t seen The Masquerade yet, and haven’t really had the urge to. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Recruitment, while it had some good skiing, I didn’t buy the “story” that was being told, it just didn’t feel like a ski movie, and that “Keep Your Tips Up” show isn’t getting me too excited about this year’s film either. I’ll probably give The Masquerade a watch if they do a free release again like last year. Have you seen the film?

      And I agree, it’s really interesting to see how both Pettit brothers have found success.

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