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Like alpenglow, après skiing and hot tubs, ski movies are one of the wonderful fringe benefits of the alpine life, inextricably tied to the thrill of going downhill very fast. Whether they’re playing on “the big screen” behind the bar, or you actually saw them at a real big screen theater, perhaps even with the director providing live narration, they are an endless source of awe and stoke.
Here is a short list of a few of the ski movies that set the standard for the movies we see and way we ski, and how they probably even changed a few lives. Check it out, and feel free to compile your own top list.
Dick Barrymore’s Last of the Ski Bums is one of the few ski films to get an actual theatrical release (decades after Otto Lang’s Ski Flight). His round-the-world travelogue of ski bum Ron Funk shredding untracked terrain on 215s is one of the best examples of what ski films can be when they actually have some form of a plot. The following two sequences sum it up, from Funk on the ‘cook’s tour’ in Europe, to Bob Smith, founder of Smith Optics, testing his prototype goggles in deep Jackson Hole surf.
Scot Schmidt changed ski movies, and the very nature of the ski industry, by focusing on big lines and big air when everyone else was still skiing gates. In this clip, get an inside look at how he offered a new vision of what matters to skiers, and how his inspiration was welcomed by the most famous filmmaker in the business.
Saturday Night Live once did a skit about needing to be able to quote the classic comedy Caddyshack—“It’s in the hole!”—to succeed in business. Whether it’s “Chinese Downhills” or “Kiss-ass Blasters,” Hot Dog provides the same sense of shorthand for the slopes. This piece from Outside Magazine sums it up. As does the sweet Squaw Valley clip. (That’s Mitch Ryder singing, the lyrics are by Prince).
Matchstick Productions’ Claim celebrates and lampoons pro ski culture with a mix of unreal shredding from Mark Abma, Hugo Harrisson, the legendary Shane McConkey, and Sean Pettit, and some serious one-up-manship. One of the best ski movie trailers ever, this’ll make you want you want to call up your buddies and remind them you rip harder than the rest.
The crew at Teton Gravity Research has been shooting Alaska for more than 20 years (this year’s film, Tight Loose, celebrates TGR’s 21st season), with legends from Coombs to Sage ripping the steepest, most mind blowing lines on the planet. Here’s how they opened everyone’s eyes, and got their film company off to such an amazing start.
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How do you explain calling your mom while your skiing naked down a 50-degree couloir, then stopping at the bottom to tell a bunch of startled tourists that you’re, “The best skier on the mountain,” all in a bid to win $25,000? This trailer will explain it.
And you can watch the whole movie here.
Featuring perhaps the most imaginative, beautifully shot, cinematic sequence in all of skiing, this clip of the late great JP Auclair treating a small BC town like his own alpine playground set the template for the next age of ski films. Watch it, then get outside and get some epic turns for yourself!