Teton Gravity Research’s ‘Rogue Elements’ documents a weird winter in Jackson Hole and beyond
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Rogue Elements,’ presented by Teton Gravity Research
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Friday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $7-$15
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com" target="_blank">class="Hyperlink">aspenshowtix.com; tetongravity.com
More info: Skier Hadley Hammer, who is featured in the film, will be on-hand for the screening, which will also include prize giveaways from REI, Atomic, Volkl, The North Face and other sponsors.
When a massive and unusually brutal snow storm hit Jackson Hole in February, shut down the ski resort for several days and knocked out power in Teton Village, of course the athletes and filmmakers from Jackson-based Teton Gravity Research were on the ground.
The 30-plus-inch storm is the backbone of the production company’s new movie, “Rogue Elements,” which blends epic skiing, snowboarding (and a bit of mountain biking) with the epically merciless power of nature. TGR co-founder Todd Jones, who directed the film with his brother Steve and Blake Campbell, said that the concept clearly made sense as the weird winter of 2016-17 took shape.
“It was not specifically the big storm in Jackson, but that certainly played a big role,” he said via email this week. “Tahoe was finally getting snow again, France was dry and Jackson just continued to get hammered by storms. We just started to realize the wildness of nature and what a role it plays in our films. Coupled with the wild nature of the athletes and their ‘rogueness’ it became clear that was a fitting title for the film.”
In a telling moment, the opening segment of the film begins with skier Sam Smoothy bailing on a particularly harrowing line in Pemberton, Alaska. Deciding it’s too risky, he calls the team’s helicopter back to pluck him from the mountaintop.
In the same segment, a humbled Angel Collinson says after a successful descent: “I may be able to ride this, but I’m not conquering it.”
And while we’re used to celebrating massive snowfall, the Jackson Hole storm segment features skier and Jackson native Hadley Hammer somberly surveying the damage and snapped telephone lines that turned the resort into a disaster area and caused millions of dollars in damage.
Up in Pemberton, British Columbia, we see the TGR crew get rained out. They go jeeping through puddles instead of skiing.
Along with these and other dispatches from an unpredictable season, though, Rogue Elements gives viewers the goods in crowd-pleasing ski porn segments (backed by a soundtrack that will be on everybody’s headphones on the mountain this winter).
High points include a high-flying segment featuring Elyse Saugstad and Dash Longe skiing a foreboding bit of terrain called Vertebrae Ridge in British Columbia. And in a wildly creative section shot in early summer, a skier and a mountain biker rip side-by-side down Corbett’s at Jackson Hole.
Jones said the idea of tossing bikers down the run with skiers was developed collaboratively with the resort.
“It was really one big experiment,” he explained. “There were many times leading up to the shoot that we didn’t think it was going to work. However, as I always say, ‘We are Teton Gravity Research, so let’s experiment and research gravity.’”
The camera work here is also breathtaking. Every year, ski films push the technology a little further, but the aerial shots in “Rogue Elements” seem like they’re breaking some key new ground. From the sky, the film moves from wide, panoramic vistas to closer shots following skiers and pan precisely from faraway drones and choppers tracking skiers as they rip down mountainsides.
The crew made use of an advanced helicopter camera system as well as DJII drones. But, Jones stressed, as that technology continues to advance, ski filmmakers have to keep pace with innovative storytelling.
“I think for us it is not really about technology,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, all the new technology has played a huge role in advancing action sports filmmaking, but it is really about the advancement of storytelling. You can have all the greatest equipment in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it then it is useless.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.