Aspen left off Miller’s ‘Grid’
October 17, 2006
For the first time in five years, Aspen has been left off Warren Miller’s grid.As its title suggests, Warren Miller Productions’ latest feature “Off the Grid” is about going to unfamiliar places to tell fresh stories. That doesn’t include Aspen and its surrounding mountains. The lone local athlete featured in the film – the 56th to bear Miller’s name – is freeskier Peter Olenick who pops up in two segments.The film makes its Aspen premiere this Friday at the Wheeler Opera House. It will also be screened on Saturday and Sunday.”We asked ourselves, ‘How do we take up it up a notch cinematically and symbolically?”’ said director Max Bervy, the film’s director and a former Aspen resident. “We thought if the way to measure things is on the grid, then let’s take it off the grid. That symbolizes pushing it harder and going bigger. It’s about pushing your personal boundaries a little more. The film is unique and different in every way.
“It’s places you wouldn’t expect off the top of your head, as well as athletes doing things you wouldn’t expect to see.”One of the highlights of the film, Bervy said, is a segment shot in Kashmir, India, which features big mountain skiers Dan Treadway, Manu Gaidet and Shroder Baker.There’s also a segment filmed in Cordova, Alaska that features renowned backcountry guides Kevin Quinn and Dean Conway leading adaptive skiers Kevin Bramble and Monte Meier on some harrowing descents.The footage is unprecedented, Bervy said.”The goal is to have somebody walk out of the theater and say that one thing is awesome,” Bervy said. “It’s a unique format from other ski films because our audience is everyone from 7 to 70. We can’t be all things to everybody, but something always hits a nerve. … For me, the footage in Cordova did that. Kevin is in a sit-ski and the guy just rips. He looks like a mole running through powder.”
Bervy, a former Warren Miller athlete who has directed the last three films, said he believes “Off the Grid” is the best one yet. Not just his best, but the best out of all 56. And that’s not marketing hype, Bervy said.”It’s my favorite by far,” he said. “To make a good film, you’ve got to have four components: Good snow, good skiers, good weather and good camera work. We just got lucky this year. … Sometimes you just grind the gears on bad snow and weather and you try to come up with something. Our editor is capable of turning chicken poop into chicken soup, but we didn’t have to do that this year. We had so much good stuff.”As for Aspen, Bervy said he expects Warren Miller camera crews will return to the area in the near future, possibly even this year. He also expects to see a number of local athletes make appearances in forthcoming films. “There’s so many factors that go into it,” Bervy said. “I lived in Aspen for so many years and it’s really hard to reinvent Aspen every time and make it look different to someone in say, Sydney Australia. We hear from people all over the world who want to see certain places. Aspen is always a place we love to film because it’s so rich in ski history and heritage, but it’s always about finding new stories.”
The Colorado resorts to earn a spot in this year’s film are Vail, Steamboat and Winter Park. Film crews were also on location at various resorts in Utah and captured footage at Big Sky Basin in Montana.Last year’s film “Higher Ground” featured footage shot at Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk that featured a number of locals, including Klaus Obermeyer, the Olenick brothers (Peter and Michael) and skiing phenom Bridger Gile.The year before that, local freeskier Chris Davenport was featured in a segment shot at Snowmass for the film “Impact,” which also featured Gile.Davenport, a veteran of numerous Warren Miller films, has been busy with his project of skiing all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in one calendar year. That kept him out of this year’s film, Bervy said. He would jump at the chance to work with Davenport in the future, however.”Sometimes you take breaks from each other,” Bervy said. “[Athletes] take a break from us, and us from them just to keep it fresh. With Chris’ hectic schedule, it just didn’t work out for us this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him again next year. He’s a good loyal guy for us. You’re surely not going to find a guy to charge harder or go bigger than Chris. His skiing has so much style.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org