Aspen skier back for 28th-annual Teton Gravity Research film ‘Legend Has It’
Colter Hinchliffe has — and always will be — excited about skiing powder.
“I remember my first powder day,” he said, recalling an afternoon spent carving through the Aspen Mountain trees with longtime friend Andrew Rice. “Just that feeling of floating down through the snow. … I think that was kind of a pinnacle moment in my skiing. I just truly fell in love with it when I felt that.”
During middle school, Hinchliffe hopped on a bus every Saturday with a bunch of other Basalt kids and spent the day riding with an Aspen Snowmass instructor. After his first powder day, the 11-year-old regaled his deep-snow tales all evening to his mom, who put him on skis around 2 or 3.
“I fell in love with the sport really quick,” he said. As he followed the older kids around, the group instructor’s passion for powder — and his knack for finding hidden stashes of it — rubbed off on the youngster.
“To me, it was just like freedom. It was my way to have fun and do whatever I wanted to do,” he said of his early experiences on snow. “I picked it up there and never looked back.”
The Aspen skier is featured in this year’s Teton Gravity Research (TGR) film “Legend Has It,” which is making its Aspen premiere at Wheeler Opera House on Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased at TetonGravity.MyEventsCenter.com, are $20 for adults and $10 for ages 16 and younger.
The film will also be shown at TACAW in Basalt on Oct. 14. The first screening is at 2:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at TetonGravity.MyEventsCenter.com. The second screening is a part of the WhiSKi Series, where there will be a whiskey tasting and Q&A with the production team and athletes at 7 p.m., followed by the showing at 8. Tickets are $75, which includes Tincup Whiskey tasting and a YETI x TGR gift and can be purchased by those 21 and over.
The 28th-annual TGR flick highlights Jackson Hole — the backyard of the “global leader in action and adventure lifestyle media” — as well as Patagonia, California, and Pakistan. Hinchliffe’s segment was filmed in one of his own “top-secret” Colorado locations, proof that the local instructor who inspired him some 26 years ago passed along the gift of locating untouched fluffy snow.
From dropping out of college to ski-bum in Utah — and from getting his Powder Magazine breakthrough in 2011 to filming his first TGR film a year later — Hinchliffe’s journey has been powered by powder.
Dropping out to drop off cliffs
As a teenager, Hinchliffe initially adhered to society’s pressuring, post-prep voices, enrolling at Colorado Mesa University after high school graduation.
“I think everyone is just pushed to go to college, and it wasn’t necessarily my parents,” he said. “I was never super passionate about school, but I was super passionate about skiing.”
He made the most of the fall semester, but something happened during his freshman-year winter break, which he spent skiing nonstop in his Roaring Fork Valley backyard.
“I was like, ‘What am I doing?'” he said. “This is the first time in my life I had the choice — you know you have to go to high school — and I actually made the choice to go to college when I could have just chose to stay home and be a ski bum. … So I right then and there was like, ‘Well, I won’t do this again.'”
He dropped out after a year and a half, ski-bumming in Aspen at first. A coworker at Incline Ski Shop in Snowmass had moved from Alta; Hinchliffe and Rice asked him one day about the Utah resort.
“It’s like ‘the wall’ all over the whole mountain, only they get way more snow,” Hinchliffe recalled him saying.
He and Rice “made a pact” and drove out the following September, applying for jobs at Alta, Brighton, Park City, and elsewhere. The first place to call back was the Alta Peruvian Lodge, offering a position in either the gift shop or doing laundry.
“I was like, ‘Which is the better job?'” Hinchliffe recalled. “They’re like, ‘Well, gift shop is way easier, but laundry you get to ski more.’ So of course, I took the laundry job.”
The anonymous Hinchliffe spent those early winters riding as often as possible, hucking huge cliffs and occasionally cold-introducing himself to famed photographers Lee Cohen and Steve Lloyd at the base of the hill.
“I would just walk up to them and be like, ‘Hey, Steve — I’m Colter, I want to go shoot with you someday,'” Hinchliffe said.
“And he’d kinda be like, ‘Oh yeah, do ya? Well, maybe.’ He thought I was a little bit of a joke for a while. And then finally one day, he’s like, ‘OK, I need someone to come out with me,’ and right away, we started clicking.”
Hinchliffe wound up on the October 2011 Powder Magazine cover.
“That kind of like kick-started my career,” he said. He started traveling more and doing laundry less.
“I was trying to make my name in the ski world and follow this path,” he said. “Any opportunity I got I would jump on it — I still am that way — and sometimes that meant creating my own opportunities. One of those opportunities that I created was going to Alaska.”
In 2011, he and a few Utah-based buddies jettisoned off to Haines on their own budget to shoot videos in the northern Alaskan Panhandle. TGR was out there, too. During the trip, TGR athlete Chris Benchetler twisted his ankle.
“And they’re like, ‘Alright, you can come with us to see what it’s like. We’ll film you, but we’re not going to put you in the movie,” Hinchliffe said. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t care; I’ll come.'”
‘Legend Has It’
TGR co-founder Todd Jones has traveled the world for 28 years in pursuit of groundbreaking action and cinematography.
“Over the years, we have collected countless stories and experienced extraordinary moments,” he stated in a recent press release. “This year’s annual film taps into these legendary tales — be it mythical storm cycles, heroic feats, or whispers of fantastical terrain.”
The “Legend Has It” roster includes the likes of Kai and Jeremy Jones, Ian Mcintosh, Tim Durtschi, and Olympian Maggie Voisin.
“If someone had told me at the beginning of my ski season that I would be heli-skiing in Alaska, shooting for TGR’s newest movie, I wouldn’t have believed them,” stated Voisin, who was elated to ski with her childhood best friend, Parkin Costain, in the film.
Hinchliffe described “Legend Has It” as “this eclectic, super fun journey.” When asked how the filming process unfolds, he said every year is a little different.
“There’s a lot that goes into making those decisions on where we’re going to film,” he stated, adding that sometimes he’s simply invited to an international trip producers arrange and other years it’s “athlete-inspired.”
“That’s how this year was for me, and I’ve been doing more of that as my career has progressed,” he said.
This past winter, he was out doing what he always does: “looking for cool stuff.”
“And I found some cool stuff,” he said. “I reached out to TGR and sent them pictures and videos, like ‘Look at this zone; I think we could make something happen here.'”
Of course, finding the ultimate powder stash is only one piece of the puzzle. Permitting and access complicate things, Hinchliffe explained.
“You gotta find a cool zone that’s not in the wilderness, that you can get permits for, that you can get cameras into,” he said. “So I did.”
He convinced TGR, too. “Which, it’s a lot to trust an athlete,” he continued. “Because we can just be overly stoked and maybe some of these elements don’t line up,” he said. “But they trusted me and came out and spent 2-3 weeks in Colorado and made some magic.”
Hinchliffe said many will recognize a certain hut included in the footage, but the secluded skiing site is much more remote.
“There’s probably a handful of people that would recognize the main area that we were skiing because it was pretty deep,” he said. “That’s pretty common with this kind of stuff; you gotta get pretty deep and away from people to find these little nooks that are sick.”
His portion is his favorite part of the movie, obviously.
“But I think whether I was in that segment or not, it would be a standout segment,” he said. “It’s got a lot of soul to it, and you can just tell that we were having a good time.”
Finding the next stash
Hinchliffe said he still is living the ski bum life in Aspen, though it might be a bit more refined and forward-thinking these days.
“As I get older, I’m just like honing things in; I’m always looking ahead and seeing what’s next,” he said. “I do love being in Aspen. It’s a great place, and I have a lot of connections there.”
He thinks his next phase of life could involve guiding, photography, or the classic but lucrative fall-back option: ski instructing.
“I’m not too worried about the next step,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the ride right now.”
Currently, he’s not luxuriously leaning back on a single sponsor paycheck but “ties the room together” with different video shoots and ski trips. He also does some property management and works at Aspen restaurants and rock climb guides in the summer.
“I kind of piecemeal everything together and it keeps my lifestyle intact, which is the most important thing to me,” he said.
The heart and soul of that lifestyle has never really changed from that powder day 26-some years ago.
“The pro skiing thing is great. It’s fun. It makes my lifestyle possible, but the only reason I’m doing this is because I love being in the mountains, and I love skiing powder, and I love the lifestyle surrounding it,” he said.
“No matter if I stop getting paid, stop getting free skis, stop being in movies, I will continue doing this for the rest of my life … as long as my body allows it.”
This story is from Vaildaily.com.
The Aspen Choral Society (ACS) announced its 47th Annual Presentation of Handel’s “‘Messiah,” taking place on Friday, Dec. 8, at the historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Saturday, Dec. 9, at TACAW in Basalt, and Sunday, Dec. 10, at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Glenwood Springs.