Aspen skier Colter Hinchliffe takes home top prize at annual NEPSA Awards |

Aspen skier Colter Hinchliffe takes home top prize at annual NEPSA Awards

NEPSA Awards co-hosts Jonathan Oetken, left, and Travis McLain, center, talk with Aspen's Colter Hinchliffe, who took the top prize in Saturday's annual short-film contest at the Wheeler Opera House.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

Tossing together a few random clips and making it look like a major production has become second nature for Aspen’s Colter Hinchliffe. The freeskiing standout has spent the past few years working with some of the biggest names in the world of ski films, most notably Teton Gravity Research.

Still, it’s just as fun to come home and show off to friends in something as laid back as the annual NEPSA Awards.

“It means more to win here,” Hinchliffe said after Saturday’s show. “It really is nice to be here in front of the home crowd. It’s cool moving NEPSA to the main stage, because it’s really what we all are here for.”

The NEPSAs — yes, that’s “Aspen” spelled backward — have become the hot ticket among locals each fall. In its 13th year, the short-film contest is part of Aspen Skiing Co.’s film festival, “The Meeting.” Previously held earlier in the week, the NEPSA Awards were moved to primetime Saturday night at the Wheeler Opera House.

Also new this year was the addition of a photography contest, with a $300 prize given to the winner of all three categories: best action shot, most creative and best scenic shot. Those winners were Ben Moscona, Chad Otterstrom and Jesse Hoffman, respectively.

Featuring 11 short films, each no longer than five minutes, the film contest was more about getting stoked for winter than the $1,000 prize awarded to the winning clip. This year’s winner was Hinchliffe, who put together an impromptu edit from his time playing in the Whistler backcountry last winter.

“It wasn’t necessarily drafted for NEPSA, but just every year I try to make the most of every winter,” Hinchliffe said. “One of my favorite places to be is up in Canada with my sled, so I drove up there and made the most of it for a few weeks.”

Hinchliffe said he spent last January here in Aspen before a minor injury took him off skis for a while. Finally healthy again in late March, he made his way up to Canada’s famed backcountry where he met up with friend Todd Ligare, who had a friend who was willing to film them for a bit.

“That’s sort of hard to ask for, is finding someone to film you when you are driving into the backcountry on snowmobiles,” Hinchliffe said. “But it worked out and I was able to get a few shots in the can and I’m happy to show them off here in my hometown for all my friends.”

Hinchliffe had plenty of competition. Taking home the second-place prize of $750 was the film “One Season,” produced by local Brian Bitterfeld and featuring, among others, Doran Laybourn. If the title alone were what mattered, the third-place clip would have easily taken the crown. Winning $250 was the film titled “Suck it Vail” by local filmmaker Zach Hooper, which naturally went over well with the pro-Aspen crowd.

Unlike past years, there were no universal themes to the films this time, although NEPSA co-hosts Jonathan Oetken and Travis McLain joked that “Suck it Vail” would be a good theme for the 2018 show.

Hinchliffe’s personal favorite of the 10 other films was the show’s opener, titled “The Ride” by Mac Benning. One of the few films not centered on skiing or snowboarding, it featured Benning going on a casual bike ride with no clear purpose. Then, rather suddenly, the film ends with him getting blindsided by a car.

“It was kind of a shocker. Honestly, it was high production,” Hinchliffe said. “They were all great. The whole night was very entertaining.”

Now, with the stoke officially high, the wait is on for the snow to fly and winter to arrive. It’s safe to say Hinchliffe will drop plenty more good edits this season, although even he doesn’t know what they’ll be.

“I never really know what’s going to happen until winter gets here and it starts snowing,” Hinchliffe said. “No big plans yet, but I hope to capitalize as much as possible.”

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