Beyond the Huckfest: Ski porn takes over Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Beyond the Huckfest: Ski porn takes over Aspen

The stereotypical snow-sports film is familiar fare for ski-town folk, with some tried and true elements: A bunch of dudes ride helicopters to peaks, they talk about how extreme they are, they brandish the logos of their sponsors, and then they huck a bunch of cliffs and drop some insane lines to a throbbing dubstep soundtrack. They yell, "Seck!" They repeat.

Well, that template is changing as ski porn aims beyond the huckfests and slow-motion pow shots to find something more meaningful and with more narrative storytelling elements in the genre.

Now in its 10th year, The Meeting — the Aspen Skiing Co.'s annual gathering of the tribes that brings the year's best snow-sports movies, leading filmmakers and athletes — showcases some of the latest examples of the new wave in ski flicks.

The Meeting's festivities opened Thursday with the NEPSA awards and continue through Saturday night with screenings at the Wheeler Opera House, at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain and at Belly Up.

'The Little Things'

"The Little Things," which has its world premiere tonight at the Wheeler, is emblematic of the thoughtful new strain of ski movie. Spearheaded by pro snowboarder Marie-France Roy and directed by Darcy Turenne, it profiles a set of boarders — Aspen's Gretchen Bleiler among them — who are weaving activism and environmentalism into their lives on snow. It blends thoughtful, sober profiles of their work with some crowd-pleasing ripper footage.

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Roy broke her neck riding in the backcountry near Whistler, British Columbia, in 2010. During her time recuperating from the injury, the Canadian rider took an interest in environmental sustainability, eventually building a cob house from organic and reclaimed material.

"You can't see it right now, but there's a huge amount of garbage in these walls," she explains in the film on a tour of her hand-built home.

Boarder Tamo Campos set out to spend a winter riding without using any fossil fuel. He converted a bus to run on vegetable grease and traveled British Columbia for a season without using chairlifts, hiking to ride, talking to kids in classrooms about sustainability and leading athletes to occupy oil drill pads and mining camps in the forest.

Bleiler, the Olympian silver medalist and four-time X Games Superpipe champion, is profiled lobbying for climate-change legislation on Capital Hill with Jeremy Jones, founder of the nonprofit Protect Our Winters (Jones' latest, "Higher," screens Saturday night).

"Boarding is what drew me into nature," Bleiler says in the film. "We need people to fall in love with the outdoors to then protect the outdoors. Without that personal connection, it's very hard to get someone protecting nature."

Megan O'Brien talks about stepping away from snowboarding to connect with her Native American roots. Mike Basich is shown building an off-the-grid house he uses as his boarding home base. Jonaven Moore talks about quitting snowboard competition to drop out and live in an Airstream.

"The Little Things" isn't your typical ski film, and it offers multidimensional portraits of pro snowboarders, offering some insight into what drew them to the sport and how the sport drove them to make an impact off the slopes.

All the proceeds from "The Little Things" screening go to Protect Our Winters and the David Suzuki Foundation.

'Days of My Youth'

Red Bull, Alan Watts and an old guy in a snowbound cabin are the improbable elements that combine to make "Days of My Youth."

The new Matchstick Productions and Red Bull Media House film, clocking in at just over an hour, crafts a subtle narrative that propels its high-flying on-mountain action. It shows the gray-haired man flipping through old photos of his ski glory days, making tea, chopping wood and reminiscing as audio of the British philosopher Alan Watts plays on the soundtrack.

"Forget the money," Watts says at one point. "If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you'll spend your life completely wasting your time. … Better to have a short life that is spent doing what you like doing than a long life being miserable."

Watts' philosophical musings fit surprisingly well with footage of skiers — representing the old man in his youth — shredding in British Columbia, Peru and Alaska, along with segments in Crested Butte and Breckenridge. Two years in the making, and shot with cutting-edge high-definition cameras, the ski footage is mouthwatering and will no doubt get you excited for the ski lifts to start spinning next month. But it's framed in a way that aims to get to the heart of why we're drawn to the mountains and what makes a ski bum tick.

There are far-flung heli-skiing segments and extreme cliff drops, avalanche-dodging runs through tight chutes and powder-choking backcountry lines. But there are also in-bounds segments of skiers clowning around on corduroy and one deftly cut section tracking a skier's development from childhood french-fry-pizza-pie lessons with Dad into a flipping, spinning, grabbing pro (portrayed by Bobby Brown).

A section following a group attempting the first ski descent of the southwest face of Alpamayo in Peru brings to life the risk-reward calculations of skiing the backcountry. It includes some insights from journals of skier James Heim and ominous footage of a dead alpine guide being carried out of the area past the film crew's camp.

The Meeting's screenings also include Sweetgrass Production's latest, "Afterglow," the new effort by snow-sports auteur Nick Waggoner, whose experimental, narrative-driven approach in last year's "Valhalla" was a game-changer for the industry. "Afterglow" comes in at just 10 minutes, but it's another artistic leap forward for the genre. Filmed entirely at night in the backcountry of Alaska and British Columbia, it's an ambitious movie and a technical achievement.

The Meeting's closing feature is the world premiere of "Shredbots the Movie," an irreverent, globetrotting snowboard epic that includes riders such as Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris.

atravers@aspentimes.com

The Meeting

Film Schedule

Friday, Oct. 3

Movie Showing #1, Wheeler Opera House

5:30 p.m. ‘Really Gotta Wanna’

6:30 ‘The Little Things’ World Premiere

Movie Showing #2, Wheeler Opera House

8 p.m. ‘Days Of My Youth’

Movie Showing #3, Sundeck

9 p.m. Gondola upload begins

10 ‘Ten & Two’

11 ‘Less’

Saturday, Oct. 4

Movie Showing #4, Wheeler Opera House

6 p.m. ‘Higher’

Movie Showing #5, Wheeler Opera House

8:30 p.m. ‘Afterglow’

‘Almost Ablaze’

Movie Showing #6, Belly Up

9:30 p.m. ‘Sol Food’

10:15 ‘Shredbots The Movie’ World Premiere

11 Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation (musical performance)

More information: http://www.aspensnowass.com

Tickets: Wheeler Box Office, http://www.aspenshowtix.com; Belly Up Box Office, http://www.bellyupaspen.com

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