On the Hill: Film showcases a new direction of snowboarding | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Film showcases a new direction of snowboarding

Ryan Slabaugh
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

For those who care only about winter sports every four years, please consider this a plug to divert your eyes from the Flying Tomato for a second. For those inside the skiing and snowboarding world, please consider this a welcome to another fall filled with movies that serve as some kind of ritual, drawn-out pep rally for the upcoming season.

After months, maybe years, of hype, Travis Rice and Curt Morgan released “The Art of Flight” this month, a movie that 10 years ago would have seemed unfathomable, and is a good example of the unending attempts to bring winter sport action movies to a larger audience. (The best attempt this year is “The Ordinary Skier,” a documentary about the life of Seth Morrison.)

To be clear, “The Art of Flight” is not a mainstream movie, as Rice and Morgan had hoped. It is a snowboard movie. The riders cuss. They bleed. They spit. They perform beautiful acrobatics against a soundtrack featuring the likes of M83 and the Black Angels. But whether it is when they are flying into Patagonia and Darwin Island to meander down a horribly scary pinner chute, or Rice and Jeremy Jones finishing off the movie with their typical, “oh Lord” lines, it still assumes the viewer actually understands what the riders are getting themselves into.

It makes a decent attempt, though, to explain the risks. One segment shows Olympian Scotty Lago’s legendary jaw-breaking accident, which he overcame to compete at the X Games weeks later. His reaction after his crash – one of wide-eyed panic – made me queasy.

If the movie accomplishes anything, it shows Rice moving the sport in that new direction of freestyle big mountain exploration. Set all over the world, it leaves you with a taste that only a select few athletes could star on this rarely seen stage, and that the strength of the industries – both film and snowboarding – still lay in their refusal to stop progressing. It’s a tired word, “progressing,” but that only proves the point.

Jones – a Truckee, Calif., resident who has grown into the Robert De Niro of snowboard films – best described our viewer experience, calling out Travis as the best snowboarder in the world.

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And for Morgan, who did everything from casting to producing to editing, the movie wasn’t the best in the world, but that wasn’t his goal. It was the best of the year, without a doubt. Why? Ultimately, he proved in a beautiful thesis why Rice is truly an athlete worth knowing about all over the world. Not to mention I got excited for the season. After the credits roll, that’s all a fan can really ask for.

The Art of Flight is only 80 minutes, which means it doesn’t take forever to download, and you should download it. (iTunes; $9.99 HD, $7.99)