Marolt’s ‘World’ rotates around buddies | AspenTimes.com

Marolt’s ‘World’ rotates around buddies

Nate Peterson

The team in Ecuador

Longtime local Mike Marolt has been blessed with the gift of great friends.They’ve traveled around the globe with him, climbing and skiing together on some of the world’s tallest peaks.Over the last 20 years, Marolt has gone on some 30 expeditions with members of his “team,” a group that includes his 41-year-old twin brother, Steve, his cousin Jeramie Oates and two guys he’s known since grade school, Jim Gile and John Callahan.There are also pals Jon Gibans and Kevin Dunnett.”I’m spoiled with the resources of friends,” Marolt said. “Some guys go golfing. This group goes climbing and skiing.”That’s an understatement. Mike and Steve Marolt were the first North Americans to ski from the summit of Shishapangma, the 26,290-foot Tibetan peak, in 2000. In 2003, the Marolt brothers, Oates, Dunnett, Gile and Callahan skied above 25,000 feet on Mount Everest, making history with the first skiing footage ever captured at that altitude. They used no Sherpa support and no oxygen.Marolt and the rest of the group have also climbed and skied nearby 14ers, as well as numerous peaks in South America and Canada. Since 2000, when he captured his first high-altitude footage on Shishapangma – the world’s 14th-highest mountain – Marolt has filmed all his expeditions. He also has a huge archive of photos spanning the 20 years he’s spent trudging up peaks with his friends in search of virgin tracks. When asked if he wanted to make a short film for tonight’s NEPSA Video and Art Awards – the opening event of this weekend’s ski film festival, The Meeting – Marolt jumped at the opportunity. He saw a chance to pay homage to all the members of the group.”World Turns,” the five-minute film that Marolt pieced together from stock footage and photos, is essentially a buddy movie, he said.

“Most of us, we’ve been together since kindergarten,” Marolt said. “I wanted to do something for all the guys, because over the years, Steve and I have gotten a lot of the press. On an expedition, you’re not going to see standout performances. But people tend to pull individuals out of expeditions and make them stars. This movie is a little minihistory of the whole group with footage of everything we’ve ever done. It’s a tribute to the buddies that I’ve been doing this with for so long. …

“A lot of the movies at NEPSA focus on one individual, so it’s definitely something different.”Marolt’s role as an expedition filmmaker was born out of necessity but quickly grew into a passion. In 2000, NBC and Outdoor Life Network film crews followed the Marolts to Tibet for their expedition up Shishapangma, and Marolt was asked if he would help shoot some of the high-altitude footage. Professional cinematographers Pat Morrow and Cheri Silvera gave Marolt a crash course in cinematography, then let him learn more on the fly.

“They both taught me how to do the settings on the camera and how to adjust for light,” Marolt said. “I was immediately hooked.”In 2003, Marolt brought his own camera with him to Everest, where he captured the first skiing footage above 25,000 feet. From that source material, Marolt wrote a script and pieced together his first feature film, “Skiing the High Himalaya,” which he presented at the Telluride Mountainfilm festival last spring.Marolt’s second feature film, “Natural Progression,” screened last year at the Wheeler Opera House and was recently among 200 entries accepted into the International Mountain and Adventure film festival in Graz, Austria. The festival is the European equivalent of the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Festival, Marolt said.

Marolt’s next film will focus on another expedition to the Himalaya this spring. He and friends plan to climb and ski 26,906-foot Choy Oyu (as it is most commonly spelled), 30 miles west of Everest. They will also venture to Everest again.”I love taking the camera,” Marolt said. “That’s a huge motivation for me. I’m 41 right now, and in my prime in terms of skiing and climbing. But as I get older, I’m going to slowly start to lose it, but filmmaking is something that I can continue to do.”As on previous expeditions, Marolt and his friends don’t plan on using any Sherpas or oxygen when they head back to the world’s tallest mountain range in April. Marolt said they find strength in one another and enjoy the shared experience of earning every inch of altitude on their own.”There are not a lot of people that have the network we do,” he said. “We’re all lucky that we share the same interests. When you go to the Himalaya, you see these people being guided by professionals, because they don’t have the same kind of network. Having someone else help you get up the mountain, that’s so unappealing to anyone in our group.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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