Teton Gravity Research hosts ’Make Believe’ screening and whiskey tasting for a virtual Colorado crowd
Skier Colter Hinchliffe leads TGR team into Aspen backcountry
The release of Teton Gravity Research’s latest movie, “Make Believe,” was unlike any that came before it, as the gold-standard producer of ski and snowboard cinema attempted to reach audiences in the COVID-19 fall and winter.
Following an autumn-long drive-in movie tour across the mountain west and beyond, which brought “Make Believe” to Buttermilk in September, TGR added the film to its new streaming app and now is using it to bring the snowsports community together at a virtual Colorado party.
TGR is screening “Make Believe” in Colorado on Thursday night as part of its Virtual Whiski Series, which pairs a whiskey tasting with its latest ski/snowboard movie and swag.
The geo-located virtual event aims to bring some of the festive in-person experience of going to see a ski movie on tour – the bar, the giveaways, the mingling athletes – into a COVID-safe, at-home experience. It will feature a Q&A with TGR co-founder Todd Jones and athletes Caite Zeliff, Ian McIntosh and Nick McNutt as well as a screening of the new movie. TGR pushed early ticket sales in order to make sure participants would get its Ironton whiskey package and gift bags in advance.
This is the second virtual whiskey-and-a-movie event TGR has hosted, following one for states in the northeast in December, and part of an evolving business model for the production company.
“TGR is looking at doing more virtual events like this that still create that sense of engagement that goes beyond just watching the film,” TGR’s Mark Behrendt said.
Along with the booze and swag, the event includes a three-month access to TGR Premium on Teton Gravity Research TV, the adventure film company’s streaming venture. Normally priced at $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year, TGR Premium opens up access to the entire TGR film library – classic full-lengths like “Higher” and “Deeper” and all of the shorts through the years. The all-access model may be the best hope for feature-length ski filmmaking to survive this post-DVD era dominated by Instagram and the uncertain near-term future for film tours.
“Make Believe” features the scene-stealing 13-year-old phenom Kai Jones as well as a star turn from Aspen’s own Colter Hinchliffe, the TGR regular who is featured in a segment in Japan as well as one filmed in the Aspen backcountry (a rarity for the Jackson Hole-based TGR) who guides viewers through his hometown early in the film.
Reminiscing beside the wood-burning stove in his childhood home, Hinchliffe says, “It was just and inspiring place to grow up. We’d get enough snow in my driveway where I was able to build a jump and learn my first backflip.”
The shoot from early 2020 also includes skiers Tim McChesney and Blake Wilson snowmobiling with Hinchliffe to heavenly steeps and secret stashes in what appears to be some of the remote terrain above Lenado and the powder pillows near Independence Pass.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to spend more of my season at home and spend more time in the valley,” Hinchliffe says. “It was really cool this year to get up into those zones and make that dream a reality.”
At the outset of a wild series runs in the local backcountry, he explains how he’s found his spots: “There’s a lot of hidden gems around here that take a lifetime to explore.”
The inclusion of a Colorado segment in “Make Believe” and this Colorado-centric virtual event aren’t the only signals that we’re going to see a bigger TGR presence here – the company also opened a retail store in Breckenridge last month, its first in the state and its third anywhere following openings in Jackson and Bozeman.
The Aspen segment nods to the town’s posh reputation, with shots of shoppers at the downtown fashion boutiques and of a tiny dog in a onesie, Wilson noting “Apsen has this aura about it as not being as much of a hardcore big mountain skiing town…Then you get out here and it’s super rad. There’s a lot of nice features to Colorado.”
Hinchliffe, of course, welcomes the TGR incursion into Colorado: “It’s a great feeing to be able to get up into these mountains, brings some friends along and show them the magic.”
What: Virtual Whiski Series, presented by Teton Gravity Research
When: Thursday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m. and on-demand thereafter
How much: $100
More info: Tickets include Ironton Distillery whiskeys, custom YETI x TGR Rambler, Ironton x TGR flask and 3 months access to TGR’s entire library of films and more.
“Make Believe” is available for rent, purchase and digital download on all major platforms for $4.99 to $12.99 or on the Teton Gravity Research TV app.
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Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich started distance running in 1980 and with every mile he’s completed since then, he’s learned a lot about the sport and the crowd that comes with it.