X Games skier and Aspen hero Alex Ferreira on making ‘The Scenic Route’
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘The Scenic Route’ at 5Point Aspen
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Jan 18, 7 p.m.
How much: $20-$28
Tickets: Wheeler box office; aspenshowtix.com
More info: ‘The Scenic Route’ is one of 10 short films screening at 5Point’s Saturday night program; Friday night’s program features 10 additional adventure shorts; 5pointfilm.org
What: ‘The Scenic Route’ at X Games
Where: Studio X Dome, Buttermilk Ski Area
When: Saturday, Jan. 25, 8:30 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: xgames.com
Like many young skiers growing up in Aspen, Alex Ferreira was a movie-mad kid. He and his friends would go to the annual ski movie premieres at the Wheeler Opera House, to festivals like 5Point and The Meeting, they’d beg their parents to drive them to screenings around Colorado.
“We always watched Poor Boys Productions, Level One, Matchstick — we couldn’t get our hands on enough content being kids wanting to watch skiing,” Ferreira, the Olympic silver medalist and four-time X Games medalist halfpipe skier, recalled last week between training sessions in Aspen.
He and his buddies, Ferreira recalled, would pass around YouTube parts and later, share Instagram and Vine ski edits. Skiing in the park, he and his crew would constantly shoot GoPro footage — with some like his Aspen High classmate Kyler Sciarrone shooting on a camera — and make short edits of their own.
“It was fun, for one, because we all wanted to see our trick and perfect it,” Ferreira said. “And then we’d have fun doing a little edit on iMovie, just kids trying new stuff.”
But his immersion in ski flicks also gave him discerning taste as he matured.
“These ski films are amazing and so much goes into them,” Ferreira said. “But while the tricks might not be the same, the overall feel of the film is very much the same year after year after year. You get a little jaded as you notice that. As I got older I said, ‘Wow, it’d be great to do a ski film that means a little bit more to me, that is a little bit deeper.’ ”
That mindset bred “The Scenic Route,” Ferreira’s first professional film project. The 22-minute film premiered in a nationwide broadcast in November on ABC’s “World of X Games” series.
It gets its big screen Aspen premiere Saturday on the second night of 5Point Film’s annual two-night presentation at the Wheeler, among 10 short adventure films. “The Scenic Route” also will screen Jan. 25 at Studio X in the X Games Buttermilk venue as part of a weekend-long film festival.
With introspective narration written and read by Ferreria, the film follows Ferreira around Japan immersing himself in local culture and doing some skiing. Filmed over six weeks last winter, following his ski season, it’s directed and produced by Matt Hobbs of the Aspen-based Vital Films.
They had originally planned to make a film built around nighttime ski shoots in Japan’s famously deep powder, using a light-up suit.
“The suit fell through, it didn’t snow at all when we got there, and Matt and I said, ‘We are going to make a travel and culture piece!’” Ferreira, 25, recalled with a laugh. “It just naturally unfolded that way.”
Ferreira began his relationship with Vital Films as a fan, following their releases in his childhood days watching ski flicks in Aspen.
“I’d been aware of Matt and of Vital Films’ work since I was a young kid,” Ferreira said. “But we didn’t know each other at all.”
Ferreira simply dropped Hobbs a line awhile back and asked if he’d be interested in working together. With funding from Columbia Sportswear, one of Ferreira’s sponsors, they went to work on “The Scenic Route” with an Aspen-based creative team.
The result is a nontraditional ski movie, an unexpected self-portrait of an athlete and a lively travel story. It’s not the ego-stroking, myth-building fare of many solo ski films, not the quick-cutting barrage of high-flying hucks you might expect. It’s not driven by adrenaline, but instead by Ferreira’s genuine curiosity about the world and how to live in it.
“It’s not always about the medals or glory,” Ferreira says in the film. “Sometimes it’s about the breath, the view, the people, the life we want to live.”
Ferreira has emerged as a global sports figure since earning his first X Games superpipe medal at age 19. He’s succeeded on the biggest stages in snowsports, winning X Games gold and Olympic silver and making a case to be the action sports crossover star who might finally fill the void left by Shaun White.
In competition, Ferreira performs with evident fearlessness, propelling himself into series of death-defying flips and spins two stories above the 22-foot-tall halfpipes.
And yet, taking the stage at the Wheeler in Aspen and being on-screen in his hometown with “The Scenic Route” is intimidating for Ferreira.
“It’s an amazing experience and a little nerve-racking,” Ferreira said, “because Matt and I are putting our hearts on the line. This film, it’s about who we are. It’s really deep into our lives and that can be a little scary. I’m a little nervous, for sure, but maybe it’s a good thing to let people in in other ways. It’s a new avenue to let people into my life and also to let somebody into the world of Japan.”
The film opens with Ferreira talking about cutting school to go watch Candide Thovex and Tanner Hall at X Games practice at Buttermilk, discussing his love for his sport and for X Games (“the Super Bowl of skiing”). It then cuts to his epic 2019 gold medal run in the Buttermilk superpipe before hopping to a neon-lit street scene in Japan.
“As I jump from one chaos to another, from competition to city, I find my next adventure in the heart of Tokyo,” Ferreria narrates. “The X Games lights share a similarity to this electric city. Bright, exciting, nerve-racking and, most importantly, mesmerizing. But I am not here for the chaos. I am here for the exact opposite.”
We then follow Ferreira on a trip to Hokkaido, where he skis its famously deep powder and meets up with a local friend, Yohei Maruyama, who he met at a comp in Europe. Ferreira, with his signature enthusiasm and wide smile, milks cows on Maruyama’s family farm, and samples the family cow tongue recipe while immersing himself in the local culture. He later spends time banging metal with a swordsmith, making a traditional Katana sword in the samurai style.
Ferreira draws comparisons between the swordsmith’s diligent practice and his own as a skier — the commitment to quiet work on mastering a craft and the eventual emergence of something beautiful, whether it’s a sword or a ski run.
The film closes with Ferreira returning to Aspen in a gorgeously shot slow-motion drone sequence, following him on a slopestyle run at Buttermilk. Over the spellbinding footage, an introspective Ferreira offers some lessons from Japan and his commitment to being “an eternal learner.”
“Traveling is such a phenomenal outlet to learn, not only to learn about the country but about yourself and how you fit into this jigsaw puzzle we call Earth,” he says. “Every time I leave home, I know I am in for a treat, new places to explore, new people to meet and, above all, a chance to take the scenic route.”
Ferreira is hoping to continue his work with Hobbs and perhaps to make a series of travelogue films. They’re still exploring funding options to make a second installment.
“I’d love to do as many of these as I can, all over the world,” Ferreira said. “It’s an amazing experience being able to go to a new country like that, absorb the culture and be immersed in everything.”
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The Aspen Fringe Festival has added a Friday night show to its FallFest 2020 lineup.