Words & photos by Jeff Schmuck
The list of ski movie premiere festivals is getting longer and more prestigious by the year. IF3, IF3 Europe, The Meeting and others all take their turns dominating the media and ski moviegoer landscape each and every Fall, but it was nine long years ago that the first one of them all was born, paving the way for its successors and still enthusiastically continuing to this day.
Freshtival, the longest running freeski film festival in the world, celebrated its ninth anniversary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada last weekend at The Uptown Theatre, and as always, was brought to you by Fresh Sports, one of North America’s first (and best) freeski-focused shops, lead by its hard working and inspiring founder, Steve Saranchuk.
Fresh Sports & Freshtival founder, Steve Saranchuk.
This kid's parents told Gus Kenworthy they'd buy their son these skis if he signed them. That's how you make money for your sponsors.
The event's format (which in contrast to most film festivals' itinerary of one showing of each film) featured two showings of two movies on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 and 9:30pm (along with an afternoon special on Saturday afternoon), which gave Calgary’s multifaceted scene of hard core ski enthusiasts ample opportunity to take in the new flicks, all while scoring autographed posters to hang on their walls and the always enjoyable premiere mainstay of free swag to help get them that much more excited for the imminent arrival of Old Man Winter.
Free swag? Yes please!
Freshtival kicked off on Thursday night with showings of Oakley/1242 Productions' riveting documentary on Seth Morrison, The Ordinary Skier, along with Teton Gravity Research's powerful travelogue-themed offering, One For The Road. And while Lord Seth was unfortunately not in attendance, the iconic JP Auclair and consistently impressive Kye Petersen (who both play a major role in the film) were on hand to stoke up the eager crowd on Morrison's behalf, while all-around nice guy Callum Pettit and skiing's most adventurous outdoorsman Rory Bushfield held it down and then some for TGR.
Rory Bushfield, Kye Petersen, Callum Pettit and JP Auclair.
JP Auclair rocking the limited edition Sean Pettit Party Department Division of Giv'r Freshtival tee.
After the first night of films came to a close some of the athletes got after it Calgary-style in The Marquee Room upstairs from the theatre, before returning to the Uptown the following evening for sold-out showings of arguably the two most anticipated films of the weekend by the Rocky Mountain crowd, Sherpas Cinema's All.I.Can and Matchstick Films' Attack of La Niña. The hot and heavy demand for tickets to see these two beasts was so high that Fresh Sports' Saranchuk was forced to hastily schedule a third showing after the first two sold out, and after only a few days of doing so there wasn't a ticket to be scalped for that one either.
That's a lot of happy skiers.
On hand to present the porn and put down their most stylish John Henry's was an impressive flock of athletes, including JP Auclair, Kye Petersen, Callum Pettit and Chris Rubens, all of whom give next level performances in All.I.Can (most notably via a ridiculously creative urban segment from JP Auclair in the streets of Trail and Rossland, BC and some jaw-dropping big mountain slaying courtesy of Kye Petersen and Callum Pettit), while Sean Pettit, Gus Kenworthy and Ingrid Backstrom were in attendance for the MSP side of things, with mountain men extraordinaire Mark Abma and Eric Hjorleifson pulling double-duty by appearing on behalf of both films.
Chris Rubens, Mark Abma and Eric Hjorleifson.
Gus Kenworthy, Sean Pettit and Ingrid Backstrom.
Outdoor autograph signing...
Steve Saranchuk and his lovely wife Sarah then whisked away the athletes, filmmakers, media and their staff members from Fresh to a nearby restaurant called Muse for some seriously fine dining, and before everyone knew it, it was time for the third and unfortunately final day of Freshtival.
The Voleurz Family: Shayne 'The Schwank' Zwickel, Darren Rayner, Reed Speedman (blue angel specialist), Justin VDP, Tyler Holm and Bruce Giovando.
It was then that one of the most anticipated and frightening highlights of the weekend took place, the arrival of the infamous Voleurz Family, who have been touring around Western Canada in a rented (and already soiled) RV to premiere their latest film, That's Fine (click here to see when they’ll be partying in a town near you).
Following presentations of Inspired Media Concepts' Retallack: The Movie (which I'm sure most of you have already seen by now, and if not, spend 20 of the best dollars you'll ever spend and click here to download it) and quite possibly one of the best and most well-rounded movies of the year, Field Productions' Being There (which features a top-notch soundtrack and even more top-notch skiing, and was recently bestowed the honor of Best European Film), members of the Voleurz Family took the stage to introduce their new film and let everyone know just what Voleurz is all about, before skateboarder Tyler Holm demonstrated it by wrenching the microphone from Voleurz founder Darren Rayner's hands and farting into it...which was fine.
Field Productions' Being There...don't miss it.
Following the trio of afternoon films it was time for the sold out main event, a double presentation of Level 1 Productions' stellar new movie After Dark, Switchback Entertainment's critically acclaimed The Freedom Chair, and the winner of this year’s Best Film at IF3, Poor Boyz Productions' The Grand Bizarre.
Sean Pettit, Mike Henitiuk with some pretty stoked kids.
Local hero Mike Henitiuk (who originally hails from Calgary but has since migrated to Whistler) took his turn signing autographs before he and PBP’s Charlie 'Chunk' Grinnell introduced their latest magnum opus (which is very much a nod to Poor Boyz’ classic films of old like Propaganda and Happy Dayz), but not before After Dark left the throng of jib kids in attendance salivating all over their rasta-colored tall tees and The Godfather of Freeskiing and Switchback Enterainment's Mike Douglas (who also hosted Freshtival), presented his masterpiece, The Freedom Chair, a 15-minute short film on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Josh Dueck, which without question received the loudest and most appreciative ovation of Freshtival.
After the premieres were all said it done it was time for the Oakley Apres Freshtival Party at Julio's Barrio restaurant across the street from Fresh, which featured another showing of Voleurz' That's Fine, DJ J.U.Ice spinning the wheels of steel and too many bulldogs, tequila shots and questionable decisions to count.
Julio's Barrio...home of the always wild Oakley Apres Freshtival Party.
Mike Henitiuk, Sean Pettit, Callum Pettit and their bulldogs.
Voleurz' Bruce Giovando, Darren Rayner, Harvey 'The Great Wall' Li and Dustin Adams.
Now that's a good looking mustache.
The party itself was the official going away bash for JP Auclair, who is leaving his homeland of Canada to move to Zurich, Switzerland for the foreseeable future. So needless to say, one of freeskiing's forefathers was sent off in style, and in the words of Oprah Winfrey, instead of saying good-bye JP, we'll instead say...see you soon.
Mike Douglas and JP Auclair. Good luck in Switzerland JP, and bon voyage!
Big thanks to Steve and Sarah Saranchuk and their hard working staff at Fresh for their amazing amount of generosity and hospitality during another unforgettable installment of the world's longest-running freeski film festival. We already can't wait for next year...the 10th Anniversary of Freshtival!