Photos: Jamie Walter

Ski movies, once upon a time, weren’t available for preorder on iTunes. Nor were they always screened in fancy theatres with black tie dress codes and velvet seats. In an era I can’t claim to have been a part of, premiere season lasted two months between the start of school and opening day at your local hill. People bought DVD’s and T-shirts, and drank to excess in ski shops, parking lots and local theatres wherever there was enough stoke and organization to throw together a premiere. No massive social media campaigns, no corporate sponsors, just a bunch of skiers getting together to watch movies. Like a weird, disorderly family on a Saturday night.

Along the line things have changed. Not entirely, don’t get me wrong, but as the ski industry gets older and starts to interact with the same factors that dictate the real world, the connection to the grassroots is getting frayed. Business is business and it’s hard to escape that, no matter how core you are.

Casabon to redirect on screen, at home in the shop

So on Friday night in Quebec City, I expected the norm. It was the first stop on Phil Casabon and Henrik Harlaut’s Inspired Ski Movie Tour, and they were kicking things off at D-Structure. The shop has been at the centre of freeski culture in Quebec basically since day one. It’s changed shape and location over the years but still represents a direct link to skiing’s roots. These days it’s nestled between a locksmith’s and a pita shop, overlooking the freeway.

Over top of the pre-show autograph session

We rolled up late and found our way inside. Groups of kids in bucket hats and knee-length hoodies admired new gear, and talked eagerly about the movies and which long lost buddy they were stoked to see again, mon tabarnak. Four or five miniature Casabons were chatting with Phil and Henrik while one of their moms looked on at her son’s shaggy idols. The shop hummed in anticipation of the Tour’s debut.

B&E photo op because in the end it's for the the kids

Product toss mayhem

As is tradition, the show began with a product toss and distorted thank-yous screamed through rented audio equipment. The lights dimmed and the shouts and cheers from the crowd grew, before the signature “i” of Inspired appeared on screen and faded into Keynote Skier. Phil Casabon’s movie is broken into segments, soundtracked by U-God’s album Keynote Speaker. Each one explores a different part of Phil’s year and different aspects of his skiing. Shots from the B&E Invitational are mixed with cliff drops from Europe in “Golden Armz”, while “Fire” is defined by Phil’s technicality and creativity. He hits the features that you scope out in your city but wouldn’t ever hit yourself: a gap off the flat chain-link fence onto a DFD, a closeout stall that pops back into a wallride-out. Phil operates on another level of creativity, and one of the movie’s strengths is it shows the effort and design that go into each of his tricks. In his edits, he doesn’t always let you see him fall; the tricks are consistently clean and effortless and you forget the amount of work required for perfection. In Keynote Skier’s final chapter, “Get Minez,” you catch a raw, honest look behind the curtain. No music, no colour, just Phil climbing the stair set, going to get the shot.

Keynote Skier teazer

Phil and Henrik taking in the movies with the crowd

More stoke, more fun

The in-between of switching movies was accented by the bw-bwah-bwaaah of hip hop airhorns. After a brief delay, the opening sequence of Henrik’s Road to Zion appeared on screen. Rap was replaced by reggae, and black and white burst out into colour. Whereas Keynote Skier showed the grittier side of the Inspired lifestyle, Henrik’s movie picked up on the sheer joy of skiing. It’s easy to throw around truisms about “skiing for fun”, as if we’re chiller than those assholes over there and everyone should remember to relax and just ski. Unless you embody those ideas though, you’re no more righteous than the next guy. Henrik might be the best skier in the world but he isn’t preaching about it. He’s waving to the camera at X-Games and the Olympics, tossing doubles off cliffs I wouldn’t hit straight and shredding urban; focused, determined and grinning. Road to Zion shows firsthand what it’s like to be really good at skiing, really enjoy doing it, and not really worry what anyone else thinks. And after all that, Henrik still found time to pay respect to Tom Warnick.

Road to Zion teaser

Maybe it wasn’t a full return to the glory days of ski premieres, but the Inspired Ski Movie Tour is worth your time. Don’t wait for these movies to turn up online, find your way to the shop or student union basement hosting a premiere in your area. Forget the glitz, get in touch with your roots.