Here on NS and in other corners of the skiing world, we talk a lot about the “golden years.” This halcyon era has a few notable traits: affordable housing for ski bums, a small cadre of pros with celebrity status, no Ikon or Epic lift lines, more pow days, and a selection of killer ski movies. I, unfortunately, can’t argue that we’re entirely reliving the golden days of yore. Ikon and Epic pass distribution clogs the arteries of our old favorite haunts, housing in ski towns is headed straight down the shitter, and the fabled ski bum is now more endangered animal than mythological creature. Yet, on the filmmaking side, it seems we’re entering another golden age, and this is why:
During freeskiing’s heyday, the movie circuit was dominated by a couple of heavy hitters. Fall rolled around, and you packed into your local theatre to watch the newest offerings. If you liked a movie, you could pick up a DVD or VHS copy to watch later. The 5 to 10 films that dropped each season covered the totality of the ski media spectrum.
Now, with the rise of consumer cameras, Instagram, YouTube, Newschoolers, and free high-quality video editing software, everyone’s making ski movies -- the tools for production and publishing are readily available for all.
Dimmu Toptur is an insane Norwegian metal/big mountain flick
This season, the democratization of the ski film world reached critical mass. What was once a small selection is now a tidal wave of short films, full-lengths, and solo parts. Take a quick look through iF3’s setlist, and you’ll see what I mean. Sure, there are the standard mainstays, like MSP and TGR, but exciting single-rider parts like Jake Mageau’s “Be Water” and Cole Richardson’s “Your’s Truly” make an appearance, too.
The craziest part about all this? Once Fall passes through, and winter kicks off, most of these films will release for free. Now, I’ll be the first to say it: making a decent wage in the ski world isn’t easy, and I hope those who produced these movies received fair compensation, whether through a travel budget or a paycheck. I’m more than willing to shell out cash to support those producing ski films (buy Forre’s newest film). However, I can’t help but pinch myself every time I log on to NS during movie season and there’s another high-quality free film or individual part (the three movies embedded here were all released in the last few days). We truly live in a time of content excess -- gone are the days of only getting to watch a few movies each year.
Speedbumb2 is another Finnish crew going HARD in the streets
Here’s the definition of democracy: “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned the “democratization” of ski filmmaking. Today, there’s a greater diversity of voices in the movie circuit than ever before -- women, not-white folks, and disabled people are visible in a way that they weren’t in the past, better reflecting the whole population of skiing. While we might be struggling with authoritarianism at the political level in the U.S. and elsewhere abroad, skiing seems to be trending in the right direction.
For example, take “In Your Dreams” and “Nexus,” two new films produced by women and starring only women. While still exceptions to the rule, their existence indicates that women are beginning to take up more space in ski media, a net gain. And, as we progress further, women-only ski films won’t be known as genre-busting paradigm shifts; they’ll just be ski films, accurately representing the varied composition of our sport.
Diversity isn’t just about representation, either. It can refer to filmmaking style, too. Tuning into a ski movie doesn’t always mean drone shots, 4K cameras, and cineflexing anymore. You can get fuzzy dad cam shots, truly interesting athlete stories, and movies that better reflect the average skiing experience if that’s your thing.
Rhythm in Chaos is another banger street flick
“Rhythm in Chaos,” produced by Lupe Hagearty and shot by Owen Dahlberg, perfectly exemplifies this diversity in filmmaking style. Produced for Deviation Works, the film is clean yet gritty, relying on hand-held camcorders to create unique perspectives. On the opposite end of the stylistic spectrum, in the world of traditionally polished movies (gimbals, drones, more megapixels than you can count), there’s plenty to choose from, too, like Blank Collective’s “Feel Real.”
The democratization of ski content is not without its pains. The rise of social media has turned the proverbial content firehouse to its highest setting, blasting us with non-stop clips. This challenge isn’t unique to skiing and affects everyone with an internet connection by cheapening long-form content. Scrolling through quick hit clips takes considerably less mental energy than committing to a 45-minute ski movie. When we only had long-form movies to choose from, we didn’t risk frying our brains before we got to the good stuff, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that losing the feature-length film to Instagram reels would significantly detract from freeskiing’s culture.
Similarly, all the tools that galvanized this secondary freeski media golden age, like social media, internet access, and consumer gear, are the children of an ever-accelerating technological takeover of our lives. Ten years ago, I had an iPod shuffle I exclusively used to listen to music. Now, I have an iPhone full of apps explicitly designed to fragment my attention and keep me at home, scrolling mindlessly. To say that our attention spans and need for real human connection are under assault would be an understatement. Loneliness, after all, might be the defining story of this century; a worrying prospect because ski movies truly shine when viewed in a community setting.
So this new golden age doesn’t come without drawbacks. But what era of plenty doesn’t? After all, every new solution presents a new problem. Technology blew open ski filmmaking but also exposed us to its nastier side effects.
Luckily, in the face of this challenge, we skiers still seem hellbent on getting together. iF3 is back in full swing, and countless film tours are roving the country this Fall. Last season, skiers crowded onto the slopes in record numbers to meet up with their friends and shred. Skiing’s always been glue-like that way, maintaining relationships new and old. And, with more filmers taking up the mantle every day, we’re better prepared to show off our sport than ever before. Here’s to living through another set of ski movie “golden years.”