“If we want authenticity, we have to initiate it. Self-discovery takes us to the wildest places on earth”
– Travis Rice
An epic new trend of snow movies is upon us. For the last decade or so, the vast majority of snowboard and ski films have been the same one-rider-per-song format across the board. This was fine, as the level of skill displayed by the shredders was still progressing at an astronomical rate.
Every film featured amazing parts, incredible soundtracks and visual amazement in the best parks in the world. But all of a sudden, it seemed that everything had been done: the super-booters had been built, the panning helicopter shots had been exhausted, every bit of accessible back country had been accessed and every trick in the book had been executed.
There has always been a divide between the Big Mountain films and the dirty- in the best way possible way- street rail crews, yet within each of these factions, some began to emerge who were operating outside the norm. One of the first companies to do this on the big mountain scene was the Absinthe film company who amazed everyone with their first film, Vivid (2002).
Big Mountain epic Saturation (2003) showcased Alaska in all of its glory, featuring Travis Rice, Nichols Muller, Jeremy Jones and an awesome appearance by Victoria Jelouse, whose part in an otherwise all-male film opened the minds of the industry to the prowess of female riders. Their next movie, POP, also featured the first ever snowboard session over the massive one-hundred and fifty-plus foot to landing Chad’s Gap in Utah. Surprisingly, these movies were just a taste of what these riders would go on to do.
Also in 2003 came Lame by Robot Food productions; this movie strived to capture the essence of fun that occurs on a daily basis when pursuing the dream of a never-ending winter. So, too, did the DC crew with their hilarious yet oh-so progressive Mountain Lab films, shot in DC’s “super-secret test lab”, aka every shredder’s wet-dream. Films after that such as Burning Bridges and Love/Hate by Kidsknow showed us what good cinematography, outlandish urban fun and heaps of ciggies could do for a film.
Then came the turning point in 2005, when Blank Paper Studio produced Dave Benedek’s brain child, 91 Words For Snow. This movie harnessed the essence of the journey, not just the ride down. With beautiful cinematography, candid rider “interviews” (Nichols Muller in his finest Euro-form tells us how “you just need to get the feeling for shredding” in another of his timeless quotes) and a passion for the untracked, along with a stunning soundtrack.
Ultimate Big Mountain rider Jeremy Jones shows us the treachery of the Alaskan snow pack in Haines, giving us a real insight into what these guys are dealing with in the pursuit of the ultimate shot. We loved it.
While all this was going down, Red Bull was creating and funding an “Extreme Sports” revolution. With groundbreaking events such as the Air Race, Crashed Ice, Rampage and Flugtag, just to name a few. No other company in the world has done for modern day sports what they have, so it seems a match made in heaven: the ultimate sports companion brand and a group of people whose destination is the unexplored.
In 2009, Red Bull teamed up with Quicksilver and Brain Farm productions to back Travis Rice’s dream to show snowboarding to the world “the way they see it; a combination of joy and frustration and rage”, with That’s it That’s All. Then, in 2010, Jeremy Jones and Teton Gravity Research gave us Deeper (also featuring Rice and Blauvelt), a two-year filming project resulting in an epic trek into the untracked wilderness, going places never before touched by a human hand. These films were the start of the new snow sports filming revolution.
For a 2012 project, Red Bull have again teamed up with filmmaker Curt Morgan and riders Travis Rice, John Jackson, Mark Landvik, Scotty Lago, Jake Blauvelt, Nicolas Müller, Gigi Rüf, DCP, Pat Moore, Eero Niemela and Jeremy Jones, to produce what would have to be the most progressive, awe-inspiring film of the genre. Now, I profess to know nothing about film and the like, but I know that action snow filming is at the more difficult end of the spectrum. You have never seen filming like this.
“If we want authenticity, we have to initiate it. Self-discovery takes us to the wildest places on earth” says Rice in the opening scenes, where we are then taken by the Red Bull heli-team to what would have to be the “gnarliest” toe-in on the most precise of precipices deep in Alaska’s untapped glory where Rice rides the virgin line like it is a pack of perfectly groomed park booters.
Alaska’s notorious weather means down days are rife, but in true style, fun must be had and boys love their toys (namely large hunting riffles and explosive objects), then the almighty Red Bull choppers are powered up and the previously unexplored Alaskan region- “The Wizard of Oz,” so named by Jeremy Jones- is conquered.
We are then taken to The Andes where, upon viewing a collection of the rockiest, most uninviting chutes ever, Rice exclaims, “These look fun”, to which I would say everyone viewing the film thought, “No, they don’t..” But the boys slay them in typical style, taking no heed in the warning that a volcanic eruption is immanent- it was later agreed, as ash was raining from the sky, that “that could have been a bad idea.” This will not be their first brush with death in this film which truly shows us the extremes we are willing to go to in the name of adventure.
Down south to Patagonia, an alien landscape so weird, compelling and untracked that, against all advice and pleadings, the boys head into. It is the Darwin Range; “The place where the Devil lives”, according to their guide whose reluctance to take them there is apparent with the classic line, “What planet the fuck are you from?” But they do it anyway, risking life and limb for one of the most fucked-up chute lines ever.
The most apparent danger then comes when they head to British Columbia, Canada where the avalanche activity is through the roof, and in the one day, they nearly lose a man in a slide and then a chopper due to the ice. Little consideration is needed to leave the BC back country for another day. Onwards to Jackson Hole and Snowmass for some serious airtime, then back to Revelstoke in BC, where the fun really starts in the closing section with Rice and Muller at their finest, shredding like straight out of your X-box.
One can only dream of what they have up their sleeves next (ski movie, please?), but you can be sure that no-one on this Earth has even seen it yet.
Words: J M Copeland