The drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon has become a staple in my life., Working for the Bird for nearly a decade, the seven-mile stretch of scenic beauty always raises my energy level. On a late September evening, I make the commute once again––this time to witness the 20th film by Colorado-based Matchstick Productions. Aptly titled, Superheroes of Stoke, the movie represents the culmination of many years of progression and cinematography.
The crowd is electric as Freeski World Tour announcer Franki Alisuag introduces the flick and initiates the perennial Swagfest. His voice permeates the ballroom as the team of product chuckers hurls free gear out to the audience. A girl sitting across the aisle from me nearly gets knocked out by a rogue sweater, and I am thankful they aren’t tossing out skis and poles.
Moments later, the room goes dark and the shredding begins. The ensuing action is all you would expect from a big budget company. Helicopters dropping off eager skiers atop a huge Alaskan face on a perfectly bluebird day get everyone’s adrenaline pumping and the crowd erupts.
The premise of this film chronicles the ascendance of the sport and the colorful cast of talent that make the impossible possible. The O.G. superheroes like Dean Cummings, Doug Coombs and Mike Douglas show off their skills and perform acrobatic feats on skis longer than your couch. 360’s and hip-checks off forty-foot cliffs were all the rage in the early nineties, and they set the stage for the next generation of stoke.
Transitioning back and forth between old 16mm reels and the new HD, 10,000-frames-per-second mayhem of today’s cameras, gives a deep appreciation for how the sport has evolved. To see a young athlete like Sean Petit or Richard Permin huck a cornice, land switch, and then proceed to gnarlschralp a 45-degree slope is breathtaking. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the powder monsters Mark Abma and local hero Leo Ahrens tearing up the trees of Whistler and getting lost in unfathomably deep snow. The invention of the stomp, the straightline and the pervasive tomahawk are also profiled as the progression unfolds before our eyes. Just as the intensity peaks, the mood towns back down and a tribute to the fallen brings us all back to reality. Smiles from those we’ve lost take the screen and we are reminded of the ever-present danger that comes along with these moments of joy. Sarah Burke, C.R. Johnson and Shane McConkey all had a profound impact on skiing, and we remember their spirit and all the work they put into their profession.
A well produced and over-the-top cinematic experience, this one needs to be added to the collection. Check out more of the stoke at skimovie.com.