Neil Provo, Tordrillo Mountains. Photo: Noah Howell
The temps have finally backed off and the mountains are forecasted to get a light glaze of snow this week. It is the time of year when focus shifts from tank tops and flip flops to hoodies and jeans. It also means ski movie premieres are becoming the topics of discussion around the water cooler, or bar stool. I have been reviewing movies for SLUG for the past four seasons and have seen everything a typical premiere has to offer. When I was given the chance to review a film from the comfort of my own home, I jumped at the opportunity. No lines, no drunkards fighting you for a seat, and no ridiculous product tosses where you fear for your life. Just me, my computer, and a six pack. Roll tape.
PowderWhore's latest release, Elevation, is the anti-ski film. It lacks all of the ski porn qualities most big-budget films have made the norm. The soundtrack is mellow, the stories are real, and the local population is represented.
The opening segment is a time-lapse of over-crowded ski areas set to heavy metal. Sheer madness. Stacked parking lots, overflowing lift lines, asshole ski patrollers (aka: Fun Police), and the ever-present signage prohibiting you from having a good time. It is enough to make you want to quit the sport altogether. However, the next scene is one of a perfect powder field with a small cadre of riders floating effortlessly downhill. A feeling of solitude is nearly unattainable at your local mountain these days, therefore the PowderWhores have had to venture further afield in search of powder, sunshine and stunning landscapes.
“Alaska” is a word that gives most serious snow riders the chills. Endless expanses of mountains and glaciers provide a thousand lifetimes of exciting descents. Helicopters are the most obvious choice to access the goods in these remote areas, but not everyone has the deep pockets to charter these marvels of modern engineering. Instead, a crew of diehard riders like Andrew McLean and Noah Howell head to the Ruth Amphitheater via single engine airplane. This region is at the doorstep of Denali, the highest peak in North America. Its snowy ramparts and glacial moraines provide the perfect backdrop for the most adventurous camping you've ever seen. Stocked up on cheese and Fireball whiskey, these intrepid souls spent weeks exploring the valley. Poor weather and only a few safe line selections kept them out of the extreme terrain. “There was lots of moderate low angle terrain and a lot more walking. It is the act of skiing versus the act of discovery,” said McLean. Despite the weather, the team found what they were looking for: peace and quiet.
The film carries on with lighthearted skier spirit and some wise words from The Wasatch Wizard himself, Bob Athey. Tips like setting a proper skin track, not updating your Facebook page in the backcountry, and sharing your dope are given to the viewer. His crusty demeanor is a bit intimidating to most people, but he just wants to ski the powder like everyone else.
A particularly interesting part of the movie finds Michele Manning, Neil Provo and Noah Howell relocating to a distant corner of Washington state. It involves boarding a boat, transferring to a vintage school bus, and then being ask the question, “Do you believe in Jesus?” This atypical journey is to a place called Holden Village, a reclaimed mining town turned spiritual retreat camp. While most skiers can attest that they find their spirituality in the mountains, few are of the church-going crowd. These adventures have simply come here to find deep snow. In the wilds surrounding the camp, the group discovers unbound powder potential. Steep colouirs, unbelievable tree skiing, and perfectly spaced pillow lines are the order of the week. The blissfully unaware campers below have their own goals of finding life's answers, but these guys appear to have found a short cut.
Other notable segments include speed ascents/descents of the Grand Teton and Mt. Rainer, brotherly love in the Tordrillo Range of Alaska, secluded Idaho powder stashes, and backcountry sweethearts finding their dream cabin in the woods of the Wasatch. Elevation is a film that keeps it light and fun, while reminding everyone that there are no rules in the backcountry other than being safe and enjoying nature. Check out the film for yourself this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Brewvies Cinema Pub in Salt Lake City, or visit powderwhore.com for more info.