Like a Lion

Posted February 2, 2011 in

Like a Lion


Director: Eric Iberg & Shane Nelson

When I walked into this show I figured it would be a glorified piece about how badass Tanner Hall thinks he is.  However, a few minutes into the film, it was abundantly clear the main focus of the documentary was about how fucked up he is.  By that I mean he has gone through a lot of ups and downs to get where he is today. 

Tanner grew up in the small mountain town of Kalispell, Montana and told his mother at an early age that he was going to make money skiing.  His skeptical, yet supportive, mother told him to follow that vision.  Little did she know the free-skiing phenomenon her son would eventually become. “School was like a prison for me,” comments Tanner in the film.  His energetic spirit and short attention span made it difficult for the faculty to teach him. He had an incredibly smart-mouth and very little respect for authority.  Director, Eric Iberg does a terrific job highlighting the checkered days of Tanner’s youth and the film’s original soundtrack delivers extra emotional appeal.  By age ten, Hall had come into his own as an accomplished mogul skier and idolized skiers like Glenn Plake.  He identified with Plake’s “fuck the real world, let’s go skiing” attitude and wanted to be like him.  As Tanner began hanging out with more ski bums, he also began partying like one.  “That kid was drinking like a man at age ten or eleven, and we’d be like, what the hell?” said one of his early influences.  Partying and skiing consumed Hall’s mind and he eventually convinced his parents to let him enroll at the Winter Sports School (WSS) in Park City, UT.  From that moment on, Hall began his course towards free-skiing fame.

At this point in the film, Iberg portrays the rapid succession of events that led to Hall’s rise to stardom.  At age 15, Tanner moved in with some local skiers who were in their early twenties, which further reinforced his party-hungry lifestyle. Despite his parent’s requests, Tanner dropped out of school and teamed up with the young Eric Iberg to start making ski movies.  His talents were quickly recognized and Hall received sponsorship from Rossi and Oakley.  He soon began playing into the ‘gangsta-steez’ persona and his image set of a shockwave across the industry.  By age 17, Tanner was stepping it up at the Winter X-Games and pulling in gold medals in Big Air.  As Tanner moved into adulthood, he had to start being accountable for his actions, which he realized as he sat in a jail cell in Vail, Colorado.  Worried that their son would ruin his entire career by being reckless, his parents gave him one last chance to get his shit together. 

Trying to make good on his promise to his mom and dad, Hall continued winning medals and making movies.  His name became synonymous with the future of free-skiing and he continued to push the envelope.  During a photo shoot at Alta, Tanner came up short on the infamous Chad’s Gap and shattered booth ankles.  His chilling screams give the viewer a real sense of the price athletes pay to progress their sport.  However, Tanner came back stronger and won the 2006 Winter X Gold in Superpipe.  Determined to keep up the level of progression, he again fell out of the sky and ended up breaking both legs and exploding both knees at a film shoot in Washington.  This crushing blow set Tanner back, but it was nothing compared to what happened next.  In February of 2010, Hall’s closest friend, C.R. Johnson, was killed in skiing accident in Squaw Valley.  Johnson’s death floored Tanner and he was forced to contemplate his future in the sport.  Using his friend’s death as a motivator to push ahead, Tanner has recovered from his physical and mental injuries to keep his presence at the forefront of skiing.