I’ve had a lot to say about ski movies (and ski movie trends) over the years. And, more specifically, the almost complete lack of storytelling.
If ski movie-makers made a film abt @StephenCurry30, it'd be 60 mins of made 3s, 5 mins of misses, all sandwiched by closeups of shoe-tying.
— Gregg Blanchard (@slopefillers) August 31, 2015
Bums me out, but this year's ski movie trailers seem to have regressed in their storytelling and returned to nothing but sequences of shots.
— Gregg Blanchard (@slopefillers) September 13, 2017
What do I mean by “storytelling?” Great question.
All About Meaning
In my own words, stories give events meaning by surrounding them with context.
Take a homeless man on the side of the road, for example. Does his plight tug at your heartstrings? Yes, of course. But add in a story of PTSD from Vietnam that led to decades of struggling to hold a job. Add in a wife who suffered with cancer for years before recently passing away. Add in a job that downsized during that time, leaving them without insurance. Add in kids who lost contact but who are just a state over if he could only get $10 more for the bus fare.
And…well…that moment when your eyes meet? There’s context. He’s not just a man asking for a buck, he’s a man hoping to mend a broken life. A life broken through little fault of his own. A life that, with a little less luck or worse timing, could have been yours.
That’s what story does. It gives every moment meaning.
What’s frustrating about ski movies is that each big line or trick has an incredible story behind it. A story of struggle and planning and injury and fear and risk. Stories of luck and more luck. Of overcoming odds. Of being the first or last or worst or best.
But we never get to see those stories. We just get…shots. Lots of them. Over and over and over. Year after year.
For a long time I’ve hoped for a clear, strong example of true skiing storytelling. Something that gives meaning to one trick.
Today, I finally found it.
Click play below but then hit pause the moment he lands.
Pay attention to what you thought about the trick.
A 720? Cool a decade ago…maybe. A grab? Sorta. Corked? A bit. But a far cry from the double grab triples you’ll see gracing screens this fall.
In other words, take this shot by it’s own merits and it doesn’t mean much. It’s nothing special. It’s just a random trick. Sorta like that random homeless guy on the side of the road.
But now watch the rest of the story.
And that trick suddenly means something very, very, VERY different. It’s a triumph over odds. It’s proof that something is working where so many other “solutions” have failed. It’s age vs youth, past vs present, hope in the future against settling for the effects of time.
In my opinion, every shot we see in every ski movie needs to do the same for nearly every key line and trick.
Tell the story.
Tell us why that trick matters. The odds that were overcome. The reason that line was chosen. The risk involved if it goes wrong. The conditions that had to be just right. The reward on the other side. The reasons it probably won’t go perfectly. These tricks are impressive now, imagine their power with the bigger picture.
Mike Douglas is considered the godfather of freeskiing, paving the way for what we see today.
Here’s to hoping he’ll also hold a similar place in skiing lore for his influence on filmmaking and, more importantly, storytelling as well.
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