Pumped for powder

by • October 12, 2016 • Highlights, trailmixComments (0)945

Get psyched for winter with these new ski film premieres

Even if there isn’t snow on the ground yet, the anticipation is building for winter. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts are itching to quit the shoulder season and strap on their slabs.

Watching the latest ski and snowboard film premieres amps that anticipation to adrenaline-jolting levels.

“I just returned from the premiere in L.A., and there were 5,000 people there,” said Christopher Owens of the long-awaited Red Bull Productions film, “The Fourth Phase.” The film is a follow-up, four years in the making, to “The Art of Flight,” considered by many to be the best mountain and snowsport film ever made.

Owens, owner of EpicQuest Adventures, and the Red Bull connection for all filming and logistics that took place in Alaska, said the company cut no corners in making the “The Fourth Phase” a film worth the wait.

“Red Bull has a way of putting energy behind a production that you don’t see in other places,” he said. “It was supposed to be a two-year project and we didn’t feel we had the film we needed, so we kept going. Most mountain companies crank out a film a year. There was really just a ton of patience and foresight that went into this, and it’s super exciting.”

So, what will you see in “The Fourth Phase”? The movie premieres Oct. 2 in a unique way – it airs free on Red Bull TV, which can be accessed through such viewing platforms as Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and other streaming options. It airs at 9 p.m., no matter the time zone and premiere parties can be set up in private homes or the public. In Anchorage, two locales will air the film on big screens – Blue and Gold Board Shop and Williwaw.

“The film stars (top-ranking snowboarder) Travis Rice, and it follows him around on a 16,000-mile journey around the North Pacific gyre, following the weather to get the best footage,” said Red Bull’s Marco Prokop. In following natural weather patterns, Rice often rode in uncharted locations. In this sense, the film is as much about the quest as it is the riding itself.

The filming is dramatic and the scale over-the-top. The slopes – and really, much of his riding is on vertical cliffs, so to call them slopes is a misnomer – are massive in proportion and the amount of time Rice spends in the air almost equals the agility he shows in powder.

“We operated a lot in an area that we called So Far Gone – it’s the holy grail of Alaska and I’m not going to tell you where it is,” Owens said. “Travis’ drive and his unrelenting obsession to getting it done and the journey along the way is what made this such an experience.”

Owens said filming also took place in the Tordillo Mountains, the Alaska Range and, of course, the Chugach, “which never disappoints.”

“The quality of the imagery really shows through in what Red Bull put into this project,” Owens said. “It’s really an art.”


Ruin and Rose movie title.

Writer and director Ben Sturgulewski – who grew up in Alaska – is behind the creatively produced “Ruin and Rose,” a surreal futuristic film that leaves the world without water and consumed by sand, a place called the Big Empty. This big-mountain film will be screened on the UAA campus in mid-October and is a fundraiser for the Alaska Avalanche School and the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

“The film is set in a post-apocalyptic desert, in a world that has lost all its water in environmental collapse,” said Anchorage’s Ira Edwards of Blue Dot Distribution and marketing specialist for Rossignol. “There’s a handful of children left alone in the desert, trying to figure out how to survive.”

The children go on to find clues that there was once a landscape much different than their desert: high, snow-covered mountains, plentiful water and endless adventure. That’s where the pros come in, with flashback scenes of snow, ice and big-mountain snowboarding and skiing that once occurred before the apocalypse.

“I see a lot of wonderful environmental films, and in many ways they are asking ‘What future do we want to leave for our children?’ With this film, I kind of wanted to imagine that reality, move past the point of no return into a world that is already lost, and think about how a child would view that world … where they can’t even fathom the wonders of winter, or snow, or oceans full of water.”

While not an environmental film per se, the otherworldly aspect of “Ruin and Rose” will definitely entertain beyond limitless demonstrations of snow and skiboard prowess. This bold cinematic experience balances stunning skiing with a wild and hopeful journey into the forgotten lands of myth and magic beyond the Big Empty.

“Just that idea of human perseverance,” Edwards said. “I think it’s pretty relevant today when we look out in the world that has some problems that almost seem to be too big to fix.”

Sturgulewski worked with the award-winning team at Matchstick Productions for this epic vision, combining the talents of some of the world’s top skiers taking on some of the most beautiful winter landscapes juxtaposed with the stark desert of Africa’s Skeleton Coast. The contrast in shooting locales added an even larger challenge to an already monumental task, Edwards said – but, of course, that’s part of the fun.

“For this film we generally had three to four cinematographers per trip, shooting all the time, carrying big camera packs into pretty uncomfortable places, be it sand or snow,” he said. “There is a pretty huge difference from a Hollywood film that has a crew of hundreds to films made on this scale and budget. We generally don’t have assistants, so we’re carrying everything ourselves, shooting everything ourselves, etc. It’s pretty all-consuming and on these trips it’s basically all you’re doing, all the time. But it’s pretty damn fun… and a good workout.”

The result is sure to keep viewers entertained. The film’s back-and-forth between desert and mountains is riveting. Filming took place in Alaska, Austria, British Columbia, Bulgaria, California, France, Switzerland, and the deserts of Namibia.

“It’s a good challenge to try to create something as visually impactful as big-budget productions, with limited resources,” Edwards said. “Luckily the technology these days has really been democratized, and we have access to cameras and equipment that can really give a very high quality look in a small package.”


Tight Loose movie title.

Teton Gravity Research celebrates its 21st birthday with a big-boy movie called “Tight Loose.” The term itself seems an oxymoron, but captures the essence of riding and skiing big: The tighter your show the looser you can be.

From India to Alaska, TGR explores unridden spine walls, massive airs, and full throttle riding in some of the wildest and most spectacular places on earth.

“Really what I wanted to do was to create a fun movie that showcased these sports in a not too serious way,” said Blake Campbell, lead editor and co-director of “Tight Loose.” “This is, after all, why we all do it. And being a celebration of TGR’s 21 years as a company, I wanted to provide some glimpses behind the camera. Generally we don’t aim to break the fourth wall, but I sort of pitched that idea out the window for this film and let the production and TGR culture seep through into the story lines. I hope the result is a fun film that gives a glimpse of how TGR got to be the way it is.”

“Fun” is indeed the operative word in this nonstop adventure. The film switches from impressive athletic feats from a massive talent pool of athletes, then shifts to behind-the-scenes footage of TGS’s years in the making. It’s documentary-style narrative is at times tight, and others loose, flowing naturally in a way that is sure to make you come out of the theatre with a smile on your phase and impatient snowsport energy pulsing through your veins.

Filming for “Tight Loose” took place all over the best skiing locales in the world, and no snowsport film would be complete without hitting Alaska’s powder. That happened in the Neacola Range and Tordrillo Mountains.

“I think it’s generally understood that Alaska is the mecca for big mountain skiing and snowboarding,” Campbell said. “Alaska has the perfect blend of what you want to ski big, steep terrain. From the infrastructure to the maritime snowpack, there’s a lot of things that come together that enable our crew to do what we do every year.”

Capturing footage in any snowsport movie is daunting, and “Tight Loose” is no exception. Campbell said that is part of the challenge – not only do films like these rely on fantastic athletes, but also a strong support crew with no fear.

“Obviously, the accomplishments of the TGR athletes wouldn’t amount to much to the outside world if the camera guys weren’t right there with them to document the adventure,” Campbell said. “We rely completely on the ability of the athletes and production to work as a cohesive unit. And while drone technology is great, it makes up a pretty small portion of the production at large. The camera guys that are hauling 50-plus pound packs deep into the backcountry – those guys are badass and responsible for the vast majority of the footage that makes up the film.”

“Tight Loose” plays three shows Oct. 20 at Bear Tooth Theatre. Proceeds from the viewings will benefit Challenge Alaska.

“Challenge is a great fit because our beliefs are so aligned with TGR,” said Challenge Alaska chief executive officer Beth Edmands-Merritt, who has partnered with Teton Gravity Research for 18 years. “We have a skiing and snowboarding program for people with disabilities. We believe in the dignity of risk and the power of pushing yourself to your limit. It has been a very successful partnership that Challenge greatly values and appreciates. We respect TGR’s commitment to giving.”

Red Bull Productions
Premieres: Oct. 2
Show Time: Doors open at 8 p.m., film starts at 9 p.m.
Locations: Blue and Gold Board Shop, 11124 Old Seward Highway, 700-H, or Williwaw, 609 F St.
How Much: Free
R.S.V.P.: http://screenings.thefourthphase.com/

Matchstick Productions
Premieres: Oct. 13
Show Times: 7 and 9 p.m.
Location: Wendy Williamson Auditorium, UAA campus
How Much: $15, proceeds benefit Alaska Avalanche School and Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

Teton Gravity Research
Premieres: Oct. 20
Show Times: 5:30, 8 and 10:30 p.m.
Location: Bear Tooth TheatePub, 1230 W. 27th Ave.
How Much: $20, proceeds benefit Challenge Alaska

— Melissa DeVaughn

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