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Matchstick Productions’ The Way I See It 21 September 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Self, Skiing.
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The first ski movie of the year and winter’s on its way. Despite the record heat here you can feel it. Ask the crowd. Ask the Aspens. Ask the guns waiting at A-Basin and Loveland. At one o’clock last night, standing in my room wearing nothing but boxers and ski boots, I stepped into my bindings, just to hear the reassuring clank as they engaged. Vail’s season pass for Coloradans carries the tagline, “It’s why you live here.” And it’s right. Winter can’t come soon enough.

The Way I See It serves up everything you’d expect from a ski movie: big lines, big air, big grins. But Saturday night in Boulder–no better city for it–offered more. “More, more more,” as Mark Abma says in the film. More, as in ¬†celebrities. Of a sort. I’d brag about seeing a bunch of people who are famous if I thought you were into that sort of thing.

I will anyway. Movie premieres invariably involve the cast and crew as well, and for this one athletes like Cody Townsend, Mark Abma, and Ingrid Backstrom join the heli pilots, cameramen, lead grips, gaffers and all the rest to kick off the season with a whole lotta drunk. The season will probably continue with a whole lotta drunk followed by a whole lotta hungover, and if title sponsor Red Bull has anything to say about it, a whole lotta weird, kinda drunk, hungover, caffeine-high wonkiness as well. This is as it should be.

The crowd’s drunk, too. The MC presents a bunch of swag, capping it off with the promises that someone will win a heli-ski trip in Alaska. He tells us to cheer when we like we see. Mark Abma pretends(?) to play the piano. The crowd cheers. The film rolls. The crowd cheers. And then, if you’ve ever seen a ski film before, you know what happens next: skiing, without plot or context or any reason but for the pursuit of the perfect line, whether it falls through powder pillows in Japan or mile-long spines in the Chugach Range. To watch a ski movie is not to watch a baseball game, the spectacle and the rivalry of it. To watch skiers ski is to aspire.

“If only…” lies behind every whistle and holler for the stunts. If only I could turn my skis a little more quickly, weight them just a little differently… if only I could spend more time on the mountain, I’d get my own sponsorship, too. We delude ourselves, but what a grand, sustaining delusion it is. Every five-foot cliff-drop presents the chance to become Shane McConkey, and every 15-foot kicker in the park offers a shot at being the next Bobby Brown.

Skiing is the rare sport in which the challenges can always match the level of ability. The football team always picks the poor receiver last, and the bad basketball player never gets the pass, but the bad skier competes against herself. The terror of the steeps begins with the easiest greens until with time, the blues inspire fear and blacks and then the rocks and trees and slopes so steep dropping in feels like jumping off a building. The best skiers in the world still face a challenge, maybe with the same fear that faces the “never-ever” on Keystone’s bunny slope.

Watching The Way I See It from the heli and helmet perspectives we see what we’re still too afraid to approach. But with time, time and determination we’ll inure ourselves to the in-bounds double diamonds, seeking new challenges elsewhere. At least, watching a ski movie, we sense the possibility. It is of course unlikely that I will drop a 60-foot cliff. Unlikelier still that I’ll arrive at a ski movie as anything other than a spectator, but a tiny fire burns in the back of my mind as I see these athletes attack some of the gnarliest terrain in the world. Two words stoke the flame: It’s…possible. Don’t say it isn’t.

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