Back in 1949, the world of skiing was very different from the way it is today. There were no helmets, step-in bindings, or snow tires; Vail Resorts didn’t even exist; and no one even imagined a powder ski, RFID technology, or launching themselves down Corbet’s Couloir.
Change is inevitable. Change is good. But for 66 years, one thing has remained constant: there has always been a new Warren Miller movie. Oh, sure, there are a lot of other companies making ski movies and videos now: TGR, Meathead Films, Sweetgrass Productions, even equipment manufacturers like TheNorthFace, Smith and Salomon. But way back when, the only game in town was Warren Miller. If you wanted to see a film about skiing, that was it.
Today, Warren Miller isn’t even Warren Miller anymore. Warren Miller sold the company to his son in 1988, who sold it to Time Warner, who sold it in 2007 to its current owner, the Bonnier Group, a Swedish-based media conglomerate that also owns a raft of snow-sports magazines. No matter. WME is a firmly entrenched part of the skiing landscape. They’re a skiing institution. And for many people, going to a Warren Miller movie is a cherished annual tradition to kick off the ski year.
Which brings me to the current movie, Chasing Shadows. Warren Miller Entertainment recently sent me a copy to review, and I spent a delightful afternoon watching and getting very, very stoked for the coming season. I mean, isn’t that what ski films are for?
Chasing Shadows is a lot like other Warren Miller movies. There’s loads of great skiing in amazing places: Nepal, Chile, Chamonix, Alaska, Utah, Jackson Hole, Japan, and more. There are plenty of flips, hucks off cliffs, and slo-mos of people skiing in chest-deep powder. And the skiing itself is fantastic. Be forewarned: you’ll want to wear a bib to sop up the drool.
I love watching this stuff. But to be frank, many of the segments are pretty interchangeable with past Warren Miller flicks. Sure, the skiers have changed, and the locales differ from one year to the next (well, sometimes). But do we really mind? No. Not much. It’s fun, all the same.
Nonetheless, I do have some comments about Chasing Shadows:
• There was an utterly charming piece about Monopolooza, an annual gathering of mono-skiers in Jackson Hole. I’ve never mono-skied and really never gave it much thought, but these guys totally ripped and had so much fun that it was an absolute pleasure to watch.
• I loved the feature on the US Ski Team killing the moguls in Deer Valley. It’s amazing how easy they make it look for something that’s so incredibly hard. Plus, hey, there’s Hannah Kearny, a fellow Vermonter and Olympic freestyle gold medalist! [waves]
• There’s a segment featuring Lexi DuPont, Amie Engerbretson, and McKenna Peterson skiing the heck out of Valdez, Alaska. This was the only all-female portion, and I thought it was pretty great. There’s too little of this in most ski movies (the exception being Lynsey Dyer’s all-female Pretty Faces). For some reason, film makers seem to focus on men more than women. Yes, there are more male skiers than female. And yes, there are women in other segments of the film (Rachael Burke, Kaylin Richardson, Ingrid Backstrom, Caroline Gleich, and the aforementioned Hannah Kearny). For the most part, however, the movie belongs to the guys. So does that really matter? There’s something about seeing amazing women skiers that’s inspiring, not just to me, but to thousands of other women and girls, too. So in the interest of growing the sport, I’d have to say yeah, it does matter.
But back to this particular segment: I liked how one of the women (can’t remember which) said how some of the runs made her nervous and how the women looked to one another for support — it made them seem more human, more relatable. That said, none of the guys said anything about being nervous. Really, do they all have nerves of steel? Is it because the women were more open? Or is it because that’s what the film makers chose to show, because it’s “expected” female behavior? I have no idea, but it made me wonder…..
• Powder Surfing. Ever heard of it? This isn’t snowboarding; instead, it’s a bindingless board that’s a hybrid of surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding technology. There was a nice segment focusing on industry entrepreneur Jeremy Jensen. I wish they’d spent a little more time exploring this. Maybe it’s the next big thing.
• The Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat is a riot! For the past 41 years, Steamboat has been hosting an event that gets rodeo cowboys out on the slopes. There’s a lot of crazy skiing and falling, and it’s a hoot.
• I had mixed feelings about a segment on speed riding in Chamonix. In case you don’t know, speed riding is an extreme sport that combines skiing and paragliding. Yes, it’s exciting to watch. But given the recent deaths in the wingsuit and base jumping community, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it being featured so prominently in the movie (it’s in the first segment). Could be my age (I might feel differently if I was a 13-year old boy), could be my mom radar. I don’t know. But it did make me wince a bit.
• I’m probably in the minority here, but I always find the titles of ski movies somewhat perplexing, and Chasing Shadows is no exception. On the one hand, it could refer to all the great skiers from the past, and how each skier stands on the shoulders of those who’ve come before. But it could be this: in the segment that takes place in Japan, a female voiceover comments about winter and the guys who’re out there skiing, “I see the dark and cold; they see shadows filled with endless possibilities.” So maybe that’s it. You’ll have to watch and decide for yourself.
You can catch Chasing Shadows in one of its stops on its nationwide tour. Go here for locales and showing dates.