I have a confession to make: I haven’t been exactly stoked for ski season this year. I know, I know. Pretty sad, isn’t it? I think it’s actually because of the bike accident I had this summer. I’m still on the mend, and I’m a little trepidatious about how I’m going to hold up once I get on the snow.
So I was less than enthusiastic about seeing this season’s movie from Warren Miller Entertainment, Line of Descent. My heart just wasn’t in it. But then something happened. Who knows…..chalk it up to the magic of skiing. Within the first few frames I could feel my spirit starting to lift. The film opened with a series of quick clips of people doing the most amazing skiing; of majestic, snow covered mountains; of skiers enveloped in billowing clouds of powder. And almost immediately I was reminded, hey, so this is what it’s all about; this is why I love to ski. So if the purpose of ski films is to get you stoked, let me be clear: Line of Descent delivers. Really, it was just the doctor ordered. What do I think about ski season now? Bring. It. On.
Setting that aside, writing a review for one of these movies isn’t particularly easy. Why? Well, to be honest, most ski films are pretty interchangeable. It’s the nature of the beast. The format and subject matter are pretty limiting. I mean, we’re not looking at intriguing plot lines or character development. Line of Descent is no exception, as it follows the classic WME pattern: exotic locales, fantastic skiing, plenty of hucking cliffs, back flips and slo-mos of skiers hurtling through chest-deep powder (be forewarned: you’ll want to wear a bib to sop up the drool). All the same, do we really care that it’s not Oscar material? No. I think we all know what we’re in for when we buy our ticket. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. And that’s all that matters.
Anyway, here are my comments — and I do have some — about this year’s movie, Line of Descent.
• As you’d expect, the movie focuses on side and backcountry locales, with various resorts acting as springboards for much of the skiing: Jackson Hole, Squaw, Steamboat, Silverton, Val d’Isere. The first segment of the film is essentially a valentine to Jackson Hole, focusing on the spirit and community that make it such a great place to ski (oh, and there’s Corbett’s, too). At Squaw, the focus is on Jonny Moseley and his kids (needless to say, they’re adorable. And they rip, too, of course) as well as on Errol Kerr from the Jamaican Ski Team (you read that right, though he grew up in the US. His dad was Jamaican and his mom, American. Kerr’s competed on both the US and Jamaican Ski Teams). The segment on Steamboat is fun, featuring skiers at the NASTAR Nationals. And at Val d’Isere, well, more on that later.
• Each year the films feature at least one locale outside North America. This year there’s the aforementioned Val d’Isere, as well as segments in New Zealand and Norway. Norway particularly intrigued me, with huge, gorgeous mountains that run down to the sea. Not too shabby.
• I was struck by the absence of big park skiing and/or boarding. Other WME films have had segments featuring heart-stopping slopestyle or freestyle. I guess I’ve come to expect it. But this time, no big park features, no moguls. And aside from a few quick clips in the intro. there wasn’t the customary urban segment, featuring skiers or boarders hucking off buildings or sliding down stair rails. So if you’re looking for that, you won’t find it here.
• As you know, Warren Miller left WME Entertainment a time ago, though he often makes an appearance in the company’s films. But there was even less of him this year than in years’ past — just one short segment in the beginning where he talked a bit about his childhood. Warren, we miss you. The film just aren’t the same. It’s too bad they haven’t found someone with the same amount of charm who could pick up the baton. Jonny Moseley, the current narrator, is lovely, but let’s face it — he’s no Warren.
• I think my favorite segment of all was the one about pow surfing in British Columbia. (Yeah, it wasn’t even skiing!) This is essentially snowboarding without bindings. Pow surfing was covered in the ’15/’16 movie Chasing Shadows, and I remember liking it quite a bit then, too. But the spirit of the participants, the outstanding conditions…heck, they just seemed to be having a blast. It all came together to produce what I thought was the most fun part of the movie.
• Like the other WME films, Line of Descent belongs almost exclusively to the men. Sure, the segment in Val d’sere is all women – Lexi duPont, Amie Engerbretson, and McKenna Peterson, the same three spotlighted skiing in Alaska in Chasing Shadows. I love seeing them ski. These women absolutely rip, and they seem to have so much fun, too. Other women featured include Jess McMillan, Kaylin Richardson, Linda Haaland, Arielle Gold, and Kalen Thorien. Yes, out of the 29 skiers/boarders represented, only 8 were women. I think WME could do better.
So there you have it. So go, welcome in the new season with Line of Descent. After all, Warren Miller movies are a tradition, and why the heck not. Here’s where it’s playing and when. And here’s the trailer.
Overall, I really liked the movie, but with two exceptions:
first the segment in Montana where the snowmobiling was promoted. Some may disagree with me, but in a ski film, I don’t want motorized recreation to be promoted. Snowmobiling in particular is a sore spot with me since my husband and I have had numerous encounters in the backcountry where snowmobiles are present and have tracked out the powder and are just overall very annoying. There are even areas within wilderness areas where snowmobiles go into, obviously against the law.
Second, and not as big of an annoyance was the segment with the Ducati motorcycles that were obviously trucked in separately to the camp spot where the small trailer and station wagon were. The whole thing seemed very contrived, in that the couple obviously could not carry those motorcycles with them in their camping rig and yet the bikes were somehow magically there for them to ride up the Bear tooth highway with. Again, not a big deal, but it did feel like one long Ducati commercial.