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Warren Miller's 61st annual nationwide ski and snowboard film tour is currently underway in cinemas across the UK. The tour offers fans the chance of seeing the latest film in HD a full season before it hits the shops, and if you're a fan of ski and snowboard films this year's tour is a must see.
Warren Miller's Wintervention is another of this winter's offerings that push the boundaries of snowsports, with incredible locations, skiing and stories making up this year's film. The film starts with some pretty funny adverts from the Ski Club and Columbia, though I'm pretty sure only the latter is intentional! With the so-called skier-snowboarder divide almost non-existent these days the film combines both sports, with skiing making up about 70% of the film, but the snowboarding sections were more than a mere a gap filler including big names like Torstein Horgmo & Haldor Helgasson. Throughout the film the crowd in Shepherd's Bush Vue ooh'd, ah'd and ouch'd to big lines, stylish tricks and inevitable stacks and crashes.
This year's film is pretty high-octane from the start. The standout sections of the film are the trip to the Antarctic, heli-skiing in interior British Columbia, the trip to Georgia and the Arctic circle skiing in Spitzbergen. There is also a great section where Sun Peaks' locals Reggie & Zach Crist drive out to Utah's back country with big-mountain newbie Lexi Dupont to fuel their skiing addiction. The section includes some particularly amusing moments, from Lexi's comment "These guys... they’ve got a problem. Wife and kid at home, and they are out here in their airstream skiing", to the cheeky comments from Crist's wife back in the family home.
The trips to Antarctica & Spitzbergen, though opposite ends of the planet, offered some truly awe-inspiring moments. Some of the steepest lines I've seen, bar maybe the Arctic section in Deeper, and set in an immense backdrop. The Antarctica section includes some good natured fun with a sketch including a screen full of penguins and finishing off with skiing off an iceberg. The section in Spitzbergen shows our threesome of ski addicts from the earlier Utah section hiking incredible lines, camping and of course watching the locals (Polar bears) from a safe distance.
Wintervention also has a short tribute to back country legend Arne Backstom, who passed away in a skiing accident in Peru during the summer. The section shows him skiing some of his favourite lines in Heavenly and showed us why he will be missed by the skiing community as a whole.
My favourite section of Wintervention was the trip to Columbia Mountains, interior British Columbia. The section starts with an introduction to the heli-skiing area in the Bugaboo Mountains that had been discovered by Austrian skier Hans Gromer back in the '60s, the guide also enjoys pointing out that the ski area they use is 60 times larger than every ski resort in North America combined! There is steep, deep powder, high speed tree-lined runs and the amazing scenery, the Bugaboos are skiing heaven and the film portrays this superbly. By the end of this section half the crowd was salivating at the thought of being there.
The evening as a whole was good fun, and half way through the film there was a short, but fun interval. Jim from Black Diamond turned up with some prizes from the sponsors including some skis from Rossignol and a couple of jackets from Columbia.
All in all it was a great evening and another great must see film. For those not lucky enough to have seen Warren Miller's 'Wintervention' yet, the tour runs until the 14th Jan so get yourself to your local viewing or get the 2011 release on pre-order as soon as possible!
The evening entertainment at the Freeze Festival offered me the chance to be among the first to see the ground breaking film from O'Neill and Teton Gravity Research.
The new film from Jeremy Jones may not have had the budget of Travis Rice's hit - That's It, That's All - but has to be the biggest film since. With most films these days centred on a variety of perfectly executed tricks, whether in the back-country, the park or using urban rails, a film based deep into the mountains had the feel of an '80s film with 2010 technology.
The film takes you back to the bare bones of snowboarding and opposed to the using helicopters and snowmobiles the riders hike deep into the mountains, whether in Alaska, Antarctica or Chamonix. The line-up is also incredible with Travis Rice, Josh Dirksen, Xavier De La Rue, Jonaven Moore and Johan Olofsson.
The most incredible section of the film involves them 60 miles into some of Alaska's most daunting mountains and being stuck in a snow storm for 12 days. The team have ten days of food with them, their tents are under a foot of fresh powder and all they have for entertainment is building snow caves, playing cards and sleeping. British photographer, Dan Milner, adds some good humour to the situation with some choice comments. Ten days in the guys are on rations and on day 12 the sun comes out. Now most people after 12 days of sun, minimal food and being stuck in a tent miles from civilisation would go home, but not these guys, new supplies are flown out to them and the next few days the team hike and ride some of the most incredible lines you have ever seen.
Another stand out section is where Jeremy heads to Xavier De LA Rue's home resort of Chamonix and they take out a local guide to some of the craziest terrain I've ever seen. Having hiked deep into the Mount Blanc's surrounding mountains the team have to camp overnight and find themselves in a mountain hut that is literally hanging precariously on the side of a massive cliff face. The following day the team are hiking into their line and are underneath some of the scariest looking avalanche conditions ever seen on film. After a few loose pieces of snow the guys are spooked and head back, once off the mountain Jones points out the biggest goal of back country riding is 'to make it home alive'.
Whether a skier, snowboarder or surfer you can appreciate the incredible snowboarding in this film.
After the film we were treated to a few drinks by the sponsors and had time to chat to one of snowboarding's legends Josh Dirksen and one of the UK's stalwarts and the weekend's MC, Tim Warwood. Dirksen, as he usually known, is a very welcoming guy who is still excited about snowboarding for a living after nearly two decades of professional snowboarding. After a few drinks we had a great conversation about how crazy the film was to make and how Travis Rice is the future of snowboarding. I was also given a few tips on how to convince my girlfriend a week's off-piste snowboarding in Chamonix will be good for me. Dirksen may by 34 (which in professional snowboarding years is usually well into retirement) but he still has a huge passion for snowboarding and snowboarders, he happily chatted to everyone at the show and showed how real passion for snow doesn't die.
Wednesday afternoon at the ski show is always a great way to kick start the season and yesterday was no exception to the rule. We had a fantastic afternoon with many of our good friends from within the world of skiing and very much enjoyed the surprise performance from former Meribel pop-band, The Feeling.
The afternoon got off to a good start over at the Thunder stand where the guys insisted their toffee vodka was better than that of the Morris Bar in Val d'Isere. Of course it would have been rude not to sample their product, and I have to say it is the best toffee vodka I've had outside of the Skilodge.
A walk around the show took us to some pretty cool products and some friendly stands. The guys over at Cool Board were demonstrating their great ways of developing core strength and Grannies inc were showing off their design your own beanies and had one of their grannies knitting away in the background. My favourite new product at this year's ski show has to be the retro, almost ironic, '80s-style one piece suits over at Willyfinder - I'll let you guess where the name comes from. Their über bright attire is bound to find its way into Europe's snowparks and student holiday trips this year, and to be honest for the sheer fun of it I would have bought one had I not forget my credit card!
Later in the afternoon we were treated to wine and canapés from our friends at Skiworld, one of our chalet operators, followed by more of the same by our friends from Inghams. It's always nice to meet up with our biggest suppliers face-to-face opposed to over the phone, plus there's always some good gossip on the go.
The highlight of the afternoon has to be the après ski-esque set that The Feeling did over at the Trois Valley bar. They played a few of their hits and Sophie Ellis Bexter joined them for an acoustic version of 'Murder on the Dance Floor'. They were promoting The Little Word Festival which will be on in Meribel in March, and the band have quite a following in the ski industry after a few seasons playing as cover band Superfly in Meribel. As always the music was great and they gave the show a little bit of a Ronnie-après-ski feel.
After a quick hello over at Natives, Aragon (Formigal) and Ski Big Three it was time to jump on the bus to the Ski Club of Great Britain party. The Ski Club party was fun and started with Pimms on the bus and a champagne reception as they showed off their rebranding (more to follow on this shortly) and their new website. A fun evening entailed and as usual we were joined by the guys from Vail Resorts and Ski Big Three for a quiet drink to discuss what had been a great day.
The ski show has some great entertainment on this year with the Trois Valley Cook-off, the Big Air competition and the Land Rover Fashion shows. If you have time head down there this week and enjoy the hospitality of everyone there.
Thanks to Inghams for inviting us down to the show and to the Ski Club of Great Britain for the evening presentation and entertainment. We'll be heading down again on Friday and then it's the unfortunate 12 month wait until next year's show.
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