The Meeting “film festival” in Aspen ended this past weekend. After viewing 19 ski AND snowboard films this past weekend my spirit animal has finally recovered from ski porn overload. Dreams of sliding down Alaskan spines, hitting 8 kink 50ft handrails, and sketchy avalanche airbag deployments have begun to subside in the beginning of a month I like to call “Sober October” which follows “Send-It September.”
Clarity was reached on Saturday evening as I shuffled into the balcony section of the Wheeler Opera House, Stella in one hand and a PBR in the other for the final two showings.
The clock struck 8pm and Sent Productions film Vaya a la Cumbré emerged on the screen as applause roared from the locals in the crowd. Ollie Nieuwland-Zlotnicki and Zach Ornitz co-produced and co-directed the short film on the unconventional venture of Toni Sponar, a veteran Aspen/Snowmass ski instructor, and his son Anton, a fellow Wildsnow contributor, who also teaches skiing in Aspen.
Vaya a la Cumbré is not your typical slash and bash powder flick. Instead, it tells the story of two Aspenites living out their dreams amidst commercialized resort operations world wide. Anton says this could be the rawest ski operation on the planet. True. Living in the few bunks at Ski Arpa is Anton, your cook, your guide, media liaison, and at the end of the day your ski buddy.
With two snowcats, the burden of the operation, Ski Arpa eeks out just enough loot to make it from one season to the next. Both Sponars, age 79 & 27 respectively, work all winter long guiding and teaching whilst saving funds to prime the operation each summer since 1982.
The film looks at the struggles of both older and younger Sponar to what the future of Ski Arpa holds.
With no set release date or trailer available, Cumbre’s production team is currently shopping the film around to various film festivals. Keep your eyes peeled for Vaya a la Cumbré, it is a winner.
Back on the commercial side of the ski and snowboard movie business, once again TGR brought the big guns. Jeremey Jones’ TGR produced Further and TGR’s in-house Dream Factory wowed the crowd and myself both Friday and Saturday nights.
I spoke with Jeremy about his film and the choice to focus on human powered snowboard mountaineering instead of the typical heli-drop films. He simply said it was time and is the future of where the sport is headed. In Further, a snowboard only flick, Jeremy recruits some of snowboarding’s legends and young up-and-comers, most of them pure rookies at camping and other alpine endeavors. Strapping on a climbing harness or clicking a “carabiner dohickie” were foreign acts to most of them, as was the plan to climb, splitboard, and snowmobile out to the furthest stretches of the globe in search of untouched lines.
Jeremy, a self-proclaimed WildSnow.com follower, enjoyed pushing his compatriots of the snowboard world to their limits mentally and skill wise. The snowboard missions around the globe fascinated me most in that helicopters were not used to drop the athletes off at each peak. Climbing and trekking were the only means used to access each zone.
Jeremy spilled the beans on some of his equipment. Beyond his signature Jones snowboards, he worked alongside Bozeman based Spark R & D on a Vibram soled crampon compatible snowboard boot called the Spark Deeluxe and additionally helped revive the Ramer Assault snowshoes that he used on many steep couloir ascents.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I will definitely be buying this snowboard movie to add to my collection. With an emphasis on climbing and mountaineering along with a captivating story it is a win in terms of production and content.
The last film of the long weekend was TGR’s Dream Factory. The film was shot entirely in Alaska because of the historic amount of snow the state received this year, in Valdez, Haines, and the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Todd Jones and his team reached back into their film/guiding history on the Richardson highway from the cowboy days of stoned Vietnam pilots, $5 heli-drops, and zero safety protocols. They touched on the history of WESC, World Extreme Skiing Competition, and how it continues to define modern big mountain freeskiing.
Although the crowd was excited to see the film the real action of the night was local boy Colter Hinchliffe’s big screen debut. Colter works in Aspen slaving away at the iconic Red Onion with fellow Wildsnow contributor, Jordan White, during the summers, but come winter his basecamp is located at Alta. From there he ventures off in search of untracked powder and this past winter to Alaska to film with TGR. The crowd went absolutely ballistic when the Trew sponsored athlete casually slayed an iconic Alaskan spine with utmost precision.
The highlight of the film for me was Griffon Post’s deployment of a BCA avalanche airbag. From what Todd Jones told me, whilst filming, it easily saved his life and made the need for a search unnecessary. Look for the clip here on Wildsnow soon.
Additional photos from the weekend.
Many thanks to the dedicated Aspen Snowmass team that was able to execute another great event including Meredith McKee, David Amirault, Deric Gunshor, Cat Leonitis, Maria Hidalgo, and Buck.
Joseph Risi was raised on pasta and meatballs in the “backwoods” of Long Island before seeking higher education in the mountains of Vermont. Always looking for adventure, building treehouses, working too many odd jobs around the world he now lives in the Aspen area of Colorado.