For the first time in nearly two decades of putting out an annual ski film, TGR's lead segment belongs to a woman. But not only does Angel Collinson break into the boys club in Almost Ablaze, which premiered Saturday at a sold-out outdoor showing in Teton Village, Wyoming, she damn near tears down the walls. Collinson, the 24-year-old skier who grew up sharing a room with her brother, Johnny, in her parents' employee housing unit at Snowbird, Utah, delivers a performance that undoubtedly seals her place as one of the best big mountain female skiers in the world.
But as good as Collinson's performance was, it did not quite steal the show. Which says a lot about TGR's latest film. For many years, viewers could count on TGR to follow a tried-and-true formula: heavy skiing, heavy music, athlete voiceovers, and little humor packaged into a sharply edited cinematic tour de ski porn. The films often left you breathless and amazed, but with little connection to the skiing most people do in their own lives.
Almost Ablaze maintains a very TGR feel. There's extraordinary skiing in extraordinary places, as well as the obligatory (but still great) close-up pow shots in Jackson Hole and lots of helicopters. But this movie is much more fun and relatable than previous films. Angel's genuine skiing spirit translates well to film, while her brother skis a filthy couloir in La Grave before spinning a three in the runout, and then throwing a backflip for good measure, just for the sheer enjoyment of it. Ian McIntosh—who is back after missing most of the last two years to injury—is often in the background providing commentary, whooping and hollering over the crackle of the radio. This is the veteran who can't contain his own excitement at watching his friends rip. It's Mac's reminder to everyone that skiing, above all else, is the greatest thing in the world.
This message comes through with Dash Long, Dylan Hood, and Colter Hinchcliffe skiing powder in Italy. Their music is the good-time anthem "Tumbling Dice," from The Rolling Stones (from Exile on Main Street, perhaps the greatest rock n' roll album of all time, but whatever), and people in the crowd were singing along. That has to be a first. After Dash, Dylan, and Colter slay the mountain to pieces, the cameras follow them as they happily play in the low-angle powder down to the village. This skiing is not serious. It's how you would ski it with your friends. And it's awesome.
Other highlights include the switch-skiing antics by Nick McNutt, the rookie from British Columbia who makes a strong case for Breakthrough Performance. Sage gives us a trippy night-skiing segment by plundering powder fields at Grand Targhee where his art is projected onto the slope (stay tuned to Powder.com for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at this segment). Tim Durtschi defends his title of Best Male from last year's Powder Awards with a performance that will likely put him back in the repeat conversation. Angel comes to the Tetons, where she, Griffin Post and Max Hammer climb and ski a few different routes on Mount Moran. Using GSS stabilization technology and high-powered Red cameras, TGR offers scenes that have never been shot in this stunning locale. The result is cinematographic excellence, especially as it pertains to Hammer. A 25-year-old Jackson native appearing in his second TGR film, Hammer climbs the radical Sickle Couloir before slashing the entire thing.
Like the rest of the skiing in Almost Ablaze, it's not what most normal people do. But it inspires you to get outside and do fun things with your friends. As Angel says in her opening, "All you can ever do is try your best. So I'm up here and I'm given 'er, having a great time, and I'm just trying to ski as fast as I can."
Aren't we all?