There was a time not too long ago when nobody in skiing took the sport—or themselves—as seriously as Teton Gravity Research. In each of its annual ski films, grave narration, unsmiling athlete interviews, and heavy music set to mostly dudes skiing and snowboarding even heavier terrain were all part of a formula that supported a brand of "Jackson cool" that found many followers. TGR's near constant pursuit of big lines left little time for light-hearted content. And if there was any comedy, it was quickly lost in the chaos of a first descent or the whirling blades of a helicopter.
In other words, seeing a segment set to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"—featuring a guy—would have been unthinkable. But that's just one example from TGR's newest film, Paradise Waits, that attempts to flip the script. That segment—where Tim Durtschi skis one tram lap at Jackson Hole, during which he steals a girl's waffle, takes the easy way down Corbet's (instead of airing it out, à la Jason Tattersall), and sprays a bunch of groms in the face—got the biggest response during the premiere at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts on Friday. (Granted, this was the early showing where kids outnumbered adults; many of them spent the film running laps through the theater burning off those free "espresso pops" that had been handed out in the lobby. But still.)
Durtschi finds other moments to goof off in Japan, where he, John Collinson, and Colter Hinchliffe meet some local girls, film themselves taking selfies, ski pow, and try to demolish huge snow pillows from the branches of iconic silver birch trees.
But it's not all fun and games. There are moments of intensity we've all come to expect from TGR. Griffin Post gets one line in the entire film, and he makes the most of it. After a helicopter drops him on a knife-ridge in Valdez, Alaska, he postholes through rotten snow which, as we see through his helmet camera, falls away to reveal giant death caverns. Post has produced some of the finest big mountain skiing footage in recent years, and it's a shame that he doesn't earn more camera time. This line is no different, as he turns the near-vertical wall into a super-G course.
Veterans Ian McIntosh, who opens the film, and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa stay true to form by knocking down big descent after big descent. Cattabriga-Alosa has a horrific fall and, as he climbs back up to retrieve a ski, finds himself in "the most twisted place I've ever been."
Some of the best footage belongs to Cam Riley and Clayton Villa, who jib sketchy features around Boston during the East Coast's epic winter. No fooling around here. These kids are serious. So is Dane Tudor, who knocks down big descents in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula with style and power, and ends up with one of the best segments of the film.
The film carries a quick pace, with each segment concluding in just minutes. Different teams travel across the globe—from AK to BC to Japan to Boston (twice) to Wyoming to Kosovo and Greece—looking for good snow and interesting terrain. The film initially appears to follow the winter calendar, with each segment marking a different month. But TGR bounces back and forth throughout the winter, and the linear timeline gets lost among the various destinations.
TGR returns often to Fantasy Camp, a cluster of canvas tents deep in the Alaska wilderness with a sign declaring "population 13." During down days, McIntosh and Angel Collinson hop around camp wearing their sleeping bags, Cattabriga-Alosa acts as deputy in charge of slush control, and they all wish it would just stop raining.
When it finally breaks blue, Collinson goes to work. Last year she opened TGR's film Almost Ablaze in historic fashion and took home Best Female Performance at the Powder Awards. This year, she closes the film, and emphatically puts to rest any speculation that last year was a fluke. Her fast, aggressive style certainly continues that long-held TGR tradition, but in a sign of what may be to come, her goofball personality is anything but serious.
Marquee image: TGR’s newest film, which premiered in Jackson, Wyoming, on Friday, shows off a different side to the 20-year-old media company. PHOTO: Matt Hansen