By Matt Hansen
"Life on the road is an unpredictable affair."
With these words, Teton Gravity Research launches its latest tribute to hardcore ski action, One For The Road. The film--which made its world premiere Saturday in Jackson, Wyo.--sets out to capture the craziness, drama and migratory nature of skiers chasing down a dream. While there's nothing new about the concept of a ski road trip, TGR provides a fresh look to its genre-defining approach by way of bringing in new athletes, never-before-seen angles and cinematography, and a relatively cohesive narrative.
Standout performances go to Todd Ligare, TGR rookie Griffin Post, and big mountain heavy Ian McIntosh, who breaks his femur on camera in a segment that will go down as one of the most intense, exciting and jaw-dropping as anything ever filmed. Mac's entire segment leaves viewers with one reaction: Holybleepingshit. The down-to-earth and good-natured Canadian is an animal, and proves that, despite the nasty crash and life-threatening injury, he could be the best big-mountain skier on the planet.
"Even after all I've been through in recovery," Mac said after the show, describing a daily training regiment where he's doing sets of 360-pound leg presses, "and even if the cameras weren't there, I'd still ski that line again."
The opening segment goes to Ligare and Post, two skiers who started their careers on the comp circuit: Ligare, a Park City native, on the U.S. Ski Team, and Post, from Sun Valley, on the Freeskiing World Tour. That they open the film, in Jackson, is a testament to their hard work and dedication to their pursuit of greatness. They are proof that the ski bum dream of moving to Jackson to ski for TGR can and does come true. In subtle fashion, the film's narrative essentially follows Ligare, who has sacrificed a life in the "real world" in order to make it as a skier, with the ultimate goal of one day getting to Alaska. Does he make it? You'll have to see the film to find out.
Sage Cattabriga-Alosa makes numerous appearances, giving the impression that he basically lives on the road. Sage makes everything look so easy--from AK spines to cheese wedge spins--that for an extra challenge someone should start planting ill-tempered sea bass in his lines.
A welcome addition is Chris Bentchetler, whose nose butters and surfy approach bring a new dynamic to the TGR hallmark of hard and fast, balls-to-the-wall style.
You even get the urban skiing of Nick Martini, and the high-flying antics of Rory Bushfield, who leaps off a ship in Iceland into the freezing waters of the Arctic. Not once, not twice, but over and over again. Appearances by Dana Flahr, Grete Elliassen, Rachael Burks, Shroder Baker, Dash Longe, Dylan Hood, and Erik Roner (ski-BASEing in Macedonia with a crazy local) bring depth and variety to the film. You even get a brief appearance by Tom Wallisch.
One of the strongest impressions, however, is the film work. This past year saw the return of Jon "JK" Klaczkiewicz, head of production, and Greg Epstein, supervising producer, to the TGR family. JK, who directed a series of independent projects, including Swift.Silent.Deep, and Epstein, a Jackson Hole native with a long history in film and photography, last worked directly with TGR on the 2003 release High Life. That film won Movie of the Year at the Powder Video Awards, and they both describe their return as a welcome homecoming.
There were big expectations for JK and Epstein to bring a new look to the film company. With One For The Road, they have succeeded. The editing is crisp, the transitions between segments are seamless, athlete interviews are kept to a minimum, and the attention to detail through close-ups and time lapses is a work of art. The soundtrack, which won Best Soundtrack at this weekend's IF3, is more electronic than heavy metal, which has been favored in the past by TGR.
One of the groundbreaking features of the film is the inclusion of cables, cranes and super slow-mo. But this isn't your Greg Stump slow-mo of the '80s. Using a Phantom camera, the footage (of Sage coming at you through the trees, for example) is so slow and so crisp that it almost looks 3D, as if the skier is suspended off the screen. For the first time in a ski film, you can see exactly how precise a skier must be to pull off a properly executed hand drag. At such a high-degree of suspended motion, there's no pretending.
It all results in a film that is unlike any TGR film of recent memory. "We wanted to take an artistic approach to cinematography and have a Hollywood flavor to it," says founder Todd Jones, who films a POV of Sage from a helicopter that will blow your mind. "We were willing to take some risks, which is scary, but the rewards are greater."
And anything but predictable.