The recent dusting of snow on the Wasatch Mountains made it clear that winter will be here before we know it. The first-ever First Chair Festival, held Saturday in Salt Lake City, made the statement emphatic. Featuring seven ski films, two musical acts, and more than a dozen ski and outdoor vendors, the event drew more than 1,500 ski enthusiasts to The Complex.
First Chair Festival came together through the partnership of POWDER and Newschoolers as a way to kick off the ski season. Over 20 vendors set up booths to greet skiers with good deals and stoke for the coming season. Hardgoods brands attending included 4FRNT, Line, Atomic, Rossignol, Deviation, Sego, Ninthward, Marker/Volkl, and Dalbello. Those from the softgoods section include C.E.P., Dissent Labs, Pit Viper, while Ski Salt Lake and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort kept everyone up to date on what’s happening at ski resorts along the central Wasatch.
Doors opened at 1 p.m., with the first feature film, Slow your Roll and Satisfy your Soul, by The Hood Crew, got things rolling inside The Complex theater at 1:30.
As David Steele noted last week in his Graupel column, there’s just something about watching skiing on the big screen with your friends that can’t be duplicated on a mobile device. This sentiment was accentuated by Tanner Hall as he presented the latest Inspired Media films, BE Inspired, starring Henrik Harlaut and Phil Casabon, and Ring the Alarm, which features himself, John Spriggs, Todd Ligare, and Sam Cohen. He said skiing needs festivals like First Chair in order to support those working throughout the year to produce ski films. “Don’t let the internet kill ski movies!” he shouted to applause.
Throughout the afternoon, viewers saw moments of greatness. 4FRNT’s sixth team film, Here and Now, featured Eric Hjorleifson sending huge lines on tech bindings; Cam Riley sending enormous urban features; David Wise setting a new quarter-hip height record by boosting 46.5 feet above the lip at last winter’s Nine Knights in Italy; Wiley Miller blows up Alaska and British Columbia; and newcomer Thayne Rich (who builds skis at the 4FRNT facility in Salt Lake) making a solid case for Breakthrough Performance.
Of the day films, however, the crowd’s biggest responses went to Harlaut and Casabon. Not a single move went by without exuberant “oohs” and “aahs,” as the two skiers stirred the crowd into a frenzy. Then if that weren’t enough, Tom Wallisch and Good Company show up with their latest film, Vice Versa, and heads just continue to spin.
After Too $hort’s performance and a beer break, everyone streamed back into the theater for the headlining film, Pleasure, by Level 1 Productions. Josh Berman’s 17th film should be considered mandatory viewing this season for all ski movie fans. Combing artistry, athleticism, creativity, and a thoughtful theme carried throughout, it’s as tight and as entertaining as a ski film can get. But it’s also propped up with no ego; just having fun and skiing with your friends. Though it’s a simple concept that’s difficult to translate to film, Berman and fellow producers Freedle Coty and Jonny Durst Strenio succeed in spades. Skiers LJ Strenio, Will Wesson, KC Deane, Wiley Miller, and Thayne Rich bring the noise, while The Bunch, a crew from Sweden, travel through Russia with their own unique style. If Rich makes a play for rookie of the year, then Miller will most likely be in the conversation for Best Male Performance. His segment in Pleasure is that good.
Boombox capped the night with a concert, sending revelers away into the Salt Lake darkness, with ski dreams no doubt to follow.