PHOTOS: Courtesy of Shades of Winter
From vast powdery slopes deep in the Canadian Monashee Mountains to the venerable Swiss ski resort of Engelberg, from the remote reaches of Abisko in northern Sweden to the unlikely turns on the 4,200-meter Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea, Between takes viewers on a thrilling odyssey, while celebrating freeskiiing.
Six elite big mountain skiers—including film director Sandra Lahnsteiner and alpine ski star Julia Mancuso—chase big lines at seven exotic locations, while offering a unique look at the moments between the epic on-mountain conquests.
The world premiere of the latest from Shades of Winter, and their first full-length 90-minute feature film, was held in Munich on October 7.
"It's been a tough project finding the time, especially because I've wanted to give my best effort to Sandra," Mancuso told POWDER prior to the screening. "It was a lot of effort, but it's been awesome and we've gotten to ski a lot of awesome places."
The four-time Olympic medalist from Squaw Valley, who boasts more Olympic medals than any other U.S. female ski racer, ventured alongside Lahnsteiner to ski on the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea in the state where she is more accustomed to carving short-boards across towering waves than putting skis on snow.
"It was really an emotional experience because it was this goal that you had, but it wasn't happening and it was right at your fingertips," Mancuso said of the May adventure which was fraught with delays, fatigue, road closures, and illegal hitchhiking. "When we finally skied, it was at 14,000 feet and the sun was beating down and the wind was howling, so it was packed hard snow and parts corn snow, but it was pretty fun."
Mancuso, 32, who is on the verge of racing in what will be her 16th World Cup season with her sights set on the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, hesitantly tackled the Swedish slopes of Abisko in May, returning to making turns following hip surgery last November.
"I thought we were going to ski some round hills, beauty shots with sunsets, and we got there and the lines were insane," Mancuso said of her Swedish experience in the film. "It was mini-couloirs and rocks everywhere, so I was really nervous."
Missing among the global group of ski friends at the film's debut was Swedish freeskier Matilda Rappaport, who was killed in an avalanche in Santiago, Chile on July 18.
Rappaport brought passion, warmth, and a kindred spirit to the hard-charging group of women. In Between, the 2013 Verbier Extreme Champion demonstrates her best stuff on the familiar slopes in Engelberg, above the ski lodge that she managed; in Abisko and Wanaka, New Zealand, and throughout the inspiring, closing heli ski sequence amid the gargantuan, white-knuckle steeps of Haines, Alaska.
"Her family said please make the film as Matilda would have liked it and that definitely gave me a lot of energy throughout the editing process," said Lahnsteiner. "I saw her so alive, talking, and I felt the honor and positive responsibility to show Matilda in her best moments; the smiles, dreams, and interaction with the others athletes."
Before the screening, with Matilda's husband Matthias Hargin in the theater, the audience, instead of a moment of silence, stood, applauded, and loudly celebrated the life of the Swedish skier for what was one emotional and surreal minute.
"Wherever she is now, she definitely wanted us to celebrate the film—it's not about being sad, it's about celebrating her skiing, our skiing, and getting pumped for winter," Lahnsteiner said of her friend. "I think this is what she wanted."
Other talented big mountain skiers accompanying Lahnsteiner, Rappaport, and Mancuso in the film is two-time World Freeride champion Nadine Wallner of Austria, New Zealand's Janina Kuzma, and Sweden's Evelina Nilsson.
Rounding out the seven-destination, globe-trotting journey are sequences involving an attempted ascent to ski the iconic Matterhorn and surfing scenes on the north shore of Hawaii, featuring 18-year-old Maui sensation Carissa Moore.
Throughout the movie, which flows nicely, enhanced by its up-tempo and diverse soundtrack, online chats between the skiers along with their continent-hopping flight routes are graphically depicted. The creative touch adds to the fun of the film.
For Mancuso, her exact course after her racing career is yet to be determined. Might we see the Californian in more freeski films or taking a serious stab as a regular competitor on the World Freeride Tour?
"I love adventure, I love traveling so I will never say no to a good adventure," Mancuso said. "I don't think there is ever an age limit—obviously, Wendy Fisher is still killing it.
"One thing is for sure, when I put my mind to do something, I do it," she added. "As many times as I've thought that this comeback is really hard and rehab is hard, what keeps me going is that I've made the decision to do it."
Between is the fifth female-focused action ski film produced by Lahnsteiner, and the third from the Salzburg-based Shades of Winter production company. Teaming with Lahnsteiner on the two-year project were accomplished director of photography Mathias Bergmann and award-winning German film editor Thomas Kohler.