By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – Keely Kelleher is driving her dad’s old ranch truck, a rusty 1974 Dodge pickup nicknamed “Pard,” with Elyse Saugstad and Crystal Wright on the bench seat. Bouncing down a country road, the three professional skiers are singing the pop country hit, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy).” It’s all on film.
This, plus 10 days of skiing shot in February at Big Sky Resort, Bridger Bowl and in the nearby backcountry, will be part of the 2013-2014 Warren Miller feature ski movie, Ticket to Ride. It’s part of a lifelong dream for Kelleher, 28, a Big Sky native and a former World Cup ski racer.
“When I was a little girl, I made a dream list of what I want to do in my life. I’m supposed to learn the guitar by the time I turn 30, go skydiving, win five Olympic gold medals, and be in a Warren Miller movie… Hell yeah, that’s awesome. I get to cross that off the list.”
After shooting with the crew last year in Utah, Kelleher is delighted the film company asked her back. “It’s like the ultimate compliment as a skier,” she said. “[To have them say], ‘We enjoyed working with you as a person and as a skier.’”
Of Ticket to Ride’s 12-15 segments, five to seven minutes will be set in Montana.
“What the audience will get mostly is a global adventure,” said producer Josh Haskins of what will be the 64th annual Warren Miller feature. Other locations include Kazakhstan, Greenland, Norway, Switzerland, Alaska, Iceland and Colorado.
Although the film uses “the obvious motifs of travel and transition between locations,” Haskins said, “a lot of our creative unfolds as we go.” This means departing from the “literal idea of this ticket to ride, and treating it as more of an exploration.”
He described it as character-driven and athlete-focused.
Montana’s association with America’s most mainstream ski film company is not an accident. In an effort to better reach winter destination travelers, the Montana Department of Tourism and the Montana Ski Areas Association partnered as the official travel sponsor of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 films.
Although the state was not featured in the 2012-2013 feature, the sponsorship agreement, which cost $350,000 for the 2012/2013 season, gave MTOT and MSAA some input on the Montana segment of next year’s film.
“We requested that they hit both small and large ski areas in Montana and showcase what really sets Montana apart as a winter ski experience,” said Katy Peterson, chief of marketing for MTOT. “Yes, there’s world-class skiing and loads of untouched powder… but there’s also some of the nation’s most spectacular, unspoiled nature here, at its most serene and magnificent during winter.”
The agreement also came with five, one-minute videos MTOT can use to promote skiing and winter in Montana. This is in addition to advertising and sponsorship promotions through WME’s print publications, events, screenings, website, social media, email blasts and athletes.
Whitefish, like Big Sky and Bridger, has seen rising skier numbers for the last several years.
“I think it’d be safe to say that Montana skiing is growing,” Polumbus said.
Ticket to Ride will also include a segment from Whitefish shot this January.
Bozeman-based cameraman Chris Patterson directed all the pieces set in Montana, which he says will weave together to show “the lifestyle in Montana and the people that make it so great, … [as well as] the beauty and diverse terrain around the state.”
“It’s certainly fun to shoot close to home,” said Patterson, who has been shooting Warren Miller films for 21 years. “[Keely] had a great place to grow up, raging around Big Sky.”
Kelleher, who attends college in Salt Lake, was happy to be back.
“Utah is cool, but sometimes I miss Montana… a lot.”
Ticket to Ride will be released in fall 2013.