By Jimmy Lewis, Big Sky Weekly Contributor
Donning a style that was for us—as children of the ‘80s—not exactly “retro,” my ski partner and I drove up from Belgrade to Lone Peak Cinema.
We parked beside a customized four-wheel-drive van, the color of which was predominantly yellow with black trim—the same color combination of my favorite ski jacket of all time, the one I wore with pride as a teenager: the yellow and black North Face “Extreme” jacket featured on the back of my freeskiing hero, Scot Schmidt, as he jump-turned down the steeps and soared off cliffs in Warren Miller’s Beyond the Edge.
Could this, in fact, be Scot’s van? Could Scot, along with ski filmmaking legend, Greg Stump, really be inside the cinema making an appearance as the ads for Stump’s newest release, “Legend of Aahhhs,” claimed?
My friend and I, well accustomed to devising schemes to get first chair on crowded powder days at Bridger Bowl, arrived early. The freshies were metaphorical: a beer and a friendly chat with Scot Schmidt, who more than lived up to his reputation as a world-class athlete with an approachable and affable personality. In fact, upon meeting him, Scot struck me as a “regular guy.” One glance up at the widescreen above the bar displaying scenes from “The Blizzard of Aahhhs,” however, reminded me how looks can be deceiving.
But mingling with Scot and Stump were only part of this unique affair. As showtime drew nearer, more and more folks arrived; and, before too long, skiers of all ages filled the foyer of Lone Peak Cinema. There were senior skiers; middle-aged and nearing middle-aged skiers like myself bearing a few tell-tale gray hairs; the hip and attractive 20-somethings; teens; and even children—a bouillabaisse of skiers all gathering together to, somewhat paradoxically, experience the new while learning about the past.
To my amazement, I spoke with more than one skier in his and her 20s who admitted meekly being somewhat—if not completely—ignorant of Stump, Schmidt, Plake, and “The Blizzard of Aahhhs.” The edification of these generations of skiers is, you might say, the most important job of “Legend of Aahhhs,” and it’s here where Stump really delivers.
Stump’s “Legend” possesses a certain amount of epic ski footage that generated a few “aahhhs” among the audience (particularly from the younger generations). But, what Stump really does throughout the film is tell a story: He presents a narrative history of ski films and filmmaking, paying special attention (deservedly) to his own iconic film, “The Blizzard of Aahhhs.” In doing so, he encourages his audience to note the origins of our current extreme-oriented ski culture and the role played by filmmakers like Stump and Miller along the way.
For example, we learn how filmmakers like Teton Gravity Research’s Corey Gavitt and Steve Jones were influenced by Stump’s Blizzard and the skiing of Schmidt, Plake, and Hattrup. We also learn the origins of the term “extreme” and just how that word eventually conceptualized a culture centered upon risk-taking adventure. Younger generations leave with a sense of history, while the older crowd gains a larger understanding of how the films and skiers they grew up with influenced the sport.
In short, Stump’s genius is that he is able to reach across generations of skiers and leave each with a deeper sense of where they fit into the paradigm. The film flirts with being avant-garde, particularly in the context of contemporary ski films.
By telling the story of the relationship between ski films and ski culture over the past several decades, “Legend” tells us our story.