“Nexus” premiered on Oct 5. in Golden, Co. and film tour will stop at Bomb Snow Film Festival in Bozeman on Dec. 2.
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Shannon Corsi recalls moving to Big Sky “basically full gaper” for the winter of 2015-16 and learning to snowboard while working as an outfitter for Black Tie. She said she figured snow sports out on the fly.
‘On the fly’ might be Corsi’s style. She’s the director and executive producer of “Nexus,” an Arc’teryx-backed ski film that premiered on Oct. 5. She said it was the first film she ever worked on.
“It was a lot of huck and pray,” she told Explore Big Sky.
“Nexus” intentionally rejects the ski industry entertainment norm that “one woman is enough”—which many world-class female skiers have heard throughout their careers—by featuring 10 women on the slopes. The film carries top-tier cinematic appeal, from dynamic time-lapses and slow-motion close ups to drone aspects and helicopter action reels. Unique segments show big mountain lines, backflips, backcountry powder and the simultaneous dropping of cliffs and beats—“Nexus” contains the usual elements of a ski film, except men.
Aside from gender, there’s another intentional difference on screen; there isn’t the constant ‘huck and pray’ action, the minutes-long powder highlights that viewers might expect from Warren Miller Entertainment or Teton Gravity Research. Instead, Corsi and her production team focused on telling the story of each athlete, with interviews digging deeper than snow. They explore their relationships between womanhood and the mountains, their bonds with fellow athletes and identity barriers within ski culture.
There’s still plenty of powder and dramatic mountaineering on screen—just with a higher dose of character.
Five unique pairs of women make up various segments of “Nexus.” The 43-minute film is narrated between segments by 70-year-old Jane Gallie and 67-year-old Margo Krisjansons, longtime Teton area locals who met in Nepal in 1981. They’ve seen the ski world grow to include women over their years, but spent most of their lives skiing in groups of mostly men.
Ingrid Stensvaag lives in Vail and Lucy Sackbauer lives in Sun Valley. Both nurses, they met up to film in Jackson, Wyoming. They discuss finding balance and solidarity in their lives by exploring the backcountry or by squeezing in a quick groomer before a night shift in the hospital.
In her 19-year career, Red Bull athlete Michelle Parker had never ridden in a helicopter with only women, according to a “Nexus” press release. That changed in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska as she rode the chopper to shred big mountain lines with designer and professional biker Brooklyn Bell, in a segment about mentorship and synergy.
Both winners of Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, Caite Zeliff and Veronica Paulsen practiced making their own fun in Revelstoke, BC to open the film. They eventually find snow and send it.
In “Nexus,” cousins Sasha Dingle and Krystin Norman climb peaks around Crystal Mountain, WA. They were inspired to put their passions first by their mothers, who both escaped Vietnam right before the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and fell in love with skiing as young adults. They made sure their daughters had access to the mountains.
Adding more BIPOC representation
Dingle and Norman weren’t originally part of the film script, but they reached out to the producers because they felt “Nexus” was missing something. A Montana State graduate and former Bozeman resident, Dingle spoke with Explore Big Sky.
Norman knew the project’s lead photographer, Katie Lozancich, from their work in professional mountain biking. After hearing about the ski film, Norman reached out.
Dingle said her cousin pointed out that, “something was missing and it was something we can add.”
“All the stories showed a wide variety of what it’s like to be a female athlete,” Dingle said. “We wanted to add an additional BIPOC story that kind of normalized that skiing for us was as normal as being a family… we kind of wanted to show the normalcy of that. We wanted to show a story where, in one generation, this can become a family activity––how quickly change can happen from really loving [skiing].”
Growing up as a competitive ski racer and transitioning into Freeride World Tour competition, Dingle said she didn’t always see her identity represented in the industry. Lacking a clear role model, she says she felt inspired and fearless without a precedent to limit her imagination, but being outside the majority group was also a stressor.
“I feel like I have not belonged in the ski industry, but I have always belonged to skiing,” Dingle said. “The language that connects [my family] is skiing. That felt like my first language in a way.”
Alpine racing in Vermont while Krystin grew up skiing moguls in California, they didn’t have many opportunities to ski, bike and compete together aside from a few family trips during childhood. Instead, they lived separate but parallel lives; Dingle says that while filming “Nexus” they skied together for the first time since middle school. Dingle and Norman reconnected three years ago through mountain biking.
“All this armor that I’ve worn as a woman in a male dominated industry, and as a BIPOC woman in a white dominated sport, that started to come off when I saw what Krystin was doing,” Dingle said. Both cousins have been deeply involved with biking, which Dingle said is outpacing skiing in terms of giving women dedicated event platforms such as the Red Bull Formation Series, Dark Horse Invitational and Thunder Struck.
Dingle moved west to race at MSU but wanted to explore skiing beyond the intensely focused culture around racing. She eventually competed in the Freeskiing World Tour qualifying events, winning one in 2013 at Snowbird and going on to the Freeride World Tour before health issues began to interrupt her skiing career.
“Across a life or across a competitive career, the stress load accumulates if not offset with renewal,” she wrote in a follow-up. “Burnout for me following the Freeride World Tour was physical illness and chronic pain for two years, with about five years total to rebuild.”
Dingle founded the Mountain Mind Project in 2015, with a mission to “reclaim the health in mental health through deep relationship to self, others, and the natural world,” according to the website. She focuses on meditation and mindfulness, which helped her reconnect with her passions.
Ten industry leaders
In “Nexus,” Dingle and Norman only have a short window to discuss challenges outside of the skiing world. Creating a 43-minute film made up of five different scenes, Corsi and her team had to find a balance between the action viewers expect and telling 10 important stories.
“We wanted to showcase the different stories people have, how they relate to the mountains, and how skiing can be game-changing,” Corsi said. She says she had a great group of girlfriends in Big Sky with “[an] insane level of camaraderie” that wasn’t reflected in the ski media at the time.
Corsi said that her years in Big Sky solidified that she wanted to stay involved in the ski industry, and the community of women she found in Big Sky influenced her to make this film in the first place.
“You have a place in the ski industry, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Corsi told Big Sky’s young female skiers. “And enjoy it—Big Sky is a magical place.”