By Bella Butler MANAGING EDITOR
Winter Fest is an Outlaw Partners event. Outlaw Partners publishes Explore Big Sky.
BIG SKY –In a 1992 ski film shot in Big Sky, Montana native and professional skier Scot Schmidt cuts a line through classic Montana cold smoke powder, the feeling of levitation palpable through the screen.
The narrator assumes Schmidt’s thoughts in that moment, speaking them over the scene.
“These tracks, that run, will be locked in my brain forever.”
Yesterday evening at Retro Movie Night, part of the inaugural Winter Fest event, it was clear that statement couldn’t be truer as Schmidt and fellow ski legend Dan Egan recounted stories of their glory days filming with the likes of Warren Miller and Greg Stump in between showing clips from some of their favorite films.
For a few hours, a packed crowd at The Independent theater relived the ‘80s and ‘90s on slopes everywhere from Montana’s Bridger Bowl and Big Sky to Turkey and Chile with Schmidt and Egan, cheering them along on some of their most famous lines and cringing at their legendary wipeouts.
“I think one of the best things about this is we have two legendary pro skiers that … have such a great history in the ski film industry and with Warren Miller, but also more importantly, they’re, familiar faces here and they’re community members and friends,” said audience member Ben Brosseau, a ski guide and instructor in Big Sky for 18 years. “It’s just really great to have an atmosphere like this where you can kind of relive some of those moments and see and hear a little bit of the behind the scenes of what we’ve all lived in seen and been entertained by for 30 years.”
Egan shared one such behind-the-scenes anecdote from his 1989 trip to Portillo, Chile, where he told the story about a shot that was planned for the film in which he and fellow skier Kevin Andrews would ski powder-eight turns down an untouched slope.
Egan recalls how he and Andrews spent the night before in the bar talking about where they were going to go the next day.
“So when we get up and we traverse across the train tracks to go shoot these powder eights [the next day] we had been poached,” Egan divulged. Sure enough, when the clip rolled, the audience laughed knowingly as Egan and Andrews completed 75 harmonized powder-eight turns—next to two lines that had already been skied by the poachers that morning.
In reflecting on decades of extreme skiing, not all memories were stoke-filled and comical. In a vulnerable moment, Egan introduced a clip from a 1990 expedition up Russia’s Mount Elbrus gone awry. An infamous storm hit the mountain on Egan’s ascent, trapping 50 people including Egan above 17,000 feet. Egan was lost for 38 hours and 15 people died.
In a Q&A session with Schmidt and Egan following the reels, one audience member asked how the two skiers’ concept of risk and fear has evolved over time and was surprised when Schmidt responded that he’s always been scared. Fear is something that young skiers should take seriously, Schmidt said.
“Risk is fear,” he said. “And you combat fear with courage. But you can’t be too courageous. If your courage exceeds your ability, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Schmidt and Egan both discussed close calls they had with avalanches. Though many of their lines shown in the films are steep and deep in the backcountry, the athletes are almost never wearing avalanche gear.
“For me, I’m scared all the time,” Schmidt said. “I’m paying attention. I’m really trying to walk lightly with respect and listening to the snow and the conditions.”
Still spending most of their time on the slopes, both skiers delighted the community audience during the Q&A by emphatically responding that Big Sky is their favorite place to ski. And their favorite run? The Big Couloir.