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There’s arguably nowhere ski culture runs deeper than in the Centennial State, and part of the evidence lies in the many films born from Colorado’s mountains. Though skiing has changed a great deal through the years, we can still thumb through an archive of ski films—old and new—that herald the sport’s wild and rowdy legacy.
Many productions by Warren Miller, the late godfather of ski films, featured Colorado athletes and terrain. And his legacy lives on through Boulder-based Warren Miller Entertainment which this year released its latest film, Timeless, featuring both Silverton and Eldora. Beyond that, there are a host of filmmakers here who have helped push the limits of extreme skiing and showcased it in a new light, including Crested Butte-based Matchstick Productions as well as Sweetgrass Productions, which was founded by Colorado College graduates.
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As winter settles in and our favorite highway starts backing up, we rounded up a few of our favorite ski films that help us remember why we wake up so darn early to chase powder. These five pictures are timeless, have circulated film festivals, and have helped establish Colorado as an epicenter for all things skiing.
Warren Miller: Steep and Deep (1985)
This 1985 production by Warren Miller might be the most iconic ski film ever. With a quintessential ’80s soundtrack and steeped in nostalgia, the film is heralded as the origin of radical skiing. Though none of the shredding takes place in Colorado, it features Steamboat’s legendary director of skiing Billy Kidd (one of the first Americans to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing) ripping alongside icons like Stein Eriksen, Phil Mahre, and Craig Peterson. The skiers go to Japan, France, New Zealand, and more places to showcase unprecedented skills and push the sport to new heights—literally.
Greg Stump: The Blizzard of Aahhh’s (1988)
It’s not a list of the greatest ski films without Greg Stump’s The Blizzard of Aahhh’s. The 1988 classic features a generation of ragtag extreme skiers including Glen Plake, Scot Schmidt, and Matt Hattrup at destinations all over the world. One of the best segments, though, takes place at Telluride where pro Scott Kennett (and his adorable doggo, watch this film for more on that) and local hippy “Rasta” Stevie explain why the beloved mining town is home to the ultimate mountain, unlike the glitzier resort towns in Colorado. The film served as inspiration for generations of skiers, including the late (and legendary) Shane McConkey, who watched this film at age 18 before moving to Boulder and then launching his professional career.
Sweetgrass Productions: Afterglow (2014)
Sweetgrass Productions elevated the level of cinematography five years ago when Colorado College graduate Nick Waggoner dropped Afterglow, which quite literally set a new standard in the ski industry. With lighting assistance from Philips TV, he was able to illuminate skiers for a night segment that has since been emulated in nearly every other sport. With a narrative that is just as epic as the visuals (mostly shot in Canada and Alaska), this film remains a pinnacle of creativity.
Matchstick Productions: Days of My Youth (2014)
There’s something about an Alan Watts narration that makes a film just a little bit more inspirational. So, when Crested Butte’s Matchstick Productions launched their trailer for Days of My Youth in 2014, it shook skiers to their core. The landscapes include big mountain spines, the monotony of living in a city, and a rich collection of scenes from Colorado’s backcountry, as well as a killer resort segment featuring some insane skiing at Crested Butte.
YETI: John Shocklee: A Fairy Tale (2017)
Follow I-70 past the madness, take a left near Grand Junction, and head south until you hit the stomping grounds of this film’s namesake character, John Shocklee. The “Peter Pan” of Silverton is a 54-year-old mountain guide who has achieved peak ski bum status. It’s a lifestyle many skiers strive for, or at the very least can identify with: never growing old, skiing every day, and having zero debts. The recipe is the foundation of his “fountain of youth” and makes for a story worth sharing.