We’ve seen our fair share of ski films over the years, and most seem to follow a certain pattern (goofy face shots, killer descents, more goofy face shots). That’s what we expected to see when we started the trailer for Sweetgrass ProductionsSolitaire. Not the case. The vibe combines a ski film with an indie documentary and a twist of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns.

The premise: Colorado-based Sweetgrass Productions spent two years filming backcountry skiing in South America. Sure, there are drop-your-jaw panoramas, but the film focuses on the rugged, unexpected, and often brutal landscape. Director Nick Waggoner, a Colorado Mountain College alum, says that the best days were often the worst, too. One day, the crew woke at 11 p.m. (they went to bed around 5 p.m.) to start climbing a glacier that had never been traversed. Things were going well, until the ice thinned to just one- or two-inch thick sheets that were spotted with holes. “It looked like doilies,” Waggoner says. “We could see down into abysses of black.”

With cameras strapped to their hands, the crew scrambled out of the doily field to reach a plateau just before sunrise. From there, they could see down the valley to the jungle, where a lightening storm lit the sky. “We could hear the bolts crack and were surrounded by 20,000-foot cathedral spires,” Waggoner says. “For all of the struggle, it is worth it when you realize that 0.1 percent of world will see something like that.”

You can see moments like that too at tonight’s 7 p.m. premiere at the Gothic Theatre. If you miss the show, check out screenings in Fort Collins (Sept. 21), Boulder (Sept. 22), and Colorado Springs (Sept. 23).

SOLITAIRE: A Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding, and Telemark Film from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.