Friday, November 16, 2007

Backcountry Hits the Big Screen

It's been slowly building the buzz for a while, but the big-screen debut of STEEP is just around the corner. If you're not familiar with the film, stop right now and mark the date December 21st on your calendar - the date it opens in 25 top markets around the country.

From producers The Documentary Group:
STEEP is a feature documentary about bold adventure, exquisite athleticism and the pursuit of a perfect moment on skis. It is the story of big mountain skiing, a sport that barely existed 35 years ago.

It started in the 1970s in the mountains above Chamonix, France, where skiers began to attempt ski descents so extreme that they appeared almost suicidal. Men like Anselme Baud and Patrick Vallencant were inspired by the challenge of skiing where no one thought to ski before. Now, two generations later, some of the world’s greatest skiers pursue a sport where the prize is not winning, but simply experiencing the exhilaration of skiing and exploring big, wild, remote mountains.

STEEP features many of the sport’s greatest athletes including Bill Briggs, Stefano De Benedetti, Eric Pehota, Glen Plake, Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Chris Davenport, Ingrid Backstrom and Andrew McLean. The man who is often described as the greatest big mountain skier of all, the late Doug Coombs, is the character at the center of the film. He died in a skiing accident in La Grave, France, in April, 2006.

STEEP was shot on High Definition and on film in Alaska, Wyoming, Canada, France and Iceland.

A number of us at Karhu had the chance to watch a sneak preview of Steep earlier this week, and the impression was pretty unanimous: WOW.

STEEP beautifully traces the history of big-mountain skiing, but with faithful attention paid to its roots in European alpinism and the boundaries currently pushed by North American freeriders and ski mountaineers. The archival footage from pioneers like Baud, Vallencant, Briggs, Hattrup and Pehota provides a terrific sense of how daring their descents were... some of which have yet to be repeated. Arriving at the story of Doug Coombs, a central figure, the film enters the Alaskan powder-rush and the helicopter boom, before returning to the current ski mountaineering exploits of dedicated backcountry explorers like Andrew McLean.

The production value brought to the table by The Documentary Group is outstanding. Formerly Peter Jennings Productsion, The Documentary Group spent an incredible amount of time amassing valuable archive footage, shooting lengthy interviews, and capturing their own beautiful imagery with complex cable cams and high-def film shoots in BC, Alaska, Europe, Canada and Iceland. Backing by Sony Pictures Classics provides excellent studio muscle, having come off of successful sports documentaries for skateboarding and surfing in Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants. For skiers, especially backcountry skiers, Steep has built buzz because of its potential to raise awareness of the sport we love, and why we feel so drawn to it.

Above it all, it is simply amazing as a backcountry skier to have this kind of attention and interest paid to the beauty of the mountains beyond the ski area. The imagery, from opening images of skiers touring across a glacier to the final shots of remote, wild ascents and descents, is focused on the experience - the freedom and possibilities, and the difficult balance between risk and reward - of the backcountry. STEEP captures that experience eloquently and beautifully, and is well-worth catching when it comes out.

For more information on Steep:
Trailer from
The Documentary Group
Sony Pictures Classics

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1 comment:

Eric J. Henderson said...

Can’t wait to watch the mentors of the ski mountain culture in their natural state. Describing the untold stories of the early descents. Thanks for the heads up.

Mountains embody the harsh essence of nature. When a ski or snowboard descent caps a fine climb, the alpinist becomes a joyful, even sublime, part of that wild landscape. Low Dayson ,Wild Snow 97’