TGP's Total Telemark V
November 3, 2005-- One of the many challenges Tough Guy Productions
producer Nat Ross has faced every summer since he began the Total
Telemark series of videos in 2000, has been to find the time
to participate in the editing process and supervise other post
production tasks while competing all over North America and Europe
as a world champion 24-hour mountain bike racer. He's rarely
home from mid-April to late September, and while his films have
generally had a fair amount of exciting footage, they have have
often seemed to lack cohesion, as numerous others tried to step
in and help out. We had heard that in some cases athletes would
send in entire segments they had put together themselves, even
including music, which were then sometimes plugged into the video
as is. If everybody is on the same page as far as basic thematic
elements, that approach could conceivably work, as it did to
some extent last year with Core. But it's a tough way
to make a quality film.
is not like this at all. Director and cinematographer Stephane
Riendeau's steady hand during all stages of production is very
apparent, and editor Stu Swineford really gets the most out of
every frame of footage. The film moves with a near seamless feeling
from one segment to another. Most are quite short, around 3 to
5 minutes. They say a good performance leaves the audience wanting
just a little bit more, and this appears to be the approach the
TGP crew took here in editing the various segments. The film
moves along quickly, without ever seeming rushed.
Sessions opens with around 3 minutes of
spectacular big-mountain heli skiing footage shot in Alaska in
the Valdez area, then moves to Sugar Bowl with a nice little
4 minute or so mini-documentary. The cameras follow members of
the Sugar Bowl ski patrol as they perform early-morning avalanche
control work on the resort's stunning Palisades cliffs and chutes.
As the "all clear" is given, two tele skiing patrollers
are shown enjoying the single best perk of their trade-- first
tracks down a perfect powderlicious ridge.
Next up is some awesome helmet cam footage
---a Riendeau specialty it would seem, as there is a lot of it
in the film and the majority is uncommonly steady and shake-free.
We see Lorenzo Worster's huge front flip off a cliff band last
year that didn't quite workout as planned.
Worster then tells the story of how everything
seemed to be going just right as he took a small air onto a ramp
above the cliff. Launching into the air with good speed, Zo failed
for some reason to get enough rotatation, landing too far back
on his skis and cratering into a large bomb hole with a thud.
He says he felt immediate and excruciating pain in his back,
finding out later that he had suffered a T-8 vertebral compression
fracture. As was Andy Rosenberg's avalanche segment in PW05,
Lorenzo's story was a sobering reminder that aggressive big mountain
skiing is risky business, and the consequences of a mistake can
be catastrophic. Lorenzo and Andy were both very lucky to come
away from these incidents last year relatively intact.
From here Sessions continues with some
beautifully lit major powder stokage, and some really fine helmet
cam work through impressively narrow chutes. A very short segment
with a few highlights from last year's Alpine Meadows Big Mountain
and Slopestyle competitions gives way to an outstanding 6
or 7 minute appearance by the Powderwhores. The Utah crew is
shown romping through deep sparkling powder, down open bowls,
through trees, all under bluebird skies. Mystical sounding music
accompanies a number of changes in pace, with dream-like slow
motion powder shots threatening to send a pow starved viewer
into sensory overload. In a film with many memorable scenes,
the Powderwhores segment is a major highlight.
Nearly 30 minutes into Sessions is the
first and only terrain park segment. Featuring, Max Mancini,
Ty Dayberry, Ben Dolenc, Mark Tieszen and Seth Stefen, this 3
to 4 minute portion of the film is fun to watch and has some
fine "wow that was sweet" moments, there is also some
big mountain footage with these guys mixed in. I liked it a lot,
but for those of you who don't really care much for park footage,
you've got just enough time to get to the kitchen, grab a beer,
and get back in time for the second half of the movie.
Next up is the Yosemite segment, part of
which can be seen in the sample clip currently on TeleVision.
This was another highlight of Sessions, capturing the feel of
good times in the backcountry in one of the world's truly wonderful
places. In full high-res digital video, the Yosemite ski scenes
are fantastic, our web-video clip barely doing them justice.
As mentioned earlier, Sessions moves along at a brisk pace, and
here the film shifts gears, smoothly moving into a segment featuring
Norwegian freeheeler Asbjørn Næss. We met Asbjørn
last year at one of the trade shows, and in addition to being
one of the more colorful characters on the scene today, he's
a ripping tele skier with a style that is unique and really fun
to watch. It was very cool to see him in this film.
At about the 40 minute mark it becomes
apparent that all of these terrific short segments we've been
watching have led nicely to the film's climax, TGP's trip to
Valdez last year. Here the pace of the film changes dramatically.
Much like the break before the finale of a fireworks show, this
change serves to further signal that the viewer is about to see
something special. And TGP does not disappoint, delivering a
spectacular closer that is at once inspiring, breathtaking and
truly exciting. Oddly though, unlike so many other Alaska ski
videos I've seen, some of the Sessions footage from Valdez seems
surprisingly accessible in that it really wasn't too much of
a stretch to imagine ourselves being there, skiing at least some
of those lines. Others, well, maybe not. Such as the huge, distinctively
Alaskan lines Dylan Crossman and others simply shred from top
These are awesome mountains and the crew
scored incredible footage here. All of the athletes shine but
it was especially fun to see now veteran tele movie star, Sarah
Clemenson charging and bringing her special energy to these excellent
closing scenes. Appropriately enough for a film with so much
emphasis on human powered backcountry skiing, the second half
of the Valdez segment has the crew climbing for turns and dropping
a variety of impressive and enjoyable lines. This was another
favorite part of the film for us, it just looked like everyone
was having so much fun. It made us look forward to the season
ahead, and many of those kinds of days for ourselves.
Perhaps this is, actually, the great accomplishment
Beyond the amazing skiing, and all the
incredible stoke, Nat, Stephane and the rest of the TGP crew
succeed in capturing something else throughout this new film,
but particularly in the closing segment, and that is the unique
spirit and camaraderie so common among tele skiers the world
over. By the end of this film we were smiling broadly, along
with the athletes gathered at the end, having experienced for
some 55 or so minutes a little bit of what makes the best days
out in the mountains, skiing tele with old and new friends, so
Thanks Nat, that is priceless.