Looking to become versed in ski and snowboard movies? Want to do a little name-dropping to show off your knowledge of the sport? Then, curl up on the couch to watch the best ski and snowboarding movies of all time.
From the start of the ski movie biz to the advent of snowboards, these movies provide a peek into history and the bravado of skiers and snowboarders who push the sport further.
Here at The Adventure Junkies, we culled the movie piles for the best skiing and snowboarding films. From downright old school to kitchy cult comedies, these films need to be in your knowledge repertoire. With this arsenal of movies, you’ll be able to whip out a few comments for hearty repartee with your buddies during après ski.
STEEP AND DEEP
Warren Miller debuted his first ski film in 1949. For decades, he dominated the ski movie biz with annual flicks. Steep and Deep is one of his classics from 1985.
All of his films were narrated with humor by himself. This movie showcases beautiful mountains, attractive ski resorts, expert skiers and usually a time out in the middle to watch the antics of beginners learning to ski, dismounting the chairlift or falling over.
BLIZZARD OF AAHHH’S
In 1988, Greg Stump amped up the ski movie scene with his fifth film starring the talent of freestyle skiing’s best who pushed toward extremes. Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, and Mike Hattrup ski steep, narrow chutes and bumps, all to the rock music pumping a beat.
Aerials give the visuals zing while Schmidt wows with cliff jumps. Plake, and his famous ultra-tall Mohawk, cultivate a bad-boy image on screen, but he went on to be inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame.
LICENSE TO THRILL
Greg Stump’s 1989 sequel to Blizzard of Aahhh‘s continued with the same cast of skiers (plus others) to cement the bridge from freestyle skiing to extreme skiing. The cinematography uses the steeps of Squaw Valley, Jackson Hole, and Blackcomb to showcase their skills, rendered more palpable by thumping rock music.
The result is a movie that makes you want to grab your skis and head for the slopes. The skiers with their old school, straight-cut, long skis and one-piece ski suits perform to a level to which many of today’s skiers still aspire.
A short 11-minute film by Sweetgrass Productions, Afterglow puts a new spin on night skiing. Beautiful snow cinematography brings out the contrast of Chris Benchetler, Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, and Daron Rahlves skiing after dark in Alyeska and B.C. powder. Soon colored lights add brilliant visuals of cliff jumps, steep powder spines, and snowflakes. The film skyrockets when the skiers don LED suits to light up their moves.
Sherpas Cinema shot All.I.Can. over two years traveling on six continents. Their efforts paid off with winning a whole lineup of ski movie awards in 2011-12.
But more than the awards, the film goes far beyond the thrill of watching almost 20 world class skiers plunge down giant mountainscapes in Chile, Canada, Morocco, Alaska and Greenland. It takes a provocative foray into global climate change and what individuals can contribute to the larger world.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/malexeum
THE MAN WHO SKIED DOWN EVEREST
In 1975, this film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. It is the story of Yûichirô Miura’s attempt to climb Mt. Everest five years earlier in order to ski down the world’s tallest mountain.
Narrated with excerpts from his diary, the movie chronicles the expedition in which several people were killed. The documentary pits the ambition of the Japanese skier against the cost of aspiring to succeed.
SWIFT. SILENT. DEEP.
This 2009 film by SSD Productions chronicles the posse of out-of-bounds skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the pre-open boundary era. Known as the Jackson Hole Air Force, the quasi-secret group forged backcountry skiing in the Tetons, ducking under rope lines to access powder.
The group acquired the name due to the air time needed to jump the cliffs and steep snow pillows of Granite Canyon. The JHAF had a profound impact on the opening of ski area boundaries in Jackson Hole and across the West.
Shane McConkey, a freeskier, ski-BASE jumper, and member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, pushed the sport of skiing further. From ski racer to professional skier, McConkey starred in many extreme skiing movies. Winner of many free-skiing championships, he pioneered modern skis with reverse sidecut and reverse camber. He died at age 39 ski-BASE jumping in the Dolomites.
This 1965 classic is a spin-off comedy of the beach and surf movie genre that starred singer-heartthrob Frankie Avalon. It includes a scene where James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” rocks out “I Feel Good” in the lodge. Even though the storyline is silly and dated, the film is worth watching for the shots of early gear, ski clothing, and Sun Valley.
This 1969 drama starring Robert Redford as the racer and Gene Hackman as the coach gives a glimpse into what it takes to compete at elite world competitions. Using amazing photography for its day to capture the speed of racing, the film addresses the need for myopic devotion to the sport in order to compete in the Olympics, even at the cost of personal human connections. It is one of the best sports dramas ever made.
HOT DOG…THE MOVIE
A young American farm boy aims as the underdog to win at Squaw Valley against a haughty Austrian professional skier in this comedy. But the plot is minor behind the mid-1980s sexist and sex-filled antics on the ski hill.
The finale throws all the racers into a Chinese Downhill, a free-for-all, no rules race that used to happen at many ski resorts. While the cultural basis of the film is clearly outdated, the film has endured for the skiing and some era-events like the wet T-shirt contest.
A comedy from 1990, Ski Patrol takes the familiar rivalry between members of ski patrol and ski school to a new level. Ski school instructors and a greedy land developer serve as the antagonists that aim to get the ski area owner’s lease canceled.
The good-guy ski patrol must outwit them. In the end, good prevails with the patrol saving the ski hill. It’s silly, full of slapstick, and best watched with a cold brew and expectations of bawdy humor.
In this R-rated comedy, ski school splits into two camps—the hard-partying animals versus the stodgy, rich way-too-serious instructors. They battle each other on the slopes and off with fraternity antics.
Toplessness, sexism and language speak to the ribald side of the 1991 ski culture. Only minimal skiing scenes redeem the storyline.
Two blue-collar workers from the Midwest seek a better life teaching skiing at Aspen in this 1993 drama. They train for the Powder 8 competition but nearly get derailed from winning due to poor decisions and drugs. While skiing out of bounds to train, one of them is killed in an avalanche.
The survivor writes about it for a ski magazine, and eventually wins the Powder 8 competition with another partner. While the movie received low ratings, Scot Schmidt and Doug Coombs performed the skiing sequences.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/planetyelruc
THAT’S IT, THAT’S ALL
This 2008 flick set the groundwork for The Art of Flight. It examines the challenges faced by professional snowboarder Travis Rice as he forays into remote, steep terrain. Filmed in multiple locations around the globe, this movie raised the bar for snowboarding films and for what could be achieved on a snowboard.
While its predecessor films focused mostly on terrain park tricks, Rice’s big mountain riding and cinematography sail far beyond previous snowboarding flicks.
THE ART OF FLIGHT
Professional snowboarder Travis Rice makes big mountain riding on pristine snowy steeps look so graceful and easy in The Art of Flight. And that’s exactly the point of the big budget 2011 Brain Farm and Red Bull film that showcases spectacular mountain cinematography as the backdrop for pushing where snowboarders can ride and what they can do.
While elevating the beauty of riding, it spins in realism by including falls and avalanches that are part of the big mountain risk.
Big mountain freerider Jeremy Jones had snowboarded in films, including movies for Teton Gravity Research and Travis Rice, until he branched out with his own venture. The founder of Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit urging the ski industry to help reverse the effects of climate change, alters the game-making for his series of three films.
Instead of relying on helicopters and lifts for skiing, he hikes to reach places to ride—even in remote big mountains. Deeper (2010) is part one his series with Teton Gravity Research.
In 2012, Jeremy Jones takes pioneering big mountain freeriding into more backcountry terrain. True to the formula designed in Deeper, he minimizes his impact on climate change by using human power instead of helicopters to reach remote riding locations around the world.
This adds much more drama to the storytelling by upping real threats from weather, avalanches, and deadly terrain. As a result, he was named 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
Jeremy Jones completed his trilogy of big mountain freeriding films in 2014. The footage goes from helmet-cam shots down Grand Teton’s Otter Body to a first descent in Alaska before culminating with riding in the Himalayas. Stunning top-of-the-world scenery brings a new definition to steep as Rice plunges down a 65-degree face in what he terms as the hardest run of his life.