The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing

Post by blogger | November 3, 2008      
Backcountry Skiing

Does the thought of a hard earned and wind lashed summit squeeze your heart like the memory of a distant lover? If so, you’re a mountaineer.

Combine skis with your mountain passion, and you might find many modern ski movies to be slightly lacking. Sure, they entertain — like a circus. Yet the heart of the matter, the climb, is frequently obviated by aviation fuel. More, gravity makes for good video so long as you’re succumbing to its pull. If you’re fighting gravity, as in skinning up a peak or cramponing a couloir, you’d better have someone filming with a tuned aesthetic sense who understands what they’re seeing through the lens, otherwise it’ll be boring.
Greg Hill’s short film, “Unbearable Lightness of Skiing,” is not boring. Instead, if you’re indeed a mountaineer, you’ll find youself pulled into the well crafted and compelling story of Greg’s quest for mountain experience.

It’s not a quest everyone understands, and Greg’s voice over makes that clear when he introduces the movie as if trying to explain the WHY of ski mountaineering to someone outside the craft. He goes on to narrate most of the flick in story teller fashion. Refreshing, to hear a simple sweet story coming from the protagonist, supported by a mellow music, punctuated by sounds from the actual day.

Following is not really a trailer, but is close enough. The final product is more polished and includes a triad of tours that includes the first descent of the Comstock Couloir in Canada’s Selkirk Mountains, covered in similar fashion as below.

Greg’s title is a pun on the well known book and subsequent movie “Unbearable Lightness of Being,” which explores the concept of “once is nonce,” meaning what happened once might never have happened at all. And thus, if you’re nihilistic, life is insignificant and unbearably light. Or, if you take the opposite approach of feeling that each life is special and we’re here to enjoy a bountiful gift, “once is nonce” could mean that something like a possibly once-in-a-lifetime ski descent is indeed significant — a gift to be appreciated, shared and celebrated — thus unbearably light because it shines so bright with promise, joy, and love.

Greg’s take is obviously the latter.

“The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing” made the finals of the Banff Film Festival and has been selected for the Banff World Tour. WildSnow six thumbs up.

To get a DVD, contact Greg through his blog. Perhaps yours will be titled in the man’s own handwriting like ours is. Nice addition to your movie collection.


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14 Responses to “The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing”

  1. Sean November 3rd, 2008 11:02 am

    Lou, have you read Kundera’s book? When I did, I’m afraid that I didn’t see the idea that he’s a nihilist, or that the story is nihilist.

    Maybe you were just joking, and I missed the joke? If so,my apology.

    I’d still like to see Greg’s whole movie.

  2. Lou November 3rd, 2008 11:58 am

    I read the book so long ago I could not remember the basic philosophical theme, but I do remember it had a sort of existential slant that some web reviews related to the title as regarding what seemed to me to be nihilistic. I’m really talking about the title, as that’s all Greg is messing with as far as I can tell.

    Keying this on my mobile, so forgive errors.

    Nihilistic is probably too strong a word but I was trying to bring out some contrast. No diss of the author intended.

    I seem to recall seeng the movie as well, but not remembering enough to help…

    I’m back home (after trying to key this on my mobile) and have the book sitting here, in the jacket it says “…existence seems to lose its subtance, its weight. Hence we feel, says the novelist, ‘the unbearable lightness of being.”

    Of course the book is so much more than just something with this theme — I just pulled that idea out to riff off of Greg’s title. Another theme in the book is that of the protagonist being married but having a variety of lovers. One has to wonder if perhaps that’s what Greg alludes to, as in the mountains being the distraction from the marriage.

  3. Dongshow November 3rd, 2008 11:41 am

    I’m intrigued, ski movies with lit references are like crack to me. I’ve enjoyed Greg’s blog for some time now, highly recommended, and now I’ll have to hunt down his video.

  4. powderjunky November 3rd, 2008 2:43 pm

    Looks awesome, can’t wait to get a copy!

  5. Matt Kinney November 3rd, 2008 3:48 pm

    Cool video especially walking under that cornice. Really…who needs a heli!!! Thanks Greg for showing the way once again. (We got a Comstock Couloir also)

  6. Lou November 3rd, 2008 4:28 pm

    Indeed! I find these guys to be very inspiring. Very.

  7. Dmitriy November 3rd, 2008 6:42 pm

    Nice site updates Lou, I read about the mobile version you have put up. Is there a direct URL to that? My nokia doesn’t seem to want to load that automatically.

  8. Lou November 3rd, 2008 9:22 pm

    Hi Dimitry, thanks for the feedback, I guess I’ll have to install a manual option for the mobile version or something like that. I’ll do it soon. After all the work of creating it, I want folks to be able to use it. It’s not as easy as just giving you a link, as it’s the same website, only with a different style sheet, and switches by sensing what type of device you’re using.

  9. Lou November 3rd, 2008 9:36 pm

    Dimitry, try it now and let me know if it senses your phone and displays the mobile version. I changed the auto-sensing code a bit.

  10. Paul November 3rd, 2008 11:34 pm

    Sweet movie. I look forward to seein’ it on the Banff tour. I’ve looked over at Dawson, Selwyn, etc. a few times from Sir Donald in the summer. I like how Greg highlights the mountains themselves–cornices, couloirs, weather sockin’ in, cliff bands. The Selkirks amaze, even here at the southern end.

  11. Dmitriy November 4th, 2008 1:00 am

    Lou, it works on my fathers nokia (regular flip style phone) on both the built in web browser and the the opera browser. However the nokia e61i smartphone loads a full page view (most sites it displays in full page view and only a few seem to recognize it as a mobile browser) Don’t worry too much about it might just be me.

  12. Lou November 4th, 2008 7:39 am

    Yeah, I’m really impressed by Greg’s style both in movie making and mountaineering. He might be setting a trend, as his mix of POV with voice over, music and ambient sound is definitely different and very compelling (all somewhat better in the actual movie). Sound mixing isn’t easy and doing voice over is a high art, I’ve always found sound harder than editing the visuals, so good on Greg!

  13. Lou November 4th, 2008 8:01 am

    Okay Dimitriy, I’ll let it ride for now, shoot, how many one-man websites even have a mobile version, let alone one that’s set up to work on every smartphone out there? At least I’m making an effort at the former . Out of curiosity I just looked at a certain skiing magazine’s website on my phone, and it was a nearly unreadable disaster that obviously had nothing to accommodate a mobile, and they’ve got a staff of more than one person! So I guess I’m ahead of the curve to some degree at least.

    Funny how the mobile web is taking design back to the basics. Who would have thought? Probably not for long though.

  14. Brenda November 4th, 2008 11:17 am

    I really like having sounds from the day instead of nothing but thump-thump music. Glad to see some good media coming from Glacier Park – no helis and no lifts here, so it’s not so popular among the movie-making crowd i guess. Greg captures the area well.

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