New Trailer from Sweet Grass — Decision Time in SA

Post by blogger | July 12, 2012      

We just got this teaser from Nick and the boys at Sweet Grass Productions. Around here, winter never ends, does it? We like the way this soul narration deals with realities of risk, and Nick doesn’t hold it back. No failure here, instead, success on so many levels. WildSnowers, your take?

On The Road Episode IX – Skiing the Void from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Presented by PATAGONIA and brought to you by New Belgium Brewery
Buy the SOLITAIRE DVD and Blu-Ray:

Episode XI – Skiing The Void:

ON THE ROAD WITH SOLITAIRE is a 12-part web series following Sweetgrass Productions in the making of their 2-year project, the South American backcountry ski and snowboarding film SOLITAIRE. For the summer of 2012, new episodes will be released every Thursday until July 26th.


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26 Responses to “New Trailer from Sweet Grass — Decision Time in SA”

  1. Xavier July 12th, 2012 10:32 am

    Marvelous.Most of us that do this seriously have turned back from an objective and wondered “what if I had gone”. His narration is perfect.

  2. Matt Kinney July 12th, 2012 11:59 am

    Great trailer. What mountain is that? I’d eat chicken for that route! 😉

  3. Joe Risi July 12th, 2012 11:59 am

    Great series.

    Very powerful narration.

    Always loved your work Nick can’t wait to see more.

  4. d July 12th, 2012 5:19 pm

    I ski in the mountains a bit and I am glad that I do not suffer these problems.

    It seems that the narrator was hinting at this in the end.

    Skiing is fun.

  5. Lou Dawson July 12th, 2012 5:36 pm

    D, yeah, not everyone has to go to the extreme end. One problem we have here in North America is the extreme side of the sport tends to get, in my opinion, much more emphasized in terms of it looking like that’s how we all do it. One reason I enjoy Europe is that, yeah, plenty of extreme skiers, but so many people are out just for fun and don’t even think about getting rewarded by pushing it. Both things have their season, but guys and gals in the extreme end will always do well to contemplate how far and how long they want to push it. For some, it’s their destiny. For others, it’s just a period in their lives that may be enriching, but is best retired from sooner rather than later, before tragedy. I’ve been in both places and see their value.

  6. Matt July 12th, 2012 6:24 pm

    Lou – Thank you for this statement- “For others, it’s just a period in their lives that may be enriching, but is best retired from sooner rather than later, before tragedy.” I’ve been working through what it means to shut it down a little, to let off the throttle. Looking at it as a period (like formal schooling) that can have an end is very thought provoking for me. That hard charging attitude was great for many years, but as I age, I see that it has a very high probability of providing its own end point. Re-evaluating and seeing myself as a recreationist, as I was all along, really drives home the idea that it is a choice. There is no shame in backing off, it’s a personal choice, just like pushing it was.

    Thanks again, I appreciate the thoughts, even in summer.


  7. d July 12th, 2012 6:47 pm

    Well said Lou and Matt.

    It is good that people take risk. I have, and sometimes still do, though my daily mountain mantra is something like “how can I satisfy myself today and simultaneously take the least risk possible”. However there are some who can not simply skip the meadows, ever. It is almost sneered at, like the mountains owe you nothing short of high intensity satisfaction. And the internet demands it.

    No single run is worth not ski touring tomorrow. No single run is worth seeing my wife’s kind face again. No single run is worth burying my face in my dogs fur. These things matter too much. Others may differ.

    I’d really admire a film maker who could bring low risk mountain skiing to a level of accepted entertainment/off-season fulfillment. Some are going that way. Signatures had it. It takes skill.

  8. Lou Dawson July 12th, 2012 7:21 pm

    Courage is a quality that should never be under-rated, but love easily trumps it. When the two go hand in hand, like when a person sacrifices their life for someone else, then, well, we go way beyond ski descents…

  9. rangerjake July 12th, 2012 8:43 pm

    These are deep questions that has less to do with a sport or a line, but more to do with the individual. What drives each of us to strap planks to our feet and battle and dance with gravity pulling us down. It isn’t logical, the risk vs. reward, and it is seldom practical. But we still go.

    Skiing, and more specifically ski mountaineering, are what seem to be the razors edge of adventure and catastrophe. The margin is so thin, and that is surely part of the allure to some. The idea that we, as individual humans, are so small and mortal is good to have reinforced somewhere in life. It is not something we are forced to see on most days.

    The video is superb and it always makes me feel good to see adventures like this get some life on the screen. I agree there is no “success or failure”, just different degrees of success. To be able to, as a group, feel that gut instinct after so much work and prep, and then to follow it away from the summit. Hard to overstate how impressive that is.

  10. Joe July 12th, 2012 10:23 pm

    “Different degrees of success” is exactly why so many of us can enjoy our life in the mountains.

    When this plays out visually unmasked by dubstep, quick screen transitions, and helicopter blades it makes me respect the filmmaker that much more.

  11. ted July 13th, 2012 10:25 am

    That line will surely be skied someday. Ptor was pushing the limits twenty years ago but not anymore. Extreme skiing is not for family guys!

  12. john nobil July 13th, 2012 11:16 am

    Thanks for that Lou. Gaining a new perspective is the key to long-term growth of the backcountry both as a sport and as a healthy way of life. Respect for the mountains comes first -having fun follows in the wake of this perspective NOT the other way around.  Let’s refer to it as the 20% rule. Looking up on the beautiful Rockies after a significant snow event we all salivate at the possibilities. But 80% of what we see is actually untouchable. 
    So instead stay focused on the 20% that IS safe and beautiful in any snow condition-this should be the new mantra of mid winter backcountry skiing. But instead many begin the sport with a skewed perspective based on ski film extreme, bro-bra double black mentality combined with a lack of real appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes of those movies or resort controlled environments. Like everything is skiable almost all the time if you have the right “skills” and “knowledge” -the very definition of a false sense of security!

    Basically the entire industry needs to get behind a new backcountry mantra. Right now it seems that a belief system is in place that says: get the right avy education, stay current on all the reports and team up with the right people and you can ski almost anything. Which is fine if you can accept death as a significant probability. I think this part is usually left out.  How is this compatible with enjoying a lifetime of human powered skiing? and getting more people into the backcountry?

    The “20% rule” brings it all into proper perspective. YES you can gaze longingly into the mountains. YES you can have plenty of fun today! BUT only 20% of it is yours to actually ski. 
    There is still plenty of fun to be had in that 20%

  13. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2012 11:29 am

    John, that’s a terrific, humble way of looking at the mountains. Have to admit I’ve viewed them both ways in my different life seasons. Either way, one should be deliberate and clear about where they’re coming from, both to themselves and their loved ones.

    I’d agree that some of this is driven by media, but that’s true in nearly any sport. For example, driving can be fun and safe, but when is the last time you saw a movie that focused on fun and safe driving? Thus, it’s left up to us to sort things out using the brain God gave us, most people I know seem to do quite well with that, though we all make mistakes, and get into grey areas where we’re suddenly taking more risk than we bargained on. Indeed, that happened to Lisa and I once last winter when we blundered into a whiteout below some avy paths. After taking a different route, the sky cleared and we could see our original route had stabbed upward to the runout zone of a an avy path, which had subsequently slid over our track. No reward in that, not even a good photo or two, no footie for the movie, just blundering in a whiteout, foolishness I was embarrassed by.

  14. Nick Waggoner July 14th, 2012 8:29 am

    Just want to say thanks to all for letting us share our work. I really enjoyed reading the comments above and hearing different perspectives. Glad to be part of the discussion!

  15. Lou Dawson July 14th, 2012 11:18 am

    Nick,thanks for chiming in and for your introspective narration. Personal growth and introspection might be something many of us seek from our outdoor adventure experiences. Seems like that’s going on with you guys. Would love to hear Ptor’s take.

  16. J July 14th, 2012 2:41 pm

    “What if I had gone….”
    I’m aghast that anyone can find this kind of high-budget naval gazing impressive. Not skiing the line was clearly the right choice….. trying to make a professionally budgeted video out of your 6th ever roped climb wasn’t. Their eyes were bigger than their stomachs, EOM.

  17. ptor July 14th, 2012 3:05 pm

    Well, I’m even more stoked to have been a part of it all after seeing this piece. Nothing could be a better result of sharing an experience such as this than some residual reflection and philosophizing. Obviously that’s what Sweetgrass was trying to do as they could have come more from the perspective of what we DID ski which was kind of extremish anyways. Great to add further reflection to the passing of Kip and Arne as well. In general, massive kudos to the boys for this configuration of ski film presentation.

    My philosophy has always been ski the best conditions you find and do the right mountaineering choice to return safely. In this particular instance, filming was part of why I was there and that was something else that needed to be calculated for. Not skiing the line I had theorized about was not just saying no because it was too gnarly or that I have a family.
    Our whole expedition was limited in time to really do a line like that in the optimum rhythm. As it turned out, the “hail mary” we threw at the end of the trip after already realizing the conditions weren’t optimal on the other peak we were scoping out was a massive 2000m alpine style push to well above 6000m that pushed the morning weather window beyond the scope of hope. Every time we did get high, it was my intuition that said stop and ski down now in order to even get any filming in. The clouds well up real fast on the east side of the Huayhuash and you can always top out and sketch down in the clouds, but I have nothing to prove.
    So the great skiing we had on the east face of Sarapo and the SE face of Yerupaja was the best skiing around. The line we said no to had a super difficult navigation around it’s bottom (maybe not possible), looked refrozen on the flutey bits and was additionally challenged by our filming itinerary to even get there in time. In conclusion I would say the lines I theorized about were there but not in optiminum conditions. A month earlier would have been better. Getting to it and skiing the glaciers was a great achievement already in my books. If you really want to know what the line is, you’ll figure it out and good luck getting to the bottom of it.
    It’s not about doing it or not in terms of sticking it out there, (life on earth is dangerous) it’s about doing whatever is inspiring… correctly… and fulfilling the mission you decided on as a group, which in this case was exploring, living and loving it, making a film and returning home. Remember, there’s always more to the story than even in a ‘making of’ but in this case the melodrama was meaningful and effective.

    So to add some philosophiocal fuel to the fire of this thread, I’ll say this. For the most part, it’s complacency that kills regardless of what kind of skiing you do. Doing the ‘easy’ stuff and thinking it’s easy and less risky can lull one into a sense of desensitization where the intesity is low but the potential can still be deadly. Doing it right on the steep and technical as well as the powdery style is what it’s all about. What’s the difference if someone fucks up and dies skiing a ‘mellow’ slope versus a ‘steep’ one. None, they’re both dead. Doug Coombs said it best, “Overconfidence weeds itself out”.

  18. Lou Dawson July 14th, 2012 6:37 pm

    I just thought it was poetic and well presented, high budget whatever… but each to his own opinion, it’s creative work and open for crit, that’s for sure!

  19. JCoates July 16th, 2012 2:59 pm

    I just spent $9 on this movie based on this trailer and am a bit disappointed. I was expecting some significant ski mountaineering but it seemed like pretty much the same old stuff but with better photography. Am I the only one who would really like to see a film dedicated to ski mountaineering not neon goretex and half-pipes?

    What I would really like to see is a documentary that goes through the thought process that goes on in choosing an objective, planning, the approach, and descent of some real objectives by real ski-mountaineers. The TGR demographic might find Remy Lecluse’s ski style boring, but I could watch him all day.

    Why can’t someone produce a feature length film like this?

  20. d July 16th, 2012 8:19 pm

    Just in case movie makers are reading, I agree with JCoates. I put involvement far above action. TGR and MSP style movies are called “Ski Porn” for a reason. When will someone start producing movies called “Ski Stories?”. I don’t even care of the skiers are not world class, or 50% below world class.

    It is the mountains I am interested, and their interaction with people and technology. Please someone start capturing that story.

  21. JCoates July 18th, 2012 7:21 am

    And I should clarify that the reason I bought the movie was because of my respect for Ptor. I thought the movie would have more than 5 minutes with him in it, and was hoping to learn more about his thought process in the mountains. Was dissapointed that this was not the case.

    Should also be said that I appreciate the amount of effort that went in to this movie by the filmamkers. It is beyond anything I could produce in this lifetime, and that as far as “ski porn” it was better than most. Just dissapointed it was nothing like the trailer above. I’ll stop griping now…

  22. Zach Marquis July 18th, 2012 12:36 pm

    Nice piece sweetgrass. I haven’t seen a ski flick I liked too much in a long time. Rad.

    Mountains are for freedom – dudes want to get extreme then dudes should get extreme.

    Extreme or free or however you want to look at it.

  23. Jason C July 18th, 2012 4:22 pm

    @JCoates You should not fault the filmmakers for not making the movie that you would have wanted.

    What I enjoyed about the movie and previous Sweetgrass movies is that they have taken the time to get to know a place and a culture and that they introduce us to that through skiing. They also do a great job of deromanticizing backcountry ski movies in the traditional sense (all 60 foot cliffs and 3 feet of champagne powder) and emphasizing the place and experience in a way that is visually appealing to a large audience. In what other ski movies will you find people skiing sun cups on a 5000m peak, see a movie in the language of the culture it is filmed in as a sign of respect and appreciation, and take the viewer on a journey through the place where the movie is being filmed rather than the sponsors and the skiers jaunts upon the location.

    And, I have to scoff at the idea of these movies/vignettes as big budget. There is a reason that you don’t see helicopters, zoomed in shots of jeeps rallying through puddles and incessant interviews with red bulls hats. Check out the rest of the vignettes that Sweetgrass has put together as well as Jordan Manley’s shorts and I think that you’ll find a lot to appreciate. These are the types of movies I look forward to not because they match entirely my expectation or hope for a movie but because they create something real and they do it in a way that is palatable to both sponsors and viewers.

    Lou – Thanks for continuing to show all sides of the sport from TGR to Sweetgrass and from wilderness conflicts to snowmobiles. Enjoy summer in bonedale.

  24. d July 18th, 2012 8:30 pm

    Sweetgrass are definitely one of the leaders in “non-porno” film making. Though the artistry seems a little pretentious at times (said gently) 🙂

    The story is more important than the action.

  25. Lou Dawson July 19th, 2012 8:18 am

    Jason, thanks for chiming in. I do enjoy the diversity of experiences that backcountry recreation leads to. Fun to try and cover all that stuff and try to tie it together. It does crack me up sometimes when I hear the constant yammering about “diversity,” and those same yammering people actually get pretty uptight when the actual diversity is a little too diverse (grin). On the other hand, the whole idea of art is it’s supposed to cause a reaction on the part of the viewer, so all opinions and feelings about it are certainly valid.

    As for wanting the movie one envisions for themselves, that’s valid too as it’s kind of the ideal for your own enjoyment of art. But on the other hand, seeing something you react to in other ways helps define that. And yeah, the Red Bull hats get a bit old. Can you believe I’ve never touched my tongue to Red Bull? Does that make me weird, or am I simply missing out on an amazing advertising opportunity?

  26. Mike Marolt July 26th, 2012 3:54 pm

    In the 6000-8000 meter arena, it’s just simply a different game. There is positively no room for second guessing. Decisions up there to back off are never a guess and backing off is ALWAYS the right decision once it is made, ALWAYS!

    Well done.

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