If the rest of the Alpinist Film Festival went as well as the opening snow night, it won’t be long before this regional, niche film festival claims higher, broader ground. From Christian Beckwith’s welcome just after 7 p.m., to the rolling credits of Brendan Kiernan’s well-executed “The Line”—the story of Mark Newcomb’s quest to ski a new route on 8013-meter Shishapangma—after 10:30, it was an emotional roller coaster.
Forget ski porn. Ski night was about “why”. As in, why we live in the mountains and, in particular, why we choose the Teton Mountains. As Beckwith explained in his intro, it wasn’t too long before the festival—as they were making final selections, in fact—that they realized they had the opportunity to have an all-Jackson Hole ski night. Far more than just gratuitous ski porn.
Yes, the TGR guys were there, but they kept it reined in with two appropriately short films: one a dedication to Doug Coombs and his pioneering contribution to big-mountain skiing as we know it today, and the other a somewhat panned 3-minute short of Jamie Pierre’s 255-foot huck for Jesus titled “The Jesus Jump.”
The night was dedicated to Doug Coombs and opened with the most emotional film of the evening, hands-down. “In Doug’s Words” is a film of the last interview with Coombs before he died in a fall from a cliff only a few short weeks later in La Grave, France. Rick Hunt, Jackson Hole native and long-time friend and ski/climbing partner of Coombs, introduced the film. While Rick’s speaking presence left something to be desired, what he wrote about Doug (“I just have to read this,” he said as he began reading directly from his paper), how he embodied the free spirit of skiing and the impression he made on skiing and everyone who knew him hit the nail on the head. It was great to see and hear Doug again; when it was over just six minutes later, there was nary a dry eye in the house.
“Town Down” captured the spirit of the so far 25-year run of the Town Downhill on Snow King Mountain, showing it as a Jackson Hole institution that never fails to satisfy on many levels. While a serious race, it also has its fun-factor (embodied in the relatively new “Phat and Baggy” division) and its fraternal factor (everyone who dedicates so much time to preparing the course and making it happen). A well-timed showing given the running of the Town Downhill the weekend before.
David Gonzales‘ 9-minute short on the Igneous ski company was rich enough to feel quite a bit longer. Or maybe it was my infatuation with their craftsmanship combined with my desire for a custom pair for myself…or maybe it was just my full bladder.
After the intermission, the evening ended with the 55-minute feature film “The Line,” Jackson Hole native and consummate alpinist Mark Newcomb’s quest to make it to the top and ski off of an 8000-meter peak. Interspersing Mark’s upbringing in the Tetons with footage of the team making their way too, up and off of Shishapangma, filmmaker Kiernan put together a film that, to paraphrase Mark’s words, made a good film out of a mediocre story.
But perhaps the most interesting film of the night was “Legends of the Fall Line,” Piton Productions‘ retrospective of the history of skiing in the Tetons. The story is one that has been ripe to be told for some time (and could, I’m sure, be told from several perspectives). Hats off to them for getting interviews of Teton skiing pioneers before these genuine and influential people have passed on. Just seeing Virginia Huidekoper and Betty Woolsey speak about their experiences in the early days of skiing in the Tetons makes one envious of that special time. It also focuses quite a bit on Bill Briggs—successful early ski off the Grand and how that became a turning point in big-mountain skiing. Conspicuously absent, however, is any mention of the development of Jackson Hole Ski Corp, especially considering the amount of footage dedicated to Barry Corbet (not to mention the fact that the Alpinist Film Festival began its life as the Barry Corbet Film Festival).
In the end, it was a well-rounded evening of fantastic ski alpinism footage. Not sure how y’all are going to top it next year, but I look forward to the offering.
PS: After having done a little post-post surfing, just wanted to give props to Jim S for saying some of the things I forgot to about the Center and this festival in his jh underground blog today.