When I watched ski movies growing up I always thought that it was some kind of magic. I thought that the guys and girls featured in them got magically transported to the sunniest spots with the best snow, a really talented filmer/editor and then stomped everything first time without fear or hesitance. Turns out it's not like that, a lot of luck and hard work have to come together to turn all the effort of getting there and timing it right into a usable shot. Only one thing needs to go wrong with the skiing, filming, snow conditions, timing, weather or light for the shot to be demoted to B roll status, where hopefully something about it will be funny and then it can roll with the credits. I know that this is a bit of a typical rant and I will end it with the sterotypical 'but getting the shot makes it all worthwhile' line, but I guess I'm writing it for people that ever wondered what actually goes on behind the scenes of ski movies, 'cause it can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. So let me tell you a story about the last film trip of the year that I went on, to film for Whiteroom Productions next movie with Raphi Webhofer and filmer Jonas Abenstein.
Myself and Jonas watching the sunset from the top of the camper, photo by Raphi, check out his athlete page- Raphael Webhofer on facebook
So we were meant to be flying to Norway for a week of touring and a bit of heli time, but just before we were meant to go the weather forecast told us that it was going to be snowing for pretty much every day that we would be there. So last minute we grabbed the Whiteroom Productions camper van and headed over the border to St Moritz and the Engadin Valley. Raphi and I had already been there on separate trips during the season, but since they had had the biggest total snowfall in over 50 years and had mainly sun in the forecast for the next week it was an opportunity not to poke a ski stick at. The photo above is of us checking out the sunset on the first night after scoping some lines, glad that we had made the difficult call not to chase the expensive dragon to Norway. The photo below is the line that we had found and decided to ski together- an exposed shelf finishing in a compulsory air, that turned out to be bigger than it had looked through our binoculars, and with a rockier take-off and landing.
The intimidating but enticing line down the central shelf
What it looked like from the top in the sunset
Looking back at Raphi to tell him I think it's on
Tight turns in the steep sluff
The long, rocky air out. With a bit of roll in and an ollie I made this, just, but Raphi got unlucky and clipped a rock on landing, tumbled and lost a pole (permanently). It was quite a contrast to the smaller lines we had been skiing earlier that day where I had been kooking it and he had been stomping stylish tricks
I've seen Raphi more stoked than at this moment, the variable snow above the exposure led him to say it was one of the stupidest things he had ever done
So where to from here? I wanted to ski more faces because I'm not as good at tricks as Raphi and he had been getting better shots than me. We met up with local friend Lukas Swieykowski to check out some new zones and I found a line that I have to ski one day, full on life goal. The light had run out by the time I saw it, but it will still be there next year.
Dream line from the top left shoulder to the central compulsory air, watch out for it next year
Lukas put us up for a couple of days while he was showing us around, thanks buddy! We found this zone with him too, and salivated, all picking different lines off the bat.
Lukas' line on the right, mine in the middle and Raphi's on the left. The star is where the variable snow caught his edge and the dotted lines are where he tumbled to where he stopped at the circle, and had to cling to a rock for half an hour with a broken hip till the heli could pluck him.
The rescue heli plucking Raphi off the face, you can see him dangling below it in the rotor wash, heavy day.
After a short heli trip for Raphi and a long drive in the camper for Jonas and I we got to gape at this in the Swiss hospital, check out what's going on with his hip bone in the top left of the x-ray
This is Raphi looking over the other side from the peak before he dropped in, with good times in the minds eye. We didn't know he would be taking a heli home, how could we? I was thinking about that the other day when I posted this pic on the instabook- check it out on @neilwilliman or FB/Neil Williman Skiing Human, and I got a bit carried away with the caption, trying to capture the ups and downs of filming, what we give for skiing, what it gives back and what it takes away. I guess it was a big part of why I took a summer off, instead of going home to NZ for winter, a bit more time to pull my thoughts back to goals and stoke. And write this to try and explain why this photo means what to me. Below is the original captionessay, maybe it will mean a bit more now if you've read this through or at least glanced at the images.
My good ski buddy @raphaelwebhofer on top of a peak we toured near St Moritz in April, and on a better day this caption would've read something cheesy like 'the days we ski for'. We'd been living in a camper for a week looking for lines to film for #whiteroomproductions before finally finding this zone, but the variable snow sent Raphi to hospital with a broken hip after a scary fall. Shaken after helping the medics load him pale but smiling into the heli I was left contemplating what rewards we were looking for in return for these risks, and how I'll feel next time I stand on top of a serious line. Midsummer has been and gone since then without a conclusion reached, other than that the goddess of snow can be a feisty and unreasonable mistress, and it is something in that renders me helpless- unable not to heed her call when she beckons.