"Legend of Aahhhs" is not your average ski film. Greg Stump's first ski movie since one too many close calls led him to seek a career outside the industry that he himself helped to revolutionize with his 1988 "Blizzard of Aahhhs," "Legend" is part history, part story and part extreme skiing.
The movie starts at the beginning, tracing the roots of the genre with Otto Lang, John Jay Dick Durance and others before launching into the new school era of "Blizzard" and its contemporaries - when backcountry and "freestyle" skiing first captured the imagination of a generation of skiers and riders.
Stump's story starts in Maine, where as a competitor in the Junior Ski Masters, his favorite event was "the free run," a final, anything-goes run that evolved into ballet, moguls and aerials. Later, he skied for filmmaker Dick Barrymore. After observing how Barrymore created his movies, Stump narrates: "I had the bug. I wanted to try and make a ski movie that featured my friends, the unsung bump skiers."
"Blizzard" was the first ski flick set to a soundtrack of "real music," as Stump tells it, and the new movie follows suit, using clips of his past movies and current films by various producers set to music ranging from classical to hip-hop and electronica.
The irreverent "Blizzard" also changed ski movies in the late '80s by working a storyline into the film, featuring Glen Plake and Scot Schmidt going head to head in a rivalry that, Stump says, continues to this day.
In "Legend" we learn the backstory - that the straight-laced Schmidt wasn't interested in doing "Blizzard;" instead, it was the opportunity to spend a month skiing Chamonix that sealed the deal. The young Plake, on the other hand, stalked Stump and his crew at ski resorts all over the west coast.
"As a non-partying, east coast little goody two-shoes, Glen Plake scared the daylights out of me," Stump admits. "He drank hard; he smoked hard; he partied hard - man, could he ski hard."
"I was having fun creating chaos," says Plake, who found mainstream ski magazines and ski areas "boring" and "square" after the 1970s. "Our movies were ... no doubt about it a turning point ... [in] pop/sub culture," he says.
In "Legend" we relive the fabled "Today" show appearance - where Plake and Schmidt were introduced to the American public as ushering in a new phenomenon, "something called extreme skiing" - that launched them to fame without their ever winning a competition. It was a pivotal moment for extreme sports.
Stump shines the spotlight on filmmakers who preceded him, including Barrymore, Roger Brown and Warren Miller (who admits in the movie to never having watched "Blizzard") before delving into elements of the modern ski movie, including interviews with the founders of Matchstick Productions and Teton Gravity Research, and how fat skis changed the game.
Thus "Legend" has universal appeal; not only does it give countless ski buffs and bums inspired by "Blizzard" the opportunity to reminisce about the good old days, it also serves as history lesson on skiing and ski movies that is inclusive of where today's generation has taken the industry.
Stump is not without his characteristic humor in "Legend" - witness Mike Hattrup being yanked out of the trunk of a car followed by a small explosion - but a sobering side comes through too, as he considers the question of whether his films led today's boundary-pushing ski and snowboard movies down too risky a path.
This honesty, and behind-the-scenes look at the development of ski films and extreme skiing in general, combines with a good selection of clips, a strong soundtrack, Stump's colorful commentary and engaging interviews with industry greats (even Klaus Obermeyer is to be found yodeling) to make "Legend of Aahhhs" go beyond the average ski movie in all the right ways.
Tonight's screening at the Breckenridge Theatre starts at 7 p.m.