Frisco backcountry skier John Spriggs and veteran crew return with latest film effort, ‘Must Be Nice’
25-minute, documentary-style flick showcases big lines and tough times
When John Spriggs gathered a collection of professional and backcountry ski friends for his latest ski film effort, the 33-year-old Frisco local and the others found brotherly humor in a shared characteristic.
“We were joking around that you had to be 30 or above to be in our crew,” Spriggs said. “An OG 30-and-up crew, but we did have some high 20s in there. We’re just older skiers doing our thing, but it’s still a pretty big passion project.”
In the world of backcountry skiing, Father Time takes his toll on riders sooner than many other passions.
Spriggs, U.S. Freeski Team pros Taylor Seaton of Vail and McRae Williams of Utah, and a collection of other accomplished backcountry ski friends come together on Spriggs’ newest short film, “Must Be Nice.” The crew shows that with more years also comes more experience, a deeper story and more raw realities in the backcountry.
Even if the skiers themselves are mourning a friend’s death, transitioning away from contest careers or battling through the kind of pain only wear and tear brings on, they have the wisdom to push the boundaries on their daredevil passion into a far-fetched winter realm.
In “Must Be Nice,” that’s the Red Cliff-like town of Cooke City, Montana, and the big-mountain skiing in the surrounding Beartooth Mountains — a remote 45 miles northeast of Yellowstone National Park just north of the Wyoming border.
“It’s, basically, right on the edge, Spriggs said. “You drive through Yellowstone to get there, and the road ends at the town.”
From there, Spriggs, the gang and filmmaker Edward Clem — Spriggs’ co-producer on the 25-minute project — rode their snowmobiles out into the Beartooth Wilderness Area.
Spriggs said he takes pride in how “Must Be Nice” showcases the best skiing in a more grassroots, group approach rather than having to focus on a singular, branded star.
“The cool thing with our project, the movie does base around me, for sure, but the shots are from everybody,” Spriggs said.
Spriggs said the box-canyon-like bubble around Cooke City maintained more ideal avalanche and snow safety conditions than the greater area. That’s where the majority of the filming took place, though the crew headed to the towns of Victor and Driggs in Idaho, too, as well as Jackson, Wyoming.
Like Spriggs, Clem and Seaton’s previous 2019 effort “Book of Pow” — which chronicled an awesome Colorado snow year — “Must Be Nice” has its share of classic stupefying big-mountain ski footage. But on the more personal side, it shines a light on how these backcountry line, footage and thrill chasers live.
Spriggs and friends agree they have an awesome way of life, but it’s a battle — whether from the psychological resonance of returning to deep, snowy slopes after the deaths of close friends — Tony Seibert, Bindu Pomeroy and Johnny Kuo — to the physical toll the ride-the-lightning passion takes on their bodies.
Kuo’s death in February is still raw for Spriggs, who learned about the accident during filming for “Must Be Nice.”
“He was basically my backcountry partner when I was back in Colorado skiing any backcountry lines or anything like that,” Spriggs said. “He was kind of like a mentor and friend in the backcountry and in life. To lose him in an avalanche was pretty devastating.”
Spriggs gave a shoutout to John Pritzlaff of Podium Sports for sponsoring the film, which is premiering this month at ski film festivals in Europe and Canada ahead of a Dec. 1 publication on YouTube.
Spriggs said he and Seaton are also working to set up premiere dates at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards and hopefully a to-be-determined location in Summit County while the film’s other skiers are premiering the film near their hometowns.
Spriggs said more information will be shared in the coming weeks on his Instagram: Instagram.com/jahspriggs.
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