Strictly ski crew blossoms to ski film success out of Breckenridge roots
DILLON — In a town as ski-obsessed as Breckenridge, it’d be hard to find a childhood environment more true to the ski bum ethos than what Levi Ascher experienced growing up.
The son of Rick “Pup” Ascher and Ann Evans, Levi and his younger sister, Geneva, absorbed the ski culture and community at Rick’s Pup’s Glide Shop on Ski Hill Road.
“His eyes were wide-open,” Rick said. “The characters that used to hang out here after skiing, my son grew accustomed to my buddies. They would apres ski, talk about the day out on the hill, and he embraced it all.”
Rick had Levi and Geneva in ski boots before they could walk, skiing before they turned 1 and riding up Breckenridge Ski Resort’s T-bar at 4 years old. Hanging around Pup’s Glide Shop, Levi became a terrain park rat and was drawn to the budding local slopestyle scene. He improved his skills with coach Chris Hawks and Team Breckenridge.
Levi credits Hawks and his Team Breck coaches with emphasizing to him and his friends to have personality with their skiing. Lapping Breckenridge’s terrain parks, Levi became friends with the other talented young rippers who hit Park Lane as much as he did. It was with guys like Vermont transplant Ben Smith, Parker Norvell of Durango and Ethan Swadburg of Colorado Springs that Levi crafted his skiing style. Breckenridge and Summit County was where the “Strictly” crew members honed their skiing and friendships.
In recent years, Strictly has produced three films: “Strictly Business,” then “Welcome” and most recently “Bermuda.” “Bermuda” showcases the skiing and lifestyle the Strictly skiers had this past winter, from hitting creative street features outside of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, to being winched in to soar over alleyway gaps in Denver’s gritty Capitol Hill, to sculpting and slaying surreal spring snow formations at the top of the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming. Along with Levi, Smith, Swadburg and Norvell, Strictly features the skiing of Pete Koukov, Sam Zahner, Calvin Barrett, Carson Kerr, McRae Williams and Taylor Brooke Lundquist.
Rick couldn’t be prouder of the success Levi and his friends are achieving.
“They have the dedication to spend time in the woods and in the urban setting and take the time in piling up snow,” Rick said. “There’s a lot of work involved in building big ramps in the backcountry. Once they get those things dialed in, it sends chills up my spine every time I’m watching them. Those kids ain’t afraid. They feed off each other. They use each other’s energy to go bigger.”
Levi started down the path of Strictly after he competed in his final international slopestyle competition on his 21st birthday. After he departed the competition circuit, Levi said he and his Summit County ski friends always found themselves filming with Gavin Rudy. With Rudy on board, Strictly had the filmmaker they needed. Add in the artistic vision of filmmaker Andrew Mildenberger and the Strictly skiers were making art that was both jaw-dropping and visually accessible to viewers.
Levi and many of the Strictly skiers, including Swadburg and Norvell, now live in Bozeman, Montana, where Levi moved into a house with some familiar faces in the Ski Carnage crew, a related troupe that Levi also has worked with. This year Ski Carnage released “Subject 2 Change,” a hard-charging, 32-minute film full of big-mountain lines.
Of all the filming Levi and the Strictly crew were able to pull off during the year of the novel coronavirus, it was the final trip of the year, on Beartooth Pass near Yellowstone, that was the most fun. The trip serves as the final stop on the journey in “Bermuda,” as Levi, Swadburg, Norvell, Smith and the rest of the crew meet up to construct and hit inventive backcountry jumps in the almost glacial-like spring snowmelt.
On Beartooth, Levi channeled something his father did decades prior at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Back then, Rick and his friends would build Nordic-style ski jumps to hit with their Alpine equipment before Breckenridge Ski Resort snowcats tore the jumps down. Though Levi and Strictly’s jumps and skiing are bigger and bolder, they know Rick has been 100% supportive, there to tune the guys’ skis if he has to.
As for Strictly, Levi said the crew is confident what’s on the horizon is even better than what they’ve achieved thus far.
“Expect big things,” he said.
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