Much like the posh, big budget Holly-world of feature filmmaking, each year the top filmmakers in skiing and snowboarding set out to create a film that's better than all the rest. And every year they push the boundaries of sport and filmmaking: unexplored zones, new tricks, bigger jumps, innovative camera techniques and angles, more original music. There are dozens of films touring the country right now, but our ski and snowboard experts set out to award the 10 best in the most coveted of categories based on talent, creativity, gnarliness of tricks and terrain, editing and overall impact. So roll out the red carpet, grab your popcorn and call Steve Martin, because this show's just getting started. Presenting the 2010 ESPN Action Sports Ski and Snowboard Video Awards.
SKI: Matchstick Productions' "The Way I See It"
This year's MSP film, "The Way I See It," deviates from the standard ski flick with a humbling and inspiring segment on MSP veteran Ingrid Backstrom and her brother Arne, who passed away in June. On top of that, the film includes mind-blowing shots from backwoods British Columbia with Mark Abma and Eric Hjorleifson, an epic kicker at Alyeska with Bobby Brown and friends, comedic relief from Colby West and a killer soundtrack (the film starts with Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls"). "This is definitely one of MSP's best movies," Ingrid Backstrom says. "The skiing is completely insane, the cinematography somehow manages to be even better than in the past and it really captures the total feeling of skiing." We couldn't agree more.
Honorable Mention: Teton Gravity Research's "Light the Wick"
SNOWBOARD: TransWorld's "In Color"
It was some kind of year for snowboard movies. They're all so good, you can't really go wrong picking any of them. But there can only be one "best," so after heavy deliberation, we're calling it for TransWorld's "In Color." This movie has the total package: the riding is mind-blowing, the filming and editing is clean and creative and the soundtrack serves to perfectly punctuate it all. It's high-energy from the first shot and filled with countless "oh man!" moments. (Like the opening montage? Wow.) It's also arguably one of the heaviest crews to date, which got the nod from Videograss' Justin Meyer. "[That] is what made this one my favorite," Meyer says. "You've got pow legends like Devun Walsh and Jussi Oksanen, mixed with guys like Jake O.E. [Olson Elm], Chris Bradshaw, PJ [Phil Jacques], Keegan Valaika and Mark Sollors, who had one of the most well-rounded parts ever. [Everyone in this crew] puts out the best-looking stuff in their niche of snowboarding. They delivered for sure."
Honorable Mention: Absinthe's "NowHere"
Best Male Performance in a Leading Role
SKI: Dane Tudor, Poor Boyz Productions' "Revolver"
Dane Tudor is a relative newcomer to the ski film scene -- the 21-year-old has filmed with Theory-3 Media and two seasons with PBP -- but he literally steals the show in Poor Boyz Productions' latest release, "Revolver." There's not just one Tudor segment in the film, but several. The Alaska/B.C.-native hops from massive kickers in the Whistler backcountry to powder in Niseko, Japan, to bony spines in Haines, Alaska, stomping every air and cleaning big-mountain lines with an effortless style not unlike Sage Cattabriga-Alosa's. "Dane is the all-around shredder we all wish we could be," long-time pro Mike Douglas says. "There's not one aspect of freeskiing that he isn't really good at. It's going to be cool to see how he'll push the sport over the next few years." Sage, better watch out.
Honorable Mention: Sean Pettit, Matchstick Productions' "The Way I See It"
SNOWBOARD: Jeremy Jones, TGR's "Deeper"
Consider everything that went down last winter: all those double corks, that one triple cork, the many varied and inspired attacks on the streets. It seems a little ironic that the best male performance would go to a rider whose whole approach focused on taking a step back from all that insanity, but Jones deserves it. His lines dwarf even the most remarkable feats of snowboarding's gnarliest. What Jones is doing is almost beyond comprehension for most of us. Yes, the helmet cams help and TGR did a brilliant job of giving us the Jones-eye-view of his lines, but the frightening reality is there's really no way to completely capture the sketchiness of the kind of riding he does. "Watching Jeremy Jones ride is like watching Danny Way hit the mega ramp -- it's hard to comprehend," Josh Dirksen says. "I rode with Jeremy for over six weeks this winter and never saw him crash. And it wasn't because he was taking it easy."
Honorable Mention: Gigi Rüf, Veeco Productions' "9191"
Best Female Performance in a Leading Role
SKI: Grete Eliassen, "Say My Name"
Eliassen gets props for putting together one of the first all-girls ski films that people actually watched and enjoyed. Secondly, she gets props for nailing the most diverse female segment we've seen in a while. The film, which stars her, includes everything from rail slides in the nation's capital to big-mountain lines in Utah's Wasatch range. "Grete definitely put together a notable film with impressive skiing," two-time X Games gold medalist Kaya Turski says. "Usually girls get short segments and it was cool to see Grete skiing to her fullest potential in full segments."
Honorable Mention: Rachael Burks, Teton Gravity Research's "Light the Wick"
SNOWBOARD: Jess Kimura, "Right Brain Left Brain" and "Let's Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow"
Running with both the Think Thank and Peep Show crews, Kimura put in overtime last winter, and it paid off. Kimura ended up with two video parts this season, one of which earned the coveted opener slot in "Right Brain Left Brain." Kimura is a wild child who lives fast and rides faster. Sure, some ladies might have logged more tech rail clips or gnarlier jump shots last year, but the sum of Kimura's parts is what makes her this category's winner. Kimura's go-for-broke approach is what women's snowboarding needs right now. "She's motivated," Think Thank's Sean Genovese says. "She has the determination to go out every day and get the s--- kicked out of her, and that's the most impressive part. I used to say Think Thank would never film with a girl, but she's definitely changed my opinion."
Honorable Mention: Annie Boulanger, Absinthe's "NowHere"
SKI: Teton Gravity Research's "Light the Wick"
Imagine Sammy Carlson, John Spriggs and Byron Wells throwing 1260s and switch double misties over your head in a movie theater and you'd have a glimpse of TGR's 3D experiment, shot at Washington's Stevens Pass. "Light the Wick" is the first ski movie to incorporate 3D technology, which was done with two RED cameras shot from a helicopter. "It's the best TGR film I've seen in years," Powder magazine editor Derek Taylor says. "The 3D was definitely what everyone left talking about. It was definitely next level for ski films. I'm really excited to see where they go with it." The truth is, though, TGR would win this award even without the 3D: The film is meticulously shot from beginning to end.
Honorable Mention: B4Apres' "Azadi: Freedom"
SNOWBOARD: Pirate Productions' "Hooked"
"Hooked" is true eye candy and the tightest Pirates production to date. First, the riding is top-notch -- pretty much 40 minutes of hammers. But the cinematography is where they really nailed it, with a perfect blend of crispy high-def shots and grainy film clips. The pans are steady. The dolly is used sparingly and only when it actually enhances the shot. There are no excessive and/or awkward lifestyle interludes. The edits are clean and a lot of the angles are composed like photos. Most importantly, the movie never feels over-edited. Oh, and there are even pyrotechnics. TransWorld filmer Gary Milton couldn't say enough: "Visually, it was right on -- all their angles, the way they framed everything up. From the heli shots to the wide-angle shots, it just seemed like they had every angle covered. Plus they shot film, which is rare these days. The production value is really high."
Honorable Mention: TransWorld's' "In Color"
SKI: Level 1's "Eye Trip"
The diversity of music is what got us on this one. So many ski films these days are all one genre: reggae or hip-hop ad nauseam. But in Level 1's "Eye Trip," listeners get a mix of everything. There's hip-hop from Redman, 1960s rock like The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and Swedish indie rock from Peter Bjorn and John. The best segment in the film is probably the last one, which features a massive kicker at Sun Valley, Idaho, and we couldn't imagine a better musical accompaniment to that than Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave."
Honorable Mention: Nimbus Independent's "En Route"
SNOWBOARD: "9191" by DJ Baron
How could "9191" not win? For one, it's an original soundtrack -- a score, if you will -- which is a first for this caliber of snowboard movie. Add to this the brand of genius of Baron, the soundtrack mastermind, that falls perfectly inline with director Jake Price's musical taste, and it's symbiosis. Ultimately we -- the admirers and emulators -- are the ones who really benefit from this relationship. The cymbals crash at exactly the right second during a backside 180 or a frontside slash or those hand plants; the drums fire in perfect succession with that front seven. It all syncs up perfectly. That's what gets the ultimate shred-soundtrack critic Kevin Sansalone hyped. "It's the ultimate in collaboration," says Sansalone, adding that he hopes it's a sign of things to come. "Putting together a score for a snowboard movie [like that] -- it's definitely something I'd like to try."
Honorable Mention: Videograss' "Bon Voyage"