It's April 15, 2008 and half the citizenry of Haines, Alaska, is inside the Harbor Bar. By "half" I mean the six ski film companies and at least as many snowboarding counterparts that have descended on the town to live the "Groundhog's Day" version of heli-waiting for a few weeks. The dismal weather forecast means nobody will be flying tomorrow and the collective frustration of nearly a week on the ground is being released in drink.
Outside the steamed windows of the Harbor Bar, Dave Mossop is amongst the decades old pillars and algae-covered rock setting up his Canon 50D to get a 12-hour timelapse shot of the rise and fall of the boats and the tide in the harbor. This is when I met the Rocky Mountain Sherpas, now known simply as Sherpas Cinema.
They were still nobody in the collective conscious of skiing at that time. I spent four weeks with Mossop, Eric Crosland, and Malcolm Sangster in Haines that year, watching them gather footage for their avalanche education feature, "The Fine Line." It was quickly apparent the Sherpas were going places for one simple reason: They work harder.
That was reinforced 10-fold at Friday night's world premiere in Whistler of the Sherpas' newest film "All.I.Can." The Sherpas have made the best movie in skiing by working harder than anyone else. Yes, you read that right: The best movie in skiing.
"All.I.Can" is a visually stunning masterpiece of cinematography. The effort that went into this movie is apparent, and it oozes creative innovation. Imagine a timelapse of a backcountry ski run going from summer to fall to winter and in the last seconds having a skier bomb off pillows down it. Imagine a deep powder turn filmed in the reflection of an eyeball. Imagine big mountain action shot through a droplet of water forming on the tip of an ice axe. Imagine watching a 75-year-old woman skiing powder and being so stoked you involuntarily let out a hoot.
"All.I.Can" is a wake up call in many ways. We knew it was going to have some kind of environmental bend, but it doesn't give you something to think about so much as it just makes you think, and that's refreshing. From Dan Treadway doing mind-bending things on a snowmobile to Greg Hill logging two-million vertical feet under his own power in one season, the Sherpas aren't throwing out a judgment. Their message is subtle and pulled off well. They do a quick homage to J.P. Auclair and the Salomon Teneighty and then make the connection that the smallest tweak to an established system (turning up a tail on a ski) had the power and impact to completely turn that system on its ear. Skiers are inherently environmentalists and the collective creativity in our community is unpararelled. "All.I.Can" is asking what other systems can we turn on their ear?
Auclair's urban segment in Trail, BC, might be the best of the movie. He's basically skiing through a neighborhood, jumping driveways and cars and clotheslines, and skidding across intersections with a shower of sparks. The shots are incredibly long and fluid, he's on a rail for about three seconds in the minutes-long segment, and it's the most creative thing that's happened on skis within city limits in years, if not ever.