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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Sweetgrass: "Valhalla"

By Colin Bane
ESPN.com

This week, Sweetgrass Productions dropped the first teaser for "Valhalla," the follow-up to their film "Solitaire," which won Best Cinematography at the 2011 International Freeski Film Festival. "Valhalla" isn't due out for nearly a full year (it'll release in the fall of 2013), but the psychedelic teaser left us with enough questions to catch up with director Nick Waggoner for some answers.

First things first: Why tease a fall 2013 ski film now, when this season is just getting going?
This is our fourth film and we've learned a lot about how to get the conversation started and get in people's brains that we're working on a film and we want to share the stoke. We'll release another trailer next August and there will be some more video content coming out over the course of the winter as we're working on it.

People use the term "Valhalla" pretty loosely these days, to describe places that are heavenly, godly and wonderful, but there are also intimations of death in the reference, specifically to the Hall of the Slain from Norse mythology.
Geographically it also relates to the mountain range here in the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia where this film is based, but we were also intrigued by all the reference points inherent in the name, from the Asgardian legends to the many references to Valhalla in Led Zeppelin songs. It all fit tonally with the film we'd set out to make about the search for the bright eyes of youth and traveling to this remote place to rediscover that beauty and that perspective.

Shot on location in British Columbia filming for Sweetgrass Productions' new film.

For "Solitaire" you pointed resolutely south, to South America; the list of locations for "Valhalla" is decidedly to the north, centered around British Columbia and Alaska. What new perspectives have you gained from the change in polarity?
"Solitaire" was a dark reflection, a dark perspective on life and the idea of struggle and where it brings you and how it changes you. After that we all wanted to make something a bit more lighthearted. It's no secret that the north has really consistent, incredible skiing, and there's also a certain enchantment and beauty to the woods up here, the way the moss hangs from the branches and the trees are caked in snow, so it will be a very different film from the last one. It's very much like the deep winter wonderland and pure sense of nature that you'd envision as a child when you'd think of "winter" in the abstract.

After all the acclaim "Solitaire" won in 2011, was there a different level of expectation or pressure you put on yourself heading into this next project?
We were hungrier, I think, after "Solitaire," to create something new and that inspired people in a different way, with a more positive inspiration. That film was exhausting. But I don't think any of us felt any added pressure this time: In a lot of ways we still feel like the underdogs, and that's kind of nice.

What can you tell us about the mix of athletes in this film?
There's going to be some serious eye openers, both from skiers everyone knows, like Eric Hjorleifson, to a bunch of the guys who are really at the forefront of the splitboarding scene, guys like Ryland Bell, Josh Dirksen, Forrest Shearer, and Johan Olaffsson, who have been riding these insane, nasty spines and really pushing the envelope of what's possible under human power. A couple of guys in the film who I think have really been under the radar are Zack Giffin, a skier from Mt. Baker who is one of the better skiers we've ever filmed with, and Adraon Buck, a snowboarder who grew up in this tiny little pocket of the Kootenays and is just going to freak people out.