The Unbearable Lightness of Greg Hill

| February 9, 2009 | 16 Comments

A month ago I received a suspicious looking unmarked package in the mail from Canada.  On one hand it was too small to hold a bomb, but it could have easily been filled with Anthrax spores, so I opened it with extreme caution.  To my dismay, a quick death by Anthrax would have been a blessing compared to what actually did fall out of the package – Greg Hill’s new video “The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing.”

It’s no secret that Greg still holds a grudge against me for repeatedly waxing his ass at snowcave cribbage during a trip to Alaska, but he obviously had not read the StraightChuter.com terms of product endor$ement which clearly states that any product up for consideration MUST be accompanied by one liter of 18 year-old Lagavulin, which this was not.  The offensive disc was placed in a pile on the floor between “Sign Language for Toddlers” and “Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes” where I prayed for its quick demise by the dogs, baby or hopefully both.  Grudgingly, I have to admit, Greg has made a very, very durable disc.

Greg Hill modeling a sausage prosthetic pinkie after losing the original digit to me in a cribbage match. By the end of the week there wasn't much left of him.

Then, just when I thought he’d forgotten about it, I get an email from him saying “drew, what the hell, are you going to review my movie on your stupid comment-less blog or what?”  He also threw in a thinly veiled threat about releasing some lies concerning a “nurse” who checked my tonsils when we accidentally stumbled into the Great Alaskan Bush Company, so with great reluctance, I ran a virus scan on the disc and plugged it into my computer.

There are a lot of reasons to fear a Canadian ski movie, first and foremost being the potential for a Bryan Adams soundtrack (he’s Canadian you know…), but again to Greg’s credit, he was able to pirate some decent tunes so you can watch the movie with the sound turned on, which is a nice touch.  Greg also mentioned that “The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing” (TULS) had been selected for the Banff Film Festival, although I was sure he had confused that with the Baffin Film Festival which specializes in amateur videos of shooting caribou, gutting fish and canine husbandry, all things that Hill excels at.  (Alas, it really was the famous Banff festival, so now his head will swell to the size of a grapefruit and conversations will be all about Greg swilling Malbec with Redford, Penn and Lopez while saving the Crab Eater Seal.  Snort.)

Greg (on the right) back when he use to chew the fat with little people like Mike Pennings (left).

But on to the video.  The first thing you notice is that it is mercifully short, like ten minutes (I’ll be ripping a copy to my YouTube channel soon).  This is good as it cuts to the chase and gets right down to the skiing without wasting a lot of time trying to inject character development and meaning into the lowest form of ski bumming, the Ski Mountaineer.  Greg achieves this quick pace through clever use of narration and time lapse videography which captures the big-picture idea of ski mountaineering without dwelling on the tedium of a 12,000′ vertical approach.  Hill also uses a variety of novel camera angles (extended boom POV helmet cam) which show skiing in a new and fun way.  This was probably just a happy accident, but the effect is nice.

It’s apparent that Hill hasn’t seen many ski videos (DVD technology has yet to make it to Revelstoke, BC) as TULS is completely unlike any other ski video in that it focuses on the skiing and the bigger experience, not just skiers throwing gang signs.  That said, watching it gives you a good idea of the inner workings of Greg’s brain as it alternates between fast/fast/slow, uphill, downhill, big pictures versus details, terror versus rewards and why anyone would want to hike uphill for hours on end when for only 100 Loonies you could be riding a chairlift.

With all this glowing praise, you might ask “So, what’s bad about TULS?”  As anyone who has skied the poxy little rain-soaked Revelstoke zone can tell you, the deep, endless powder shots and striking scenery were most likely PhotoShopped.  Also, while Greg does alright on the uphills, his skiing abilities can be described as Advanced Intermediate (at best) and he fails to credit whoever did the stunt-double skiing in his segments.  As a last little annoyance, subtitles would be useful for the Canadian-to-English translations of terms like “deeking,” and “flowy.”

Overall, I admit that I enjoyed “The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing.”  Greg did a great job of putting it together (although his wife probably did it for him) and it makes an excellent addition to your skiing library.  All proceeds from the film go towards Greg’s continuing ski education and purchase information can be found HERE.

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About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (16)

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  1. doubleA says:

    What happened to that finger? Did you guys eat it? Did it taste like sausage? How the hell are you blogging after that race?
    Lot’s of questions for your sleep deprived mind.

  2. big daddy cash says:

    Holy Canadian bashing Batman! If Hill doesn’t respond to this attack, I’m gonna have to head on down to Salt Lake with my plaid jacket, toque and hockey stick straighten this Mclean fellow out. Remember the last time a Canadian was in your neck of the woods with a hockey stick? About seven years ago to be exact. Oh Canada!
    P.S. Rush rules!

  3. dug says:

    who’s drew?

  4. Tyler says:

    Andrew,

    Great piece! It reads just as meant it to read with all the chuckles and smiles that spontaneously came out when you thought of your next funny jab.

    You’re right, it is a good movie, I like the length, I could listen to the sound track (but a little Neil Diamond would have added something special), it actually featured skiing, and nobody in the movie gave me the finger or flashed a gang sign at me for the privilege of watching their cliff hucking.

    Well done!

  5. mark says:

    Big Daddy Cash, if you do come, please bring some ketchup flavored potato chips. And some dill pickle while you’re at it. And some Tim Horton’s donuts. Thanks.

  6. DVT says:

    I always though McLean was shortened from the conspiciously Canadian “MacLean” so he could avoid being identified as some type of dangerous “furriner” by his fellow Utahns.

  7. Andrew says:

    DoubleA – I think we ended up eating the pinkie prosthetic, but that was just the beginning of the end of Greg and a few days later it was starting to resemble a subterranean version “Silence of the Lambs II” as Greg placed increasingly higher bets. We grilled his liver with some dehydrated onions (delicious).

  8. Lou Dawson says:

    This has to be the best ski movie review I’ve ever read. The multi layered humor is hilarious. For example, over at the Alaska Bush Company is an employee named Onyx. Now, since Canadians have created a very interesting competitor to the Dynafit binding and named it Onyx, one has to wonder if they consulted with their Canadian associate Greg, who got the idea for the name when was stuffing folded bills at the Bush place. Stranger things have happened (grin)!

  9. d3 says:

    You done Roger Ebert proud, ‘drew.

  10. Ralph S. says:

    This is very weird to have you put this up today. I just got my “Petit Paquet” today! “No Heli’s, no hype – just sick powder and wicked adventures!” (from the cover)

    He is an artist and I hope he continues to produce DVDs. Andrew, your review is still making me grin. Canine husbandry… You must still be in the zone achieved during ultra-endurance activities that allows one to tap into hidden creativity!

  11. Bob says:

    I’m with Ralph – malnutrition, lactic acid overdose and hypoxia seem to bring out your best. I suggest you never sit down to write until you’ve got at least a 10k ft ascent recently.

    And Lou, you must give us more of your insider knowledge on the Great Alaska Bush Company. Hard earned info, I’m sure.

  12. Tavis says:

    I give this review 2 Lil’ Smokies up! I’ve been meaning to pick this one up. The narration in Greg’s movies is always entertaining. Hope people have there sarcasm meter on.

  13. Pemker says:

    Hyvä juttu! (transl. good stuff in finnish)

    As a copywriter I just have to copy (!) your style of writing. All that blasting and badmouthing comes off as one of the best sales talks ever.

    Hats and beanies off for a guy who can produce this masterpiece after skinning 40.000 feet in a day:)

  14. Matt K. says:

    For shame! Any fan of Lagavulin should know that their standard single malt is a 16 year, not an 18 year. Neither are any of their other editions 18 years.

  15. KatieC says:

    Good lord. Now I can’t read this blog at work anymore, thanks to the references to the ABC and Onyx, who, let’s be honest, is just trying to make an honest living. She’s probably en route to med school with all those singles.

    Reverend Dawson, I expected more of you.

  16. Mike T says:

    Bromance or man crush !

    Hockey players still rule canada!

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