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.
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.)
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.