Colorado-based ski film company Sweetgrass Productions returns to theaters this year with their Junior production: SOLITAIRE. Filmed in South America, the crew is entirely human powered -- no helicoptered ascents, no snowmobile access, just 100% skin-up fresh-track beauty.
Director Nick Waggoner pitches his films as the antidote to common ski films. These are not movies that glorify switch misty backflip 1080s (though undoubtedly there are a couple sprinkled throughout); no, Sweetgrass is all about the grace and audacity of a slope. Given their 2010 effort Signatures earned 'Best Cinematography' in the Powder Video Awards (beating out industry heavyweights in the process), their unique style has begun to garner attention.
Watching SOLITAIRE teasers one gets the feeling that this is a ski film a la Jack Kerouac or Alan Ginsberg (see episodes 2 and 3 below) -- beat poets addicted to skiing, verse through vivid descent. "Sometimes a bad plan is a good plan — half-baked conviction is flexible," writes Waggoner on the Sweetgrass blog.
Why the title SOLITAIRE? Waggoner told Powder Magazine, "At the core of SOLITAIRE is this idea of the lone, solitary skier, in the middle of a massive darkness, dealing with the tension of the unknown and what lies ahead."
Waggoner had the time in between marathon editing sessions to answer a couple questions for The Huffington Post:
What was your worst equipment malfunction in South America?
I'd say the worst malfunction we've ever had was a hard drive crash last November. The only back up happened to be in Buenos Aires, and a next-day flight down there ended up being cheaper than data recovery. But I flew standby, so a 3 day trip ended up being a 6 day trip, so I was stranded in the airport, sleeping on the floor for 3 nights. Every hotel in town was booked. And you may ask why not FedEx the drive? But even FedEx is powerless to the South American hand, and lots of things get stolen or don't show up, or show up with nothing inside. You can't hide down there...it's always a struggle.
So you have to learn to adapt?
Yeah, one of our crew lost his camera charger in Bolivia, but found a similar model in a bizarre electronics market in La Paz after several hours of sifting through bins. When he got home he realized that the pins didn't line up, but managed with a lighter and a knife to reroute the charge. All in the confines of a hotel bathroom. There's about a 100 stories like that..
Best part of the trip?
The best part of the trip for me was Peru, camping at 14000 ft for 3 weeks. We climbed up to 20000ft, moving across glaciers that would stop your mother's heart, and threatened to stop mine. I guess we never view what we do as dangerous, but then there are moments when you look between your feet at a black abyss, and you realize how far out it is, and the potential there is for death. How most people live most of their lives on paved streets.
WATCH Sweetgrass Productions' SOLITAIRE teasers and a sampling of their other work: