Whistler resident Ian "Mac" McIntosh is a professional skier known for carving up big mountains in style, so it's ironic he has suddenly become famous for dropping down the face of one out of control.
McIntosh has been fielding calls from media outlets across the globe since footage of him falling 500 metres (1,600 feet) down the slope of a mountain in Alaska while shooting the new Teton Gravity Research (TGR) film Paradise Waits was posted online last week.
Although the crew had carefully studied the route in advance, an unexpected trench caused him to lose his footing while dropping down the spine of the mountain. It took nearly a full minute for his dramatic plunge down a steep face, captured on film from both a helicopter above and his own helmet-cam, to come to an end while a mic recorded every grunt of pain along the way. Miraculously, the 34-year-old didn't suffer any major injuries, which was likely due to his quick thinking in releasing the built-in airbags in his backpack designed to help keep people on the surface during an avalanche and help cushion the repeated impacts.
"When I was tumbling down the mountain, I pulled it just to hopefully help protect against any traumatic injuries that were going to happen," said McIntosh over the phone last Thursday from Boston, where the film was about to be shown at a packed House of Blues.
"It felt like I was getting run over by linebackers over and over again and it felt like it took forever. It was pretty gnarly."
McIntosh, who was back on his skis again two days later, has previously appeared in such high-profile ski films as One for the Road, Into the Mind and the ground-breaking 2011 hit All.I.Can. He said he can appreciate the funny side of making headlines for wiping out rather than for his skiing skills.
"The funniest part of all this is I've been stomping lines for 10 years in front of the camera and never got this much media attention before where all it took was one big fall," said McIntosh, who has called Whistler home since moving from Invermere 14 years ago.
"I think next year I'm going to change my whole approach and start going for giant falls down everything and I'll get super-famous. I could be the guy who just drops in, does one turn, crosses the tips and just starts beatering down the mountain and I'll just be viral all the time."
The accident occurred last April but filmmakers cannily chose to post footage of it to coincide with Paradise Waits' widespread release to help generate attention.
"We kind of had a sneaking suspicion that it would go viral so we launched it with good timing and sure enough it did," said McIntosh.
"I've pretty much been on my phone and going to interviews and TV appearances for the past two days. It doesn't even stop at night because I'm getting calls from Europe and Australia and all over the world."
The film follows teams of skiers and snowboarders as they travel from Alaska's Neacola Range to Japan, British Columbia, Greece, Wyoming and even Boston during last year's so-called Snowpocalypse in search of fresh tracks during a season with bizarrely inconsistent weather conditions. McIntosh is joined for the Alaska footage by fellow top skiers Angel Collinson and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, where they spend much of their time socked in at "Fantasy Camp" waiting for conditions to improve.
The film, which also stars Whistlerites Nick McNutt and Dana Flahr, had its local premiere Oct. 9 but is available on iTunes or at tetongravity.com.
McIntosh, who has since returned home to Whistler, said he is looking forward to getting out of the media spotlight and back on the slopes.
"I've got a couple of more film promo stuff to do but it is ski season, man. It's time to film our next movie. All this stuff is kind of in the past and we're just looking forward to making the next one."
McIntosh also appears in the new Warren Miller film Chasing Shadows and TGR's upcoming The Sammy C Project.