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New Travis Rice film celebrates B.C.'s backcountry

Depth Perception is a love letter to the Selkirk Mountains.

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Over a long and celebrated career, Travis Rice has elevated snowboarding, bringing his brand of all-mountain freestyle to some of the world's gnarliest terrain.

Rice has won gold medals, created a popular line of pro model snowboards, and anchored big budget snowboard films aimed at bringing people into the sport.

Yet his newest project — which won the Whistler Film Festival's Mountain Culture Award — is different.

It refocuses the spotlight — from "T. Rice, mega shredder" to Galena, a spectacular heli skiing area near Trout Lake that is held and serviced by CMH.

Titled Depth Perception, the movie is a love letter to the area, which is accessed via helicopter and located in southeastern B.C.

Rice discovered Galena — which is presented in mythical, supernatural terms — a few years back.

"It had all the aspects of riding I love," he explained.

"The goal with the project was to highlight everything — from storm days, to pillow riding, to riding big (Alaska-style) lines."

Development began during the final stages of The Fourth Phase, a massive, Red Bull-sponsored production that saw Rice crisscross the North Pacific in search of powder days and blue skies.

Though admired for its ambition — it took three years to film — The Fourth Phase struck many as laboured.

Depth Perception is a breezier film. Made with a fraction of the budget, it features four riders — Rice, Austen Sweetin, Robin Van Gyn and Bryan Fox — who spent last winter stacking footage in Galena.

"It felt a little more like when I was younger, like we were making films because (you) love to make them," said Rice of the experience.

"Everyone involved did it because of the mountains, snowboarding, and telling this specific story.

"They certainly didn't do it for the money," he added with a laugh.  

Through a mix of skits, clever narration and illustration, Depth Perception gets at the magical quality of Galena.

The film is chock-full of stunning shots of massive mountains, cool rock formations, and crystal clear rivers.

At one point, the riders take off their boards and walk through a grove of massive Western Red Cedars, some of which are around 2,000 years old.

A narrator — an ornery cowboy who sounds like the guy from The Big Lebowski — explains how the trees are in communication with each other.

For Rice, learning about the places he rides heightens his appreciation of them.

"When you take the time to learn about these things, the level of appreciation and wanderlust you experience becomes exponential," he said.

Narration can be a tricky thing. Snowboarders and skiers are used to — and might want — a series of hammers over a good soundtrack.

Yet Depth Perception pulls it off, striking a balance between exposition, humour, and whimsy.

Co-director Justin Taylor Smith helped develop the movie with Rice.

Getting the words right was a collaborative exercise, he explained. "It's a hard thing to pull off, and I think that's why people stay away from it," he said.

"It can either be really good. Or it can be really cheesy and not come across right." 

Rice and Smith drew on the talents of writer Melissa Larsen for help. "I wrote the initial stuff, and it was too wordy. We were basically editing each other," explained Smith.  

Depth Perception does, however, feature its fair share of awe-inspiring riding.

At one point, Rice rips down a massive, exposed face that looks like something you'd see in Alaska.

"It's the kind of pitch where if you pointed your nose straight down the hill — for even a couple seconds — you would instantly be going too fast to stop.  

"If you fall and start to accelerate, you're not going to be able to come out of it."

So how do you approach riding that type of slope?

"Confidence — full confidence with what you're going to do," he explained.  

The movie also features some stunning follow cam shots that bring the terrain — and seemingly endless (and huge) pillow lines — to life.

The film, however, aims to do more than generate hype.

It asks the viewer to step back, to take in the wonder of the mountains.

"There's magic all around you. Stand still and take it in, like a child would," says the cowboy near the end of the film.

Depth Perception is available for download on Itunes. download.

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