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Notes from the back row

Watching the dream



Skiing and snowboarding - sports that combine speed and individuality with youthful exuberance and a party atmosphere. It's no surprise then that Hollywood is keen to try and cash in on winter's two greatest activities.

Unfortunately, Hollywood ski/snowboard movies suck. If you watch enough of them, however, certain themes and genre conventions occur, and, believe it or not, these cookie cutter Hollywood ski movies actually begin to shed some light on the human condition.

Lesson 1: The only way to hot tub is naked. For proof, look no further than the best ski movie ever, 1984's Hot Dog, where hero/underdog, Harkin Banks, gets up close and steamy with a rich ski bunny played by Shannon Tweed. This is exactly one day after he hooks up with perky drifter Sunny, who also hooks up with the evil European ski villain who used to date Tweed. Ski movies, like real ski towns, are promiscuous and ready to party.

Lesson 2: Playmates and porn stars. This is really just a carry-over from Lesson 1, but your ski/snowboard movie isn't worth its weight in Gore-Tex socks if it doesn't have a bonafide playmate in it and she better be topless at least twice. Hot Dog had Tweed, Out Cold had 1997 playmate of the year Victoria Silvestedt, Ski School had Ava Fabian, Ski School 2 had Wendy Hamilton. Strangely, snowboard movies don't go for the playmate as often, but a porn star might pop up here and there such as Traci Lords did in 2004's Frostbite.

Lesson 3: Stick it to the man. Or at least to Big Business. Nearly all ski/snowboard movies are about 'saving the mountain' from development or showing the establishment that the kids are alright. Often it's the pot smoking bums versus the uptight ski school (Ski School, Shred) and the grande finale is almost always a big contest or spring festival or season ending party. Out Cold sums up what is true in most real ski towns, too  - "The streets are running wild with lattes and the fellas who like to smoke a little grass are bad for real estate."

Lesson 4: Ski movies are good for us. And by us I literally mean, us - Canadians living in or near ski hills. We've got snow in the spring and that means when Hollywood needs to shoot something like Shred, the underdog snowboard comedy about giving back to the sport, they come to B.C. and hire locals as extras, stuntmen and even talent. The best is when the Hollywood big shots hire the Wildcats for a party scene and then act bewildered when they all miss the early morning call time.

Lesson 5: Anything can happen. Giant mutant spiders might escape from a nearby military test facility and attack the resort like they do in Ice Spiders. Your trip to that remote Alaskan resort might require you and your crew stopping an international espionage ring while skiing with no poles like in Extreme Ops. A legendary murderer might be lurking around the supersecret lodge, ready to hack and slash you all like in Shredder. The lesson to be learned is that when you're on a ski or board trip, expect the unexpected.

Lesson 6: Ski instructors are cool. But Hollywood has it wrong with this one. Forget Aspen Extreme, ski instructors have never been and will never be cool. They're the biggest knobs on the hill. Strangely, snowboarding has some cool instructors but they usually prefer to be referred to as 'coaches'.

The best of them all, though, is Snowballing, a supercool '70s Quebecois soft-core ski flick featuring vintage sleds, disco bush and some of the sickest mustaches recorded on film. And some skiing too.

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