Teton Gravity Research's latest ski film Way of Life might be about mountain culture on the surface, but there's deeper meaning behind the sweeping scenes of Alaska, Wyoming, B.C. and Austria.
"People are passionate about a lot of different things," says Greg Epstein supervising producer for TGR. "Lifestyle design is super important. We're bringing that aspect of the mountains, but it doesn't have to just be about the mountains."
The film — which premieres in Whistler at Millennium Place on Oct. 19 — not only captures top-name skiers, including locals like Dana Flahr and Ian McIntosh, on mountains around the world, it also incorporates words from locals in those ski towns about the lives they've created for themselves. "The athletes speak quite a bit to what this way of life means, but we also have other people we've interviewed along the way to help paint the picture, people who live in these places and embrace the lifestyle and are promoting the lifestyle."
For example, one memorable character was "an old man in Austria who talks about this place he's lived in and how it's the best place in the world for him and he wouldn't want to be doing anything different," Epstein adds. "He's hoping to pass on what he does and hopes people can grasp onto that as well. It's cool to get other people's perspectives."
Crafting a new film every year, it can be difficult to come up with fresh, new angles that push the bar. To that end, they also upped production value this year with new aerial camera systems. "We've been talking about what we're going to do next year, how we're going to raise the bar," Epstein says. "Right now, I don't really have the answer. Sometimes it's reverting back to simpler forms, especially on a one-year cycle, you only have a limited time to get things done. It's tricky. That's our biggest challenge year to year."
This year, though, there was at least one additional challenge. The production company decided to set up an elaborate homebase in Alaska where they were shooting for six weeks, complete with several tents, a chef and a camp manager maintaining the site. They called it Fantasy Camp. "We built a village out in the bush in Alaska at the base of the mountains," Epstein says. "It was basically self-sustained... We're kind of moving away from a standard heli operation. It's easier for us to build a camp in a location that makes it more efficient for us."
While it created a ton more work, the athletes loved it because it freed them up to focus solely on skiing. "It's a dream spot to go," he says.
The team also travelled to the Pemberton backcountry, the Kootenay Rockies and Mammoth Mountain in California, where they caught up with the U.S. freeski team. "Alaska is always a given and Jackson Hole (Wyoming) is a given since we're based out of Jackson Hole," Epstein says. "Then we reached out to a bunch of different places in the world to get a feel for who wants to support the project."
They're also always on a quest for untouched snow, which has become a more difficult task in recent years. "The winters are becoming weirder and weirder," he says. "Weather patterns are hard to read. The extremes of weather, whether you get a ton of snow or it gets warm in January or February, you end up having to deal with that. Also, skiing and snowboarding is always becoming more popular, so there are more people in these places and finding fresh snow is harder, but it's a good thing more people are interested. But it's more challenging."
Way of Life screenings have been rolling out across the U.S. and Canada since late September and, already, the TGR team is beginning to prep for the next film. Generally, shooting is only five months, but with pre- and post- production they're busy 11 months of the year. "We're starting to talk to the athletes and other people on the creative team," Epstein says. "We've sat down and we've started to map out what we want to do."
Tickets are $15 at Millennium Place or at artswhistler.tix.com. Doglotion.com is also hosting a Way of Life rocker party at the Longhorn Saloon after the show. Catch locals A Whole Lotta Led and dress up in your best rocker gear for a chance to win a two-day catskiing trip.