The Heli-Ski Blog

The Best Ski Movie Ever!

Posted by Topher Donahue on May 3, 2012 7:45:00 AM

Calling this a review isn’t quite right.  Perhaps a rave is a better word for it.

Dave Mossop and Eric Crossland, of The Sherpas Cinema, directed All.I.Can, a spellbinding work of art that defies categorization as merely a ski film.  It’s been called the most incredible ski movie ever produced, and based purely on the pile of awards the film has received, it just might be.

While All.I.Can includes a plethora of mind-bending ski sequences, including futuristic footage of Kai Peterson catastrophically botching (as well as impossibly sticking) new-school tricks in the midst of horrifying alpine faces, the heart of the film is a powerful discussion on the environment. 

When a heli-skiing sequence ends with one skier joking around with a gas pump, pretending to shove it in another’s eye, I went from being a spectator to being a fan; we all have impact, so it’s what we do about it that matters.

Slow-motion, time-lapse and digital animation created with high-end technology are all used heavily, but tastefully, to give a strong sense of the passing of time and to illustrate change in the natural world.  The film also unflinchingly delves into the relationships between international travel, mechanized skiing, and environmental impact.  It takes the new approach that environmentalism isn’t about being against things - instead it is about changing our perspective on our relationship to the environment, and then changing how we live accordingly. 

The modern free-skiing visionary, JP Auclair, (whose street skiing segment in the film was viewed 124,000 times on its first day online) summed it up nicely: “People are always saying ‘do less of this, do less of that’ but I don’t think it’s about doing less of anything - it’s about doing more...”

The film’s example of large-scale environmental balancing in the ski industry is the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area installing a micro-hydro plant in one of the mountain’s creeks that offsets the entire energy usage of the ski area. 

Having just posted a blog about the CMH Galena micro-hydro reaching financial payoff and saving a thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions after seven years of operation, I realized the visionary drivers of the ski industry are all coming to a similar conclusion - we can’t run ski lifts of any sort without burning energy, so let’s do more, lots more, to balance our impacts with contributions.

skier environment solar

Several skiers interviewed in the film discussed the unique place skiers and mountaineers have in the environmental project:

One said, “Skier’s connection with nature and the mountains is incredible, and it puts us at the forefront of what is going on with the environment.”

And another pointed out, “You have a constituency on the hill who, by virtue of what they do, every one of them is an environmentalist.”

It’s not just the cinematography that speaks to the passing of time and the acceleration of change.  The youngest skier in the film is about three years old, the oldest, 75.  “We used to have more snow” said one of the older skiers. 

Even the topic of ski technology is brought back to the philosophy of embracing change. One skier mentions how, with the drastic changes in the shape of skis, “the average skier now is not fearing change, they’re expecting change, and that’s pretty cool.”

As the credits rolled, I sat back and wondered if I had anything negative to say about the film.  One thing came to mind: we are just learning how to talk about these things,  and it seems that All.I.Can is like the first few awkward - albeit beautiful, scary and inspiring - words in a difficult conversation about our world and its immediate future. 

Partway through the credits, the film’s carbon footprint is shown, including what they’ve done to offset 100% of the making the film. 

It made me realize just how visionary CMH Heli-Skiing’s sustainability report was when first published eight years ago in 2004, by neither pretending to be low impact, nor hiding its metaphorical head in the sands of progress - and instead being clear about environmental impact, initiatives, and the balance of providing carefully considered access to the world’s greatest skiing.

Photo of this blog writer/skier's house being equipped with solar power in Colorado - just one of many skier's houses powered by solar in the area.  I talked with a CMH million-footer who was putting geothermal heating into his home to help offset his impact. 

What are you doing to offset yours?

Topics: Sustainability, ski film, heli-skiing, ski videos