Ski films have been around for as long as we can remember, from retro edits with bad hairstyles and even worse fashion sense in the 1980s to epic feature-length films shot across the globe in recent years.
Every season, with the development of new technology and the popularity of events such as the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, production budgets seem to be stretching further and further. All this allows some of the world’s top skiers and snowboarders to push themselves (and their film crew) to new extremes, all in the hope of producing the next big ski film.
Here's our selection of the ski and snowboard movies you have to see:
The self-proclaimed "best ski movie ever" does its best to live up to its own humorously arrogant assessment. It’s the last feature length film to star Canadian skiing icon Shane McConkey before he died in a basejump ski accident in 2009. The pioneer of modern freeride skis (he strapped water-skis to his feet to tackle the deep powder), he was able to adapt to both freestyle and freeride skiing scenes with ease. A scene set to The Final Countdown sucks you into the high octane spirit of the movie, when all the riders fist pump after landing incredible drops.
Short but spectacular nonetheless, this ski film is a visually stunning work of art. Shot in the deep powder of the Esplanade Range, Canada, at night, it captures skiers weaving through a blend of colours and lights, accompanied by poetic narration. The crew used eight 4,000-watt lights to illuminate the mountain and filmed for over six weeks to create the perfect edit. Plus the futuristic LED jackets they wear in some of the scenes would make any style-savvy skier jealous. The full film was made in association with electronics company Philips as part of an advertising campaign to support its new Ambilight TV.
The Crash Reel (2013)
This documentary, charting the rise and fall of professional US snowboarder Kevin Pearce, makes for compelling viewing. The film follows him as he’s gearing up to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, alongside his snowboarding contemporary and friend Shaun White. But after a massive crash during one of his training sessions, Pearce is lucky to escape with his life, while White goes on to win gold. The film explores how he tries to recover from a life-threatening head injury – and how his love of the sport endures even after the crash, despite not being able to compete anymore.
The Blizzard of AAHHH'S (1988)
One of the first ever professional ski movies features American ski legends Glen Plake (check out the first outing of the American's crazy mohican!), Mike Hattrup and Scot Schmidt, in undeniably retro outfits, with an undeniably Eighties soundtrack. All three skiers are the inspiration for many pros on the scene today, and this rockumentary-style film sees them tear up the mountain. Made in 1988 by the pioneering director Greg Stump, it really marked the start of freeride skiing.
What started as a childish game conjured up by Shane McConkey for him and his friends to play in Squaw Valley, first became a chapter in a book by Rob Gaffney called Squallywood, and then, eventually, provided the inspiration for a feature film. After McConkey’s death in 2009, skiers from all over the globe gathered in Squaw Valley to compete in the first (and only) official G.N.A.R. (Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness) competition. The game is made up of various silly tasks, including attempting tricks completely naked, calling up your mum while going down steep pistes, and playing pranks on the public – but the prize for winning was a serious $25,000.
Day Tripper (1997)
This Nineties snowboard film captures its time period perfectly. The soundtrack has some great indie tunes by the likes of Placebo, Feeder and The Stone Roses to go along with the portrayal of the huge hype surrounding snowboarding at the time – although in the clip below it's all about the jazz flute. The story is simple: a group of pro riders, including K2 poster boy Travis Parker, sets off in a bus around the US to hit the best powder and jumps in the country.
Formed in 2009, mega ski group Legs of Steel have made six major ski movies and have a long list of current professional riders under their name. With a backdrop of four continents, the riders in Passenger push the limits of park and freeride skiing. Look out for Sheffield-born skier Paddy Graham, who helped set up Legs of Steel originally. There’s one amazing scene at the Stubai terrain park in Austria, involving the whole team attempting a huge jump, which left the audience of Ski Sunday stunned after the clip aired on the BBC.
The Norwegian tourist board must have had huge grins when this film was released; it brilliantly captures the beautiful landscapes and expansive freeriding in Norway. It also showcases the immense amount of talent Scandinavia has when it comes to alpine snow sports – as well as American freestyle skier Tom Wallisch and snowboard legend Terje Håkonsen. A guest appearance by World Cup ski race star Aksel Lund Svindal freeriding in deep powder instead of bullet-proof ice race tracks is one of the big highlights.
Shane McConkey has already had a couple of shout-outs in this list, but that’s because he brought skiing, and ski movies, to a totally different level. This documentary captures his life, death, and legacy, coupled with insights from his close friends and family. A great tribute to one of the biggest stars in action-sports history.
Lindsey Vonn: The Climb (2015)
This is a fascinating insight into the life of a World Cup alpine ski racer. Lindsey Vonn is the most successful woman in the history of skiing and is still competing at a top level in the speed events. This documentary follows how she overcomes the many challenges of recovering from a serious knee injury before the Sochi 2014 Olympics. It reveals the complex sports science and psychological battles that go into maintaining a position at the top.
Many Moods of Skiing (1961)
It wouldn't be a ski movie list without a Warren Miller film. The legendary Miller started out narrating his own home movies, and went on to make 750 sports films during his directing career. After over 50 years of making ski movies, Warren Miller films are still being made today despite him not being directly involved. Many Moods of Skiing is one of his early classics, released in 1961. The film follows three skiers as they hit the slopes of four different countries, and was ground-breaking as one of the first ski movies to be shot around the world in one feature.
Streif: One Hell of a Ride (2015)
November 2015 saw the release of the highly anticipated ski movie Streif: One Hell of a Ride. The film is about the legendary downhill run of the same name in Kitzbühel, regarded as one of the toughest ski race courses on the planet. Charting the bravery and determination of those who race the Streif course, this ski film isn’t short of jaw-dropping crashes and showcases the courage and dedication required to compete at the highest level of downhill racing.
Eddie the Eagle (2016)
The much-anticipated film about British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards and his hapless turn at the 1988 Winter Olympics burst onto cinema screens in March 2016. Starring Taron Egerton as Eddie and Hugh Jackman as his coach, the feature-length underdog tale left us believing that maybe, just maybe, anything is possible if you put your mind to it...