In these pandemic times, for many of us, depressurizing involves a quick jaunt to the ski hill, a Nordic ski or possibly a fat bike. More often than not though, at the end of the day it means eat supper and veg out in front of the TV. With all the various networks and streaming services, the entertainment possibilities are endless. Unfortunately for skiers, most of these options suck.
This past holiday season, I had the misfortune of being subjected to the latest Will Ferrell vehicle, “Downhill.” Basically, it’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back. It’s formulaic for Will, he plays a buffoon trying to keep a family together and happy during a ski holiday. I find most of his films the same, so I generally avoid his stuff. The only reason I watched it was because it had a ski theme prevalent in the trailers and previews.
Which brings me to the gist of this article: Why can’t Hollywood make a movie or TV series about skiing that isn’t utter crapola?
Think of sports-based movies for a minute. “Field of Dreams”, “Bull Durham”, “Moneyball”, “The Sandlot” and even “Major League.” Great movies about baseball, possibly the most boring sport on earth. Great stories, character development and memorable quotes. I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a full baseball game, but I’ve watched and enjoyed all these movies about the sport.
Basketball has “Hoosiers”, “Finding Forrester”, “White Men Can’t Jump”, and “Space Jam”. Again, all great stories with character development that far surpasses the sport itself which as far as I can tell is trying to make a shot get fouled and then shoot unmolested. At least the players run around and are pretty athletic. The stories outweigh the sport in pretty much every scenario.
Case in point: “Rudy” great story, “The Blind Side”, “The Replacements”: heartwarming, feel good stories. “Brian’s Song” may be the saddest movie ever that doesn’t involve a dog. All with a football theme as a background which is crazy because most football players can barely complete a sentence, much less act.
Even golf, yes golf has good movies as a background story. “Tin Cup”, “Bagger Vance”, “Caddyshack”, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and the cinematic tour de force “Happy Gilmore.” All movies I have watched and enjoyed even though my personal feeling is a golf course is a waste of a perfectly good rifle range.
Television, or even worse: Reality TV fares even worse than movies. We have entire franchises dedicated to “the trophy wives of crappy cities” or making jobs like tow truck driving and crab fishing glamorous year after tragically boring year. Case in point: “Friday Night Lights”, come on you can’t tell me that a show that follows the mythical adventures of a ski racing team across the continent (Europe or North America) wouldn’t make a better story? I have wasted hours trying to find something to watch on TV and cry with the crap I and my family is being spoon-fed. (Thank ULLR I can ski pretty much every day).
Wait: there’s a premise for a legit TV show: “Mountain Town Ski Shop Business!” I once read in a trade-magazine that a high percentage of western US mountain town ski shops were likely fronts for grow-ops as a way to stay in business! How is that for a possible storyline? Hollywood gold, I tell you.
What kind of movies are we left with as passionate and committed skiers? Sadly, crap like the above-mentionned “Downhill” (not to be confused with 1968’s “Downhill Racer” -ed)
When I was a young lad, I went to see one of the greatest ski movies of all time: “Hot Dog.” I was with a group of my friends who were all avid skiers. The girl in the ticket window asked for ID as the movie was “R” rated. We told her we weren’t there for the nudity, we were there for the skiing. It must have been a slow night as she let us in. Aside from “sunny side up” we were enthralled by the the kick-ass blaster and the famous “Chinese Downhill”.
The also-rans “Better Off Dead” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” (filmed in Fernie BTW) may or may not have tried to be “ski” movies but regardless, none captured the passion or the life that we’ve decided to live (note I said life, not lifestyle).
Admitedly, while “Hot Dog” is very sophomoric and riddled with crude inappropriate humor and is certainly not Oscar material by any stretch of the imagination, the fact that is the standard by which all ski movies is judged is pretty much a crime. The closest we have come in the last two decades to a real life ski movie may be “Aspen Extreme” but all it is is basically a tamer version of “Hot Dog.” Dexter Rutecki will never be Harkin Banks. I truly hope at some point that we have a realistic ski hero to look up to that appears in an actual Hollywood movie.
I guess that in the meantime it’s our job as passionate enthusiasts of the sport to make our own epic stories. Right?
“Dream big or don’t dream at all, baby”.