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November 7, 2013
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Ski film ‘Elevation’ comes to Crazy Mountain Brewery in Edwards Saturday

EDWARDS — In the nearly 10 years that Noah Howell has been producing and screening backcountry ski films, he gets approached at the showings by people brimming with ideas about where the crew should travel next.

“We’ve put together a large list of characters and unique locations sometimes they’re places people have told us about,” Howell said when asked how they decide where to film each year.

This year’s film, “Elevation: A Backcountry Film,” which screens at Crazy Mountain Brewery in Edwards on Saturday evening, includes segments filmed in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska.

Case in point is Holden Village, a peaceful, powdery Lutheran retreat deep in the Cascades that gets 270 inches of snow a year, on average. It was a place they’d heard about from multiple show attendees.

The film crew got the chance to check it out this past season, but only after a bout of bad luck. The crew was at the Canadian border, attempting to visit a new ski lodge, which had agreed to trade a promo video for a week’s stay.

“The people at the border said ‘You can’t trade, that’s the same as working,’” Howell said. “Initially they have to offer the job to Canadians and if no one wants it, others get a chance. They said we had to have permits. Here we were, trying to promote, for free, skiing in B.C., but it was a no go.”

So the crew gathered together and came up with a plan B.

“The snow was good (in Washington), so we headed out,” he said.

The ultimate goal is to mix it up. “We try to get some huts in, some winter camping in. We feel things out and try to balance it all out with unique things.”

A segment in this year’s film takes the crew to a hut deep in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, where Will Cardamone and Charlie Cannon hole up for turns.

“For years, we said ‘we have to check it out,’” Howell said. So they did.

Packed houses

The film is currently three-fourths of the way through its tour, which includes 40 stops, 12 of which are in Colorado.

“It’s our biggest turnout we’ve ever had,” Howell said. “People seem to enjoy the film and we’ve had packed houses.”

“Elevation” is the ninth film released by Powderwhore Productions, “and one of our 10th best,” Howell said, laughing. To come up with this year’s film, the Howell edited 20 to 30 hours worth of footage into the one-hour film.

Saturday night’s show marks the second year Crazy Mountain Brewery has hosted a Powderwhore film.

“It was a huge success and people loved it, so we’re excited for another great show,” said Claire Plunkett, the director of events and sponsorship for Crazy Mountain Brewing Company. “We had a great crowd last year; our tasting room was packed. We wanted to bring them back to get everyone excited about another awesome season with a tasty and refreshing brew in hand.”

The brewery will offer $3 pints during the show.

More than just ski porn

The production crew films mostly in the western states for financial reasons, he said, but they always make it to Alaska come spring.

“It’s the best thing for your buck,” Howell said about Alaska. “It’s $600 to fly up there and then $500 to fly into any range you want.”

Along with unique locations, Howell is always on the lookout for eccentric characters. Take, for instance, the curmudegeon Bob Athey, who Howell calls a “legend in the Wasatch Mountains,” nicknamed the “Wizard of the Wasatch.”

“He’s been skiing there longer than most people,” Howell said. “He’s bitter and not afraid to yell at people and cause a ruckus. Everyone knows him, and have been heckled and yelled at by him.”

Athey spends 5 or 6 days a week in the mountains.

“He’s doing 6,000 to 8,000 feet every day, discovering a lot of terrain,” Howell said. “He’s really slow, but loves to get out there.”

It’s those kinds of stories that really differentiate Powderwhore’s productions from other ski and snowboard films out there, Howell said.

“We kind of have our way — it’s just telling more of the story. It’s not really extreme and not highly polished, but people seem to enjoy it because it’s not so far removed,” he said. “It’s what people actually go and do in the mountains. It’s about who are these people, why are they there? It’s relatable and realistic.”

And while the team likes getting people excited for winter, it’s not just “ski porn,” he said, with scene after scene of athletes hucking crazy cliffs.

“We want to connect with the audience,” he said. “If you just sit and watch ski porn for an hour, it can be the greatest thing imaginable, but they don’t bring you back down. By the end, you’re like, ‘I don’t care about this. I just saw it like 20 different times.’”

Powderwhore films have more of a roller coaster effect, with ups and downs.

“Some of the stuff is more mellow, but I don’t think that’s bad,” Howell said. “And we haven’t had anyone fall asleep yet.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 and cschnell@vaildaily.com.

“It was a huge success and people loved it, so we’re excited for another great show,” said Claire Plunkett, the director of events and sponsorship for Crazy Mountain Brewing Company. “We had a great crowd last year; our tasting room was packed. We wanted to bring them back to get everyone excited about another awesome season with a tasty and refreshing brew in hand.”


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 7, 2013 04:15PM Published Nov 8, 2013 03:56PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.