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And you complain when you get cold

Bernie Grauer

This is the time of the year when people ask me, “What do you do in the summer?” I’m now working on something that everyone else in the world has to wait until October or November to see and hear. I’m writing the script for my 53rd annual feature-length ski film.The feature films still bear my name, but my role in their production gets smaller each year by choice.When I watch the creativity of the current crew of photographers and skiers and what they are doing, I realize that I invented the business in 1949 during an era when anyone who could turn a pair of skis both right and left was an extreme skier.Things have changed. Following is how the filmmaking process works in 2002.The film company, which is owned by Ski Magazine (which is owned by Time Warner-AOL) makes all of the decisions about where and what to film and who is going to be involved. Then they somehow manage to get everyone to the right place at the right time, whenthe weather is at its worst that year. Once they finally get sunshine and new snow, they start shooting an immense amount of film.That film is shipped to Boulder, where it is logged in and sent to Southern California, where it is transferred to video. The video is sent to the editor, Kim Schneider in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he labors for months to cut down 25,000 feet of film exposed in one location (in this case, South Georgia Island in the Antarctic) into about 275 feet or somewhere around eight minutes in length. He then adds music and sends it back to Boulder for approval.At this point, it’s time to put together facts, figures, names and places and a concept of final scripting.After all of this, I finally get to see it for the first time, which is anywhere from a month after it was shot to as long as 11 months, as was the case in the Antarctic sequence.The Antarctic sequence was especially appealing to me because I’ve been fascinated by the accomplishments of Sir Earnest Shackleton for years. I have numerous books about the expedition and know most of the details fairly well. One of my most prized possessions is a framed photograph of Sir Ernest along with his autograph.Sir Ernest Shackleton’s adventure is the ultimate survival story in the history of exploration. The expedition set out in August of 1914 to traverse the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. It was 497 days from the time they left South Georgia Island until they set foot on land again.Their ship was frozen into the Ross Ice Shelf, a patch of ice the size of France, for 207 days until it finally sank. Then the expedition members drifted on the ice floe for another 146 days before abandoning the ice and setting off in the three small lifeboats, to Elephant Island.There, Sir Ernest outfitted the largest of the three boats (22 feet long) to sail 800 miles across the wild South Atlantic to South Georgia Island.Here I quote from his diary about those 16 days in an open boat: “Our boat was no longer rising with the giant swells and she hung leaden in the water. Every inch of canvas, wood and piece of line was frozen solid, encased in ice 15 inches thick. Two of our sealskin sleeping bags had frozen solid and began to putrefy; they weighed almost 40 pounds each when we threw them overboard.”The six men were soaked to the bone and badly chafed by wet clothes that had not been taken off for seven months. Their feet were sickly white from constant immersion in below freezing salt water and their hands were black with grime, blubber, frostbite and burns from the primus stove. With each heaving swell, the wooden planks of the small boat would open up and water squirted in. Her joints had been caulked with oil paint and dried seal blood.After 16 days at sea, the 22-foot James Caird sailed into a bay on the wrong side of South Georgia Island.Now they had to climb over a 9,000-foot-high pass and again I quote from his diary: “I was unfortunate in regards to footgear since I had given away my Burberry boots on the ice floe and now had a pair ofcomparatively light boots in poor condition. The carpenter assisted me by putting several screws in the sole of each boot with the object of providing me a grip on the ice.”It took the men 36 hours to climb over the mountain pass without a tent or sleeping bags and only enough food and fuel for the primus stove for six meals.After sliding down the other side of the mountain and walking about a mile in a small 2-foot-deep stream, their final obstacle was a 30-foot-high waterfall.They quickly fixed a rope to a rock and lowered Crean over it. Shackleton and Worsley followed in the icy cold shower without a second thought.And our film crew climbed and skied that same route in 2002 ski gear. You can see it somewhere this fall and I’ll be narrating it.


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