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Extreme ski movies promote the industry

Joel Stonington
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet /The Aspen TimesJacob Wester soars through the air as a helicopter hovers near by to film the 70 foot jump on Sneaky's at Snowmass during filming for this winter's Matchstick Productions film.
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SNOWMASS , Colorado” A helicopter flitted over Sneaky’s run at Snowmass Ski Area last week as a few of the world’s best skiers hit a custom-made 70-foot tabletop with a stunning backdrop of snow-covered mountains.

The helicopter was rented for the day to film the latest ski movie by Matchstick Productions, an industry leader in what has become known as “ski porn,” featuring slow-motion backflips off monster kickers and steep lines on rugged, cliffed slopes.

They are the kind of videos that make the average skier wonder if maybe they should just go for a rodeo flip off the next jump.

Matchstick Productions is among some of the first of the forward thinkers that helped prod a stagnant ski industry into a new world with a 15-minute film made by company founders Steve Winter and Murray Wais.

Since then, the company has produced 19 films, a TV series and garnered a bundle of awards including a 2006 Emmy nomination for cinematography.

The bottom line, economically, however, is not DVD sales. Instead, it’s an amalgamation of different funding sources that enables the movies to be produced.

In essence, the movies could almost be called advertising ” for resorts, athletes and sponsors. Those three entities pay for much of the costs behind Matchstick’s films.

“It’s a real symbiotic relationship between us, the athletes, the sponsors and the resorts,” said Guillaume Tessier, co-producer and principal cinematographer for Matchstick. “Sponsors do pitch in by contributing to the movie.”

However, the entities involved look at the films as a form of art that is, in some ways, better than traditional advertising. Though production companies like Matchstick started out small, it is now in a position to define styles in the industry.

That has made Matchstick attractive for companies trying to identify with the extreme sports audience, such as Red Bull, a sponsor of the shoot at Snowmass.

“Red Bull is a longtime supporter of endemic filmmakers like Matchstick and we view our 5-year relationship with them as more of a partnership, rather than a traditional sponsorship,” said Patrice Radden, spokesperson for Red Bull.

Radden would not comment on specific amounts of support put into the Snowmass film. But the Aspen Skiing Co. paid for half the cost of the helicopter ” at $1,600 to $2,300 an hour, as well as the entire cost of producing the jump in an unusual spot, according to Melissa Rhines, communications manager for Skico.

Radden would not comment on specific amounts of support put into the Snowmass film. But the Aspen Skiing Co. paid for half the cost of the helicopter ” at $1,600 to $2,300 an hour, as well as the entire cost of producing the jump in an unusual spot, according to Melissa Rhines, communications manager for the Aspen Skiing Co.

“A lot of it has to do with a relationship built over the years,” Rhines said. “We do have to decipher what we’ll get out of it.”

For Aspen, it’s all about getting exposure for the Aspen/Snowmass name. The money comes from the publicity budget for Aspen.

Aspen gets about film requests 25 annually. So far this year, the Aspen has approved 10 shoots, with five of those being large in nature.

The jump that skiers were hitting for the Matchstick shoot last week also cost the Skico a significant amount of money, since it took roughly a week to construct.

“My closest estimate is about 90 [snow] cat hours,” said Isabelle Falardeau, terrain park manager.

According to Tessier, Matchstick also is able to defray the costs of filming athletes through sponsorships.

“The guys who have travel budgets come and follow us,” said Tessier. “They are here because it’s the right thing to do for them and their sponsors.”

This article was a feature of Inside Business, published Tuesday’s in The Aspen Times.


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