Former freeride champ George Rodney talks about Warren Miller’s ‘Line of Descent’
Special to the Daily
If you go …
What: Beaver Creek premiere of Warren Miller’s “Line of Descent.”
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek.
When: Friday, Dec. 1, at 5 and 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m.
More information: Visit www.vilarpac.org.
When the snow starts falling, it doesn’t take much to get mountain folks excited for the season, and few events do the job like the annual premiere of Warren Miller’s latest film.
This year’s cinematic homage to steep lines, rugged mountains and deep powder, “Line of Descent” premieres at the Beaver Creek’s Vilar Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2.
Warren Miller Entertainment is celebrating its 68th year of producing ski and snowboard films, and this year’s movie focuses on the idea that snow riders are a family, with deep roots that span generations. Audiences will catch glimpses of skiing legends such as Tommy Moe, Jonny Moseley and Seth Wescott, as well as newer faces such as snowboarders Arielle and Taylor Gold and freerider George Rodney.
“This season, we explore how skiers are shaped by picking up a pair of skis for the first time” said producer Josh Haskins. “More often than not, it’s family who introduces us to the sport or steers us on the path toward an ongoing passion — be it a ski bum lifestyle, a professional career or simply the desire to pass on the same feeling to the next generation.”
Via splitboard, motorcycle, dogsled, snowmobile and, of course, skis and snowboards, the film takes viewers from Norway to New Zealand to Colorado, where Steamboat Springs and Silverton get the local spotlight. Throughout the experience, Haskins pays a subtle tribute to some of the world’s favorite ski resorts and the people that make them run.
Before the Beaver Creek premiere, we caught up with George Rodney, one of the film’s stars. The Colorado native and Aspen local burst onto the big mountain circuit at the age of 18 when he won the junior national title. He was crowned Freeride World Tour champion in 2015 after a jaw-dropping run in Haines, Alaska.
Rodney, now 24, took the last two years off the competition circuit to finish up a degree at the University of Utah and recover from injuries. However, he’s already off to a raring start this season — he stars in the Silverton segment of “Line of Descent,” and he plans to return to the Freeride World Tour in January.
Vail Daily: You’ve been on tour with “Line of Descent,” so you’ve attended a handful of the premieres. Tell us about the energy at these events and what it’s like to watch the film with hundreds of fans.
George Rodney: It’s amazing. There are so many people there just for the joy of skiing, and everyone hoots and hollers during the segments, which is fun. I especially love seeing the young kids at the premieres and how jazzed they are. That used to be me. I remember how my dad used to take me to the (Warren Miller events) in Denver every year at the Paramount Theater. It’s what made me want to get into skiing in the first place.
VD: Besides your Silverton segment, what are some of your favorite parts of the film?
GR: There’s a powsurfing segment, which is snowboarding on a modified board without bindings. (Think skateboarding and surfing meets snow.) It’s a unique perspective on the sport and why we do it. There’s a snowmobiling segment that’s pretty cool, too. Those snowmobilers and some of the tricks they do — they’re crazy.
VD: Speaking of crazy tricks, watching you in competition is filled with exciting and scary moments as well. What’s the most terrifying moment you’ve experienced in competition?
GR: It was when I was in Haines, Alaska, for the World Freeride Tour. It took us two weeks to get the competition off because of the conditions. I’d only gotten three runs in before the competition. It was a 3,000 vertical foot face, and partway down, I hucked into a cliff and misjudged it a bit. I got highsided on one ski and almost went tumbling down.
I remember thinking, “Falling is not an option. You have to land on your feet — and you’re winning.”
Time just stops there. I ended up making a miraculous save that defied physics, and that’s part of what contributed to my win.
VD: So you have a degree in parks, recreation and tourism, and you’ve wrestled with the sustainability of the ski industry. Tell us more about your concerns and what changes you’d like to see.
GR: Well, I’m jet setting around the world and at some point, jumping in a helicopter to go ski. I look around at a competition, and there’s snowmobiles and snowcats everywhere just to get an event off the ground. Later I’ll be sitting in sustainability class doing an assignment, and asking, “Is this sustainable?” The answer is no.
On the other hand, you want to do what you love and be the best at it, so what do you do?
I’ve worked with sponsors to kick in extra funding for things like offsetting carbon emissions and planting more trees. A lot of people in the industry are involved with Protect Our Winters (POW), which is one of the most powerful outlets we have in our community.
On a personal level, I try to do small things like carpooling to the mountains. I hope it’s something I can work more on in the future.
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.