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No business like snow business

Ted AlvarezArts & Entertainment Writer
Special to the DailyVails John Spriggs hopes to soar to new heights in competition and on film.
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==========Film review: Is Off the Grid off the hook?Another ski season, another Warren Miller film, right? Wrong. You’d think that after more than 750 films, the formula would get stale, but each year the productions get slicker and the tricks get sicker. Long shots and gorgeous lines in Lone Peak, Mont. and Alaska’s Chugach are lovingly shot, and slo-mo frames of powder-plowing in Steamboat look so detailed and fluffy that they seem like CG effects. Reggie Crist, Seth Wescott and Anthony Bornowski survive heart-stopping avalanches, and Jamie Pierre’s record 245-foot cliff huck has to be seen to be believed. As part of tradition, Off the Grid includes the requisite cultural exchange, this time in Kashmir and Japan, where a pro-snowball fight (yuki-gasen) brings the funny. Jeremy Bloom’s boyish voice unfortunately makes for limp narration, but just as he sinks out of his depth, Miller pops back in with one of his famous quips. Once again, there’s no better way to bring on the stoke for a new ski season – and to paraphrase Miller, I’ll see him next year, too.Catch Warren Miller’s Off the Grid at the Vilar Center tonight (8 p.m.) and Saturday (6 and 9 p.m.). Admission is $15-16.50.

========== VAIL – Warren Miller’s powder-porn spectacles always herald the arrival of ski season, but this year’s edition comes packed with three world-class skiers who all hail from Vail. At 18, John Spriggs is the youngest, and he has already appeared in two Warren Miller features (this year’s Off the Grid and last year’s Higher Ground), but he’s an older hand than you might expect: since 16, Spriggs has been shredding on camera, starting with Josh Berman’s Level 1 Productions. As a featured performer in Off the Grid’s freeskiing competition footage, which Miller himself calls “an event featuring young people, staged by young people, for young people,” Spriggs makes quite a first impression. Just in time for Off the Grid’s Vilar Center showings, the noodle-haired upstart takes some time to speak with us before his season gets hectic.Vail Daily: How did you get started skiing and then transition to the Warren Miller films?John Spriggs: Well, I’m from Denver, but I grew up skiing Vail and I moved up here for high school. I went to both Vail Mountain School and Battle Mountain. I guess it started last year. [Warren Miller’s crew] was doing a photo shoot up in the Vail park, and I got into it while skiing for Vail [Mountain School]. They just sort of pulled me out of the background – next thing I knew, I had a couple of shots in Higher Ground, and that led to Off the Grid.

VDN: What’s the significance to you of appearing in a Warren Miller film?JS: I remember going to the Warren Miller movies when I was younger; it was the main movie that would get everybody stoked. Every November my parents would take me to that and I always wanted to be in one of these movies. They were the first movies I watched and followed. Plus, he’s been making movies for like 50 years or something, so it’s an institution. Warren Miller is all-ages. People like my dad’s friend will see the movie and be like, “I saw John!” But, whatever.VDN: Was there any difference skiing in front of a camera?JS: For me it was just the same. I’m used to skiing around with my friends and having them film. The biggest difference was probably that the quality goes way up, the way they film. My friends and I used dinky little camcorders. But [Warren Miller] shot during the US [Freeskiing] Open, so I was skiing and laughing around with my friends like always. But I guess it’s a little more intimidating and a little more real when they have a 16mm camera in your face.

VDN: Were you conscious of showing any skiing specialties on film?JS: I try not to specialize on one thing – the whole mountain is what’s important to me. Contests, rail jams, slopestyle, half-pipe – I like doing it all. Ultimately, being a well-rounded skier is what I’m going for.VDN: Have you expanded your horizons as you moved higher into ski films?JS: I’ve been to New Zealand and Europe, which was amazing, and I’ll probably go back to Europe again with Level 1. Also, through filming, you get to meet all of your idols – it’s an everyday occurence. You’re hanging with Simon Dumont, Kent Kreitler – all those guys.

VDN: What advice can you give up-and-comers with a desire to really throw down and get on film?JS: Keep training, skiing hard and pushing yourself. If the camera is there, let it push you, but only up to a point. When the camera’s on, I’ve seen some people go crazy and really hurt themselves. You have to know how to feed off of the camera’s energy and take calculated risks.VDN: What’s next for John Spriggs?JS: I want to get a better placing at the X-Games – I got sixth last year in slopestyle. Mainly, I want to place well in a big competition and get a few really good ski segments. In the meantime, I’ll just do what I always do – play football, basketball, mess around on my turntables. I’m actually DJ’ing for a couple of friends who have a group called Uncrowned Kings. I’m looking forward to maybe playing a couple gigs.

Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939, or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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