The makings of a snowboarding film |

The makings of a snowboarding film

Shauna Farnell
Marc Bateman/Special to the DailyFrostbite Films cameraman Ben McNair follows Ricky Rodriguez and Mark Koelker over the Beaver Creek rainbow rail while filming "Unscripted," a community snowboarding film made by seasonal employees focusing on local snowboarders.

EAGLE COUNTY ” Just about anyone with a video camera can make a snowboard film. But some aim to capture more than just big tricks and spectacular crashes.

The seasonal ski town work experience can’t necessarily be encompassed in one disposable camera and a few trips up the chairlift on weekends. So Sam Spurgeon, a three-season Vail Resorts winter employee, decided to put his film editing skills to good use.

The 28-year-old from Somerset, England, was living in London and doing picture editing for the Discovery Channel. He had a good job and a good situation, but knew that if he didn’t try something different, he’d wake up and be 70.

“I got to a point where I was really enjoying what I was doing,” Spurgeon said. “I got to the point where I thought if I didn’t break away then, I’d regret it. So, I went for one season. I kind of got addicted.”

Spurgeon first came to Beaver Creek three years ago, working as a guest attendant. Camera in tow, he and his friend and fellow Englishman, Tom White, came up with Frostbite Films, and made their first snowboard video ” “No Strangers.” A big incentive for the project was to commemorate the friends they’d made over the winter.

When Spurgeon and White returned the following season, they made a second film, “Good Times,” with the same purpose in mind.

“The first video was a lot more of a side project,” Spurgeon said. “I wanted to do something creative. It was me and a friend and a camera. We’d go up (to the mountain) on our lunch break and film the riders we knew. That’s where the ethos started.”

From liftie to riding aloft

Now, some of those very riders are moving up the ranks. But the spirit of Frostbite Films remained the same during the production group’s third and most refined video, “Unscripted.”

“Before, it was a lot less serious than it is now, with the people involved and the sponsors,” Spurgeon said. “We filmed with a lot of the same guys. Now they’re locally sponsored athletes. ‘Unscripted’ is more high-profile. We wanted to keep the spirit, but our standards are a little higher.”

Spurgeon said that “Unscripted” targets a community atmosphere while following Beaver Creek snowboarders and one 14-year-old skier up and down rails, through the terrain park and all over Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Copper Mountain. There were five or six key players in the filmmaking, and several other contributors. This group effort, Spurgeon said, is telltale of the seasonal work experience itself.

“Because we have this community element, we had a lot of people come out of the woodwork,” he said. “I’d like to think it (encapsulates) the spirit of doing a season here. You get in a situation where a load of people are thrown together, you form close relationships with these people and then they disappear.”

Initially, filming was a way to keep the memories of these seasonal friendships alive. In “Unscripted,” Spurgeon said, the filming aspect became a bigger focus, although the heart of the film didn’t stray from its prequels.

Grass roots, snow shoots

“We had opportunities to break away and film with sponsored riders and follow them exclusively, but that’s not what we wanted,” he said.

With heavy editing involved, cutting the film down to just more than 40 minutes of good riding, good crashing, plus a “diverse” soundtrack containing more than the standard “grunge and hard hip-hop tracks,” Frostbite Films set out to do something more than the dozens of others of snowboarders that could be found pointing cameras at their friends in the terrain park on any given winter day.

“I know a lot about editing. I’m not going to say it’s a Warren Miller film,” Spurgeon said. “Obviously, that’s the dream, but I’m also realistic that it’s a very competitive field. You ride on a sunny day and you see people filming left, right and center.”

Next season, Spurgeon is lined up to do videography for Beaver Creek’s ski school, where responsibilities could range from editing, making videos for clients and sports analysis. Regardless of how his filmmaking career shapes up, Spurgeon is positive he’s on to something.

“I’m a firm believer that if you’re passionate about something, even if you don’t make any money doing it, some good will come of it,” he said. “I just feel lucky that I’m involved in any of this and that I can live in a place like we do.”

Arts and Entertainment writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14632, or

Vail Colorado

Support Local Journalism