Vail: ‘Anti-ski film ski film’
VAIL, Colorado – The seeds of Bill Kerig’s filmmaking career were perhaps sown shortly after he moved to Vail 25 years ago, when he worked at an underground theater-bar called “The Slope.”
Patrons sat on tiered, carpeted seats, drank beer and watched ski films by the likes of Warren Miller and Roger Brown.
Kerig, who was both the bartender and projectionist, first discovered the work of skier Glen Plake and “Blizzard of Aahhhs” director Greg Stump at that bar near the Vista Bahn.
Decades later, both Plake and Stump played integral parts in Kerig’s first film, “The Edge of Never,” which has its world premiere Wednesday in Beaver Creek. The film is presented by the Vail Symposium.
The documentary film has been five years in the making, taking Kerig on a roller coaster ride that saw the film start, stop, be taken from his hands, return to his hands and start again.
“I never stopped believing in the story,” Kerig said.
Kerig – who lived in Vail for 13 years and was a pro skier here on the Pro Mogul Tour – calls it an “anti-ski film ski film.” It’s not simply shot after shot of skiers ripping down powder faces. The story follows Kye Petersen, the 15-year-old son of Trevor Petersen, a big-mountain skier who died while skiing in Chamonix, France, in 1996.
Kye travels to Chamonix to ski the run that killed his father. And Kerig’s own life situation plays a part in the story, too.
“It’s told from the point of view of a has-been pro skier, brand new father, kind of at the end of his rope, living across the street from a methamphetamine dealer, whose question was, what it was that made this whole mountain life worth living in the first place?” Kerig said.
Kerig sees skiers as a “tribe,” a group of people with incredible close bonds who pursue their passion. They have their own rituals, their own language, their own costumes and their own rites of passage.
When Glen Plake, the “tribal elder,” offered to take Kye Petersen to the place where his father died – Chamonix’s Exit Couloir – Kerig saw the makings of a “mythic” story. Glen Plake was good friends with the late, elder Petersen.
Plake and Kye Petersen are joined by other ski legends such as Stump (who helped film), Anselme Baud and Mike Hattrup in the Mecca of extreme skiing – Cham. The place has a long history of alpinism and a culture of risktaking.
“And when you’re around a huge collection of risk-takers, what you also find is there’s a heightened appreciation of life,” Kerig said. “Everyone charges harder on the hill, they party harder at night. It’s just an elevated culture in that way.”
The project began in 2004, when Kerig teamed with ABC News’ Peter Jennings’ production company to make the film. But the project stalled when Jennings died in 2005. It was subsequently taken from Kerig and handed to a different director. That film became the documentary “Steep,” but ultimately didn’t use the footage of Kye Petersen in Chamonix.
In the meantime, Kerig wrote a book version of “The Edge of Never,” which has released in 2008 and won several book awards.
Kerig was later able to buy back the rights to the footage he had already shot. He teamed with partner Peter Schweitzer, who produced the film. They went back to Chamonix and Whistler, the Petersens’ home, to shoot more footage.
Five years later, the movie has finally come to fruition. The Beaver Creek show kicks off a 55-city, cross-country tour.
Kerig’s hope is that the film will be to skiing what the 2001 documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” was to skateboarding, exposing the sport to a wide audience. But, Kerig said, the film was ultimately made for the tribe of skiers whose bonds are like those of a family. “The Edge of Never” is really all about those bonds, he said.
“It’s a story about making family where you find it and how those families can help us face and overcome our greatest fears,” Kerig said.