Vail Film Fest doc shows new side of Vonn |

Vail Film Fest doc shows new side of Vonn

Rosanna Turner
Daily Correspondent
Jon Devore jumps off a large glacier during the filming of "The Unrideables" Alaska Range in the Tordrillo Mountains near Anchorage, Alaska on April 24 2014.
Scott Serfas | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Vail Film Festival.

When: Thursday through Sunday.

Where: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Lionshead, Vail Cascade and Vail Mountain School, both in Vail.

Cost: Vista passes are $80, Prima passes are $275. Individual tickets for screenings are $10 each.

More information: See the full screening schedule at

“Lindsey Vonn: The Climb” screens Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Vail Cascade. Filmmakers in attendance.

“Snow Day” screens today at 1:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., both at the Vail Cascade. Filmmakers in attendance.

“The Unrideables: Alaska Range” screens today at 3:15 p.m. at the Vail Cascade.

VAIL — Living in a small mountain town it’s rare that someone decides to make a movie about a local celebrity. When that celebrity is the most-decorated female skier in history, shooting a documentary about them starts to make a little more sense. Screening this weekend at the Vail Film Festival, “Lindsey Vonn: The Climb” chronicles the athlete’s journey as she struggles to overcome two injuries that almost ended her career and prevented her from competing in the 2014 Olympics.”The Climb” is one of several ski-centric films showing at the festival this year, which always likes to cater to the local crowd and highlight a few action-adventure films featuring Colorado’s own.


Unlike other sports documentaries, “The Climb” lets us peak into the skier’s personal life and show sides of Vonn’s personality you don’t often see on the slopes. Director Steve Trout said getting Vonn to open up was key to capturing a compelling story.

“The only way it works is if you trust us to tell your story,” Trout said. “(You have to) let us behind every door, and she did.”

Originally conceived as a chance to document Vonn’s comeback to the Olympics, when she re-injured her right knee and partially tore her ACL just a few months before Sochi, the film took an unexpected twist.

“(Making a movie) is like building an airplane in flight,” Trout said. “You don’t know where the story is going to take you. As it turns out it took us on an unbelievable roller coaster.”

Trout said he didn’t want the film to be just an “hour of her working out in the weight room,” and that you don’t have to be a big skiing fan to connect with Vonn’s story.

“She’s a superstar,” Trout said. “To see her basically hit rock bottom almost twice, it’s something you never see for a superstar. That’s what got me. She’s human. She’s not this skiing robot who’s won so many races, she’s a girlfriend, she’s a daughter … It’s a very human story.”


While “The Climb” focuses on an elite ski athlete, “Snow Day” documents a different demographic of the skiing population: senior citizens. Director Erica Milsom got the idea to make a film about her dad’s skiing group, who would meet once a week and drive up to Copper Mountain from Denver, after noticing how hilarious all of her father’s friends were.

“At first I thought it would be a funny little short (film), driving up to the mountains with these senior citizens,” Milsom said. “One guy in the group would always get a million speeding tickets.”

However, Milsom’s short documentary turned into something more when one of the group members, Roland, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After this the project took on new meaning for Milsom, and she began to delve deeper into the senior’s lives and their thoughts on aging.

“In the film Roland is very frank about dying,” Milsom said. “Roland didn’t fear talking about it and he didn’t fear talking about his fear, and what he hopes for his family and the stress of it.”

The Vail Film Festival will mark the world premiere for “Snow Day,” which is especially poignant because it will also be the first time the seniors themselves are seeing the film. Milsom is also excited to show the movie in front of a Colorado crowd and “people who live that life.”

Milsom hopes the film’s audience will grow beyond the senior skiing scene.

“I showed it in California to some filmmakers,” Milsom said. “There was a real connection to the characters, which is always the main goal of anything, to feel connected to the story.”


If you still like busting out those old Warren Miller tapes, “The Unrideables: Alaska Range” will give you that same thrilling viewing experience and crank it up a few notches. In “The Unrideables”, a group of speedriders, which combines skiing with parachute flying, attempt to take this burgeoning sport to new heights, literally. Derek Westerlund, who directed the film, said the “jaw-dropping” visual sight of watching speedriders glide down these massive peaks drew him to the sport. The courage of the speedriders themselves to take on these challenging feats was also something Westerlund hadn’t seen before.

“I’ve been around the ski community for 20 years,” Westerlund said. “You see a lot of ego and flamboyance. There’s only a handful of speedriders on the planet, they’re truly inspiring. They’re growing everyday and they’re bonded purely by the fact that they’re some of the only people who have that skill set. There’s no ego involved – it’s a very humbling sport.”

While watching speedriders in action is truly awe-inducing, it doesn’t make this director want to give it a go himself.

“I would never do it in a million years,” Westerlund said. “But I really respect the guys that have taken it on.”

Like going to a live sporting event, there’s a special magic that happens when watching these skiing documentaries on the big screen. Seeing these movies at the Vail Film Festival this weekend is a chance to become fully immersed in the cinematic experience, and watch the action in real time. Well, in “Snow Day” the action moves a little slower, but the senior’s funny personalities both on and off the hill make up for it.

Support Local Journalism