The only thing more impressive than footage of skiers and snowboarders backflipping off cliffs and skiing vertical spines in Alaska in the annual Warren Miller ski movie are the stories of how the filmmakers captured the footage. Everybody loves a good BTS story (“behind the scenes,” in the Hollywood parlance).
For the inside scoop, we tapped the featured athletes, guides, and founders of Silverton, one of two Colorado ski areas to be showcased in this year’s Warren Miller movie, Line of Descent, presented by Volkswagen.
(Click here for a listing of Line of Descent screenings in Colorado this season.)
Getting the Shot: Sacrificial Skis
The Warren Miller crew traveled to Silverton in Southwestern Colorado, where the talent and accompanying guides proved willing to sacrifice copious amounts of P-Tex for the film.
“They wanted us to ski this long banana-shaped couloir on Doosker Face,” explains Silverton founder and lead guide Aaron Brill. “It’s a hanging cliff face that doesn’t hold snow. We had to ski down a thousand feet on two inches of snow to get to the line. It was sketchy, and we trashed our skis. But we nailed it.”
The Silverton segment in this year’s movie movie is headlined by two Marker-Volkl-Dalbello athletes: big mountain skier George Rodney, who won the 2015 Freeride World Tour overall title in his rookie year on the tour tour and who now lives in Aspen, and Tyler Peterson, a halfpipe and slopestyle competitor who skis out of Alta and Snowbird.
“I’ve skied all over Colorado,” says Peterson, “Silverton is 100 percent unique.” Silverton has just one lift, which accesses expert-only backcountry-style terrain. Skiers negotiate the mountain’s steeps and chutes led by Silverton’s guides.
Brill ferried the athletes and crew around the area during filming. “The athletes [Peterson and Rodney] were so great. They were clearly skilled, but also humble. It helped us get the best possible segment,” says Brill. The admiration was mutual. Says Rodney: “It’s impressive how well Brill knows the mountain and all the lines. We didn’t always get to inspect them ourselves, but we totally trusted him. What he’s done with Silverton is badass.”
For two of the 10 days spent filming on the mountain, the athletes were able to access terrain via Silverton’s helicopter. “We rode the chair and got a quick bump to another ridgeline in the heli,” says Peterson, who’d never been heliskiing prior to filming. “Just riding in the helicopter was awesome,” he says. “Silverton is steep and rocky, so you have to pay attention. It was intense.”
One spectacular moment you’ll see in the movie is Rodney throwing a backflip off a cliff at Silverton. What you won’t see is the landing. “I don’t think they had a good angle on it,” says Rodney. “The [cliff jump] was different than I envisioned. It was epic blower powder everywhere else, but on the cliff, it was sunbaked and crusted. I went a little too big. On the landing, I front punched in soft snow and tomahawked a couple of times.”
Peterson says each day of shooting wrapped with an apres-ski session at the base. “There’s no real lodge. Every day, we’d go down to this tent area with an old wood burning stove. Everyone was so inviting,” he says. “They always had cold beer waiting for us.”
To cap off the Silverton segment, the Warren Miller crew captured a nighttime lantern festival and skijoring down the silver mining town’s snow-packed main street. “They picked a cool weekend to film,” says Silverton co-founder Jen Brill. “All those airborne lights in the sky made the town that much more picturesque.”
Silverton had been featured once previously in a Warren Miller movie: Children of Winter (2008). In that movie, K2 skier Pep Fujas launched off a triple stage cliff and crashed big time, breaking his wrist.
Line of Descent marks the first time Peterson has appeared in a Warren Miller film, but he almost made it into a movie a few years back. “Four or five seasons ago, through my sponsor, Volkl, I was invited to go ski with Warren Miller in Romania,” he says. “The trip got cancelled two days before we were supposed to fly out. I had the plane tickets.” He views this year’s Silverton segment as a form of redemption. “I guess my turn came back around.”