The Life of Thrash, and other ski bums 

NFB production profiles Whistlerites who live life on their own terms

What drives a person to give up financial stability just for the thrill of being the first to christen a bowl of fresh powder? What inspires a person to give up creature comforts just for the privilege of mounting a 7,494-foot monster each day? The answer lies in the passion, the spirit and the adrenaline that is captured in Ski Bum, a National Film Board production nearing completion.

The 70-minute documentary profiles half a dozen self-proclaimed Whistler ski bums and explores this counter-culture that lives behind the lights and glitter of an international resort. Filmmakers John Zuritsky and Johnny Thrash have managed to find a huge cross-section of people, each telling a different story, but with a common theme.

Take Mark Ludbrook, a longtime local and dramatic example of the healing power snow can have on the body and soul. As a teenager, Ludbrook lost his left leg in a snowblower accident. He emotionally recalls the moment doctors had to decide whether or not to remove the leg. His only comment: "But then I’ll never ski." The leg was amputated, but with the help of a prosthetic limb, Ludbrook has become not only a ski bum, but also a bronze medallist at the Paralympic Winter Games.

As a hyper-active child, Thrash also found solace on the snow at a young age. Taking on double duty behind and in front of the camera, his story also serves as part of the theme. Thrash’s angle takes the viewer through some of the "higher" points of life in the mountains. Partying, drugs and nudity have been associated with ski bums since the ’60s and Thrash is proof that some traditions never die. Footage from the always popular Pimp and Ho and Barely Whistler parties at Merlin’s graphically illustrates Thrash at his best, as well as the antics of other snow spirits after dark.

"There was some thought that maybe I should just be behind the camera because there was so much to co-ordinate, the action shoots, the interviews, the catering, and then I’d have to turn around the next day and be on camera," says Thrash.

"I wouldn’t hear of it," insists Zuritsky. "What, and miss out on all that great gyroscope footage?"

Gyroscope? Those who have been around the resort for a few years may remember the stunt that ended up with guns drawn. For the rest, you’ll have to wait for the film’s release.

Other familiar faces on screen include Canadian national freestyle team member, Sherry Newstead and extreme sport filmmaker, Christian Begin. The two exude that inexplicable inner glow that only comes from living life on your own terms. They’ve found a certain Zen through balance and motion in nature.

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