September 15, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Lights, camera, passport 

Whistler's growing winter-sport film industry shows off the best in talent and terrain... but the question for the ultimate shot requires tenacity, creativity and thousands of air miles


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"We wanted to do something with a little more substance," the 30-year-old Sangster says.

From the preview I saw, All.I.Can. is a skiing concept piece, a reflection on people, adventure, and environmental issues told through the eyes of Whistler locals who've travelled the world in search of snow, and more.

"I just Googled "Patagonia Guide" and hooked up with a guy named Jorge," Sangster says.

He led a team to Chile in 2009 to film Whistler skiers ripping lines inside the crater of Volcan Puyehue, a 2,240-metre dormant volcano (dormant at the time - see sidebar) in the Andes mountains. "Jorge made the trip happen," Sangster remembers, "made it the trip of a lifetime."

Along with local skiers Eric Hjorleifson and Mark Abma (and occasional local Chris Rubens) Sangster followed Jorge on what would end up being a 14-day journey with more than a few new challenges, including riding horses in ski boots. "That was the most unique experience," says Sangster. "We were all amateurs."

The weather was less unique but equally challenging - it rained for the first seven days. "We basically stayed down at a farm and drank beer and ate empanadas," Sangster recalls. "It was pretty bad. Puyehue is a low mountain a few hundred miles of the coast so we got a lot of fog, rain and warmth. Eventually, we made it up top with good weather and skied some really scenic stuff down into the crater. Everything you see in the movie happened in a day and a half of shooting."

One issue we are all connected to, regardless of location, is that Mother Nature is in charge, and she can be testy. Long waits and heavy downtime come with the territory for ski and snowboard pros. Crews can wait days for weather, then find a feature and wait hours for light, only to botch the landing or run into camera problems and end up with nothing to show for a half week of down time or thousands of dollars of helicopter fuel.

"The classic filming cliché is, 'This is the sickest pow I've never skied,'" says Eric Hjorleifson, a seasoned big-mountain charger from Canmore who now calls Whistler home. "I've spent a lot of days in amazing terrain waiting for light or standing around in sick snow just to do a single slash turn when it would be awesome to be just there with your buddies banging off laps. That's part of the job though, you can't complain. Filming enhances the quality of your skiing over the quantity. It's a fair trade."

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