Ski Bums draws crowds at Sundance 

Local filmmaker represents Whistler lifestyle at festival

John Zaritsky knows tough audiences, and the toughest land annually at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film festival, held just outside of Park City, Utah.

The annual independent showcase, held this year from Jan. 10 through 20, provides a stellar showcase for both documentaries and feature films to be picked up by North American film distributors.

That will be the goal of the National Film Board of Canada sales representatives for the local film Ski Bums, shot in and around Whistler and aired at the 2002 Whistler Film Festival. The film was shown as part of the Sundance Festival’s Special Screening section, and was the U.S. premiere for the NFB production.

The feature-length film follows the lives of boarders and skiers in and around Whistler, and what they do to support themselves in a ski resort town. Crucial Mike works in a kitchen, while Sherry is a go-go dancer. Johnny Thrash stars in porno films.

From Sundance, where the final screening took place at midnight on Jan. 18, Zaritsky reported on conditions: outlook good.

"We held a 20-minute question and answer session after Ski Bums’ premiere, which was a sell-out, and there were lots of questions," he says. "Sundance is a tough audience, and sometimes crowds walk out after 10 minutes, but they were clapping. I was nervous, with visions of me and the other ski bums who were there being the only people in the theatre."

Redford, whose 1968 film Downhill Racer made some attempt to dispel the notion that ski racers were ski bums, held a lunch for all festival film directors, which Zaritsky called one of the highlights of the week.

Johnny Foon and his wife Lisa, Sherry Newstead and Chris Kettles were some of the film stars who joined Zaritsky in Sundance.

Thrash is currently promoting the film in B.C. ski towns like Fernie and Golden.

In true ski bum mode, Zaritsky sounds content.

"I’m leading the perfect existence, skiing during the day and watching films at night."

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