The Hans Gmoser Film Preservation Project 

Old mountain films get a new life

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES - mountain climb Hans Gmoser, with skis, ice axe and camera leads his group up Mount McKinley in 1963.
  • Photo courtesy of Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
  • mountain climb Hans Gmoser, with skis, ice axe and camera leads his group up Mount McKinley in 1963.

Hans Gmoser was a preacher; mountains were his gospel. From 1957 to 1968, Hans spent each autumn spreading that gospel across North America. His pulpit was any auditorium in large cities and small towns. His choir was angelic, timeless classical music. His scripture was the narrative he'd spin while the congregation sat spellbound, watching the heavenly visions he displayed before them.

And those visions? They were the films he'd shot of him and his friends skiing, hiking and climbing in rugged, remote, wilderness mountains in British Columbia and Alberta. Wild places that moved the souls of those fortunate enough to attend.

Foreshadowing Ernie Blake's travelling chautauqua to market his new ski area, Taos, and Warren Miller's nascent entertainment empire, Hans Gmoser took his parishioners ski touring at Rogers Pass the Little Yoho Valley, across the icefields of the Continental Divide, up the east ridge of Mount Logan and along for the ride when he gave birth to a new mountain passion in the Bugaboos — heliskiing.

The founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays — the world's first heliski operation — understood the simple truth of marketing that continues to elude so many who have so much to flog: sell the sizzle, not the steak. Hans' sizzle was his unbridled passion for all things mountain. It was the passion that drove him his entire life, from his first serendipitous trip into the mountains of his Austrian homeland to his unquenchable urge to explore every inch of the mountains of his Canadian west.

Long unseen, but not forgotten, those pioneering films Hans showcased across North America are about to be available once again to thrill and inspire. Long time friend, writer, climber, and backcountry traveller, Chic Scott, has partnered with Marg Saul and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to breathe life back into Hans' films.

The films are being cleaned up and transferred to HD. Seven of the films will feature Hans' original scripts read by his nephew, Michael Hintringer, who was born in the same Austrian town and has an accent virtually indistinguishable from his uncle. Chic will narrate the remaining films himself. All will bear soundtracks befitting the classical scores Hans used originally and the whole collection will be enriched with interviews of some people appearing in the films.

With a budget of just over $100,000 and well over half that collected already, work is going full steam ahead. To help raise the rest of the budget, the project team is offering a Collectors Edition consisting of 10 DVDs of all 10 films, and supporting material, for donations of $500. In addition to the films, contributors will receive a $400 charitable tax receipt from the Whyte Museum and enjoy a five-year post-release period when these films won't be commercially available.

So why might this interest you in Whistler? Well, other than the amazing films themselves, some of the skiers featured in those films — in vintage ski garb — include Jim McConkey and Lorne McFadgen, both pretty familiar names around town, along with Mike Wiegele, Nancy Greene and Scotty Henderson. Included in the film documenting their amazing Mount Logan ascent is a remarkably young Karl Ricker.

Cool, eh?

Even cooler, if you want to find out more, contribute to the project or just watch the trailer, surf on over to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies at and check it out for yourselves.



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