Edge of Never review from Canada’s Explore Magazine

The Edge of Never

  • Posted on February 3, 2010 at 1:26 PM
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I just finished reading the book *The Edge of Never,* by Bill Kerig, the most inspiring page turner I’ve read in a long time. It’s the story of how Kerig took Kye Peterson to ski the Chamonix, France, run where his father Trevor Peterson died in an avalanche.

Trevor was one of my skiing idols growing up. I emulated his jump turning style as I explored the steeps of Lake Louise in the early to mid 1990s. I watched him in movies like Into the Snow Zone and Carving the White ski big Alaskan shower curtains before it was de rigueur. Trevor died in an avalanche while skiing the Exit Couloir near Chamonix in 1996, when Kye was five.

In the book, Kerig does an excellent job of recounting his quest to make a documentary about the soul of big mountain skiing. The idea builds around taking 15-year old Kye to Chamonix, getting him the best training from legendary skiers, his father’s accomplices and professional mountain guides and then climaxes with the ski down the Exit Couloir in less than ideal conditions. The story and action is gripping and Kerig’s prose heightens the tension. In the end it’s a story of why skiers will risk their lives to ski, but it’s also about why anyone would want to push their boundaries and the freedom they find when they do.

After polishing the quick read in less than a week, I’m looking forward to watching the movie. In the meantime all I want to do is to find something steep and rocky to ski.

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Edge of Never to be featured on Entertainment Tonight

Edge of Never film to be featured on Entertainment Tonight!

Tomorrow, 1.29.10. Check your local listings!

New Year’s Eve, Snowbird style – t

YouTube Preview ImageThe 2010 Ski Season Begins!

Now this is more like it. Yours truly in the red with the silver helmet.

Fuel in the Tank

I’m sitting in the back of a plane that’s just taxied out to the runway and, before taking off, turned around and lumbered back to the terminal.

“We love Salt Lake so much that we don’t want to leave,” says the flight attendant over the intercom in that over-jocular style that’s become the hallmark of a Southwest Airlines flight.

I look out the window at the snow-covered Wasatch. Silently, I agree with her. How much would I rather be high up in those mountains than heading off to another city to show a movie about mountains? Snowbird’s Dave Fields is torturing me with this morning’s emailed ski shots of his other buddies making powder 8s down the Cirque.

“The weather in Portland is bad and we may have to circle the airport before landing,” the flight attendant says. “Which means the guys are either filling up with more fuel, or asking directions. Hmmm, must be the fuel; guys never ask directions.”

And now I’m thinking, man, they’re going to lose money on this flight. It’s barely half full of passengers and now they have to take on extra fuel. Money, money. We’ve been touring with The Edge of Never for three weeks now and have eight more weeks to go. Some shows have surpassed my wildest dreams – Vail, Park City, Salt Lake City – and others have been pleasant surprises (Breckenridge, Bellingham, Seattle). A couple of our shows have been complete, money sucking flops (Fort Collins, Spokane), but even at those shows, good things happened. I met great people and had long, unhurried conversations. And though I’m reminded daily of the dangerously low needle on our little troupe’s financial gauge, I have a hard time turning over my faith to The Fear.

Five years on The Edge have taught a few lessons, apparently.

Nonetheless, I’m not entirely delusional. There is a reason that ski films have become such heavily commercialized behemoths, such thinly disguised sponsor vehicles. Touring with a film is expensive and proceeds from ticket sales are an unreliable way to keep pumped gas and linoleum-counter meals coming. The Fear of running out of funds can twist you up into the same scarcity mentality that’s behind the ridiculous spectacle of one ski movie company suing another over alleged abuses of its bought-and-paid-for legend (incidentally, there are good people on both sides of that Warren Miller Entertainment vs. Level 1 mess, and I wish for all their sakes that they’d just come to their senses and realize that, corporate legalese notwithstanding, no company owns a person, especially not one as singular and spirited as Warren Miller).

So, yeah, unlike those companies with car and energy drink and granola bar sponsorships, we’re trying to make it on ticket sales. It’s nuts, but we’re surviving on the kindness of skiers, which is appropriate, I guess, since that’s exactly what our film is about. Our poster reads, No One Rides Alone. We oughta have that maxim painted across the side of the bus; it’s more than a motto. We’re riding with you, all of you, and having a hell of a good time doing it.

So, three weeks in, I offer a heartfelt gratitude to: the consummate gentleman skier and his family who invested in this film and our vision in the first place, the industry executives who’ve come out in droves to supply us with product to give away at shows (how cool to be supported by companies that normally compete tooth and nail such as Rossignol, K2, and Atomic), the faithful who continue to get off the couch and find their way to a theater to watch our show, Pete the tow truck driver in Salt Lake who gave us a mechanical primer as well as an emergency kit shopping list, Joe at the Magic Lantern Theater who offered sage wisdom with bottomless coffee and a deep discount on rental of his theater, Tanner Hall and Mike Hattrup for their spontaneous displays of kinship, the whole Vail Valley for its unflagging devotion, Park City for its passion, and Salt Lake City for the all neighborly love.

Two days ago I parked Air Patti at an airport hotel in Portland, Oregon, and flew home to see my family and regroup for a day. I also spent a lot of time with our accountant. Staring at numbers can sink a man’s spirits quicker than a lead poncho. And for a moment the whole endeavor feels like it’s at a standstill, waiting at the pump.

Now the plane with full tanks is beginning to roll again toward a western runway. The flight attendant is  telling a final joke and suddenly I remember something from last night. Somewhere in the blur of homework with the kids and a great dinner and the ongoing unpack/repack exercise, an email came in to congratulate us on The Edge of Never being accepted into the prestigious Banff Film Festival. Another runway perhaps, another chance for this mad scheme to take flight. The jets are growling now. In a moment, take off…

An Iconic Day

An Iconic Day – Sept. 24, 2009

We’re packing boxes into Air Patti, the 1978 Airstream, when the phone vibrates in my pocket. Caller ID says Glen Plake. I’ve been waiting for this call since I’d sent him a DVD of the movie. It’s really important to me to hear that Plake, one of the key players in the film, likes it.

You sound like you’re packing boxes, says Plake.

Good ear, I say.

I told Kimberly, those guys are packing boxes. They must be on tour.

I tell him we’re gearing up for our Park City show.

He asks me about the motor home and I describe the inner workings of Air Patti.

You’re lucky you got that big block engine, he says, the low growl of his voice actually sounding a lot like the Chevy 454 with the four-barrel carb. We talk RVs for a while – he and his wife Kimberly are about to head out on another Down Home Tour in theirs – and then he says, So I watched the thing.

The thing would be our movie. The thing is not the way I want this conversation to begin. This is not a good start.

And I think it’s really, like …he stalls, looking for a word.

Yeah? I say.


Eloquent? I repeat, did Glen Plake just use that word? That doesn’t sound like a Glen Plake word. That sounds a lot like the fancy word you use when you don’t want to use a simple one that says you didn’t like the guy’s film who’s on the other end of the line and who has worked five years on the thing.

Yeah, it’s like eloquent. Maybe the only ski film I could ever say that about.

But did you like it?

I think you got something, he says. Maybe the best film since ‘Blizzard.’ Yeah, I liked it. A lot.

We kept talking after that – about him trying join us on the tour and about his globe trotting schedule — but I didn’t register much. The Edge of Never had been given the Plake blessing. After that, everything else was just engine noise.

Park City’s Egyptian Theater is packed. We kick off the night by having Dynastar’s VP of Sales, Dennis Gaspari bring his two boys up on stage with him. Together, a father and two sons give away a ridiculous amount of Dynastar skis and swag that Dennis has donated to the cause. Then we have Rossignol’s CEO Francois Goulet come up and give away some Rossi boards and together Dennis and Francois introduce the movie. I like the vibe. It feels like it’s not just my film that I’m presenting to an audience. It’s more inclusive than that, like this is a film for and about all of us. This is what I’d always hoped a show would feel like. The house lights go down and the film comes up and I pace the back of the theater like a maternity ward Dad. The positive vibes have made me even more nervous about the crowd’s reaction. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if I’m faced with a quiet and polite crowd at the end?

Many of my friends are here, people who’ve supported me and this film since the beginning. I need it to go well. Not well. I need it to kill. Kill for my friends, kill for them to feel like their faith in me has been founded.

I’m pacing and listening. There’s laughing in the laughing places and sniffling in the sniffling places. And somewhere above me in the balcony, there are loud cheers in the cheering places and whoops in places I never heard whoops. I slip up there and try to see who is making all the enthusiastic noise. From the back, I can only see a knit hat, striped red, yellow, and green.

After the credits finish, I take the stage and start with a question-and-answer session. The crowd seems stoked, not quiet and not polite. A dozen hands shoot up when I ask for questions. And then I see the same knit hat that I saw in the balcony, only now it’s coming down the aisle toward me. And now I put together the meaning of the red, gold and green: rasta colors. It all makes sense when I recognize the guy under the hat, a guy the crowd will surely recognize, seven-time X Games skiing gold medalist Tanner Hall.

I wanna say a word, he says, mounting the stage.

I look into his eyes, trying to get a read on where he’s coming from, but his hat is pulled low and the stage lights plunge his eyes into shadow. Here’s what I know about Tanner Hall: he is a very good skier, outspoken, and passionate. For the last eight or nine years he’s been a big brother and mentor to Kye Petersen. He is famous and infamous. I hand him the mic.

That’s the best piece that’s been done on skiing since Greg Stump in the Eighties, he says. And I’m proud to be a skier tonight.

So am I, I say to the crowd.

And then I turn the mic off an step off the stage, thinking how can I follow that act? And, Why bother?

A Call From Stump

I returned a call from Greg Stump yesterday.

I ran into Peter Pilfian, he says, mentioning our Edge of Never cinematographer. Saw him outside the theater in Jackson. We just caught the new Tarantino.

Right on, Greg, I say. How was it?

Beautiful, man. Pilafian and I talked about it for an hour.

That’s a pair that’ll beat a full house, I say.

He says you’re finishing your film, says Stump.

I tell Stumpy that I am. It will be done and ready for the tour in two weeks.

Pugnacious, he says. That’s my line for you.

I laugh.

Bloody unstoppable, he says, slipping into one of his Stumpy radio voices, this one with the accent of an English rock star.

I like Stumpy. We’re both short guys with big dreams. Both haunted by doubt, choosing paths to challenge or escape it. Four years ago I was honored to be able to hire him to shoot Super 16 camera in Chamonix on The Edge of Never. It didn’t turn out well, but we’re friends again anyway. If you live long enough and stay loose all the things that seemed final become not so.

I tell Stumpy that I appreciate the good words, but I don’t feel unstoppable. What I feel is like a man trying to return a thousand tennis balls shot from a cannon, while drowning in molasses. Most films would have a sizeable staff to accomplish what my producing partner Peter Schweitzer and I are doing.

Do you like it? Stumpy asks. The film?

I do, I say. It’s the film we set out of make and I’m proud of it.

After two test screenings and final adjustments, the film is picture locked. The additional changes are technical in nature only. Audio sweetening, color grading. Titles, credits, lower thirds. One by one we settle rights and clearance issues. Music rights negotiations are ongoing but progressing. And today we just secured the seven tracks I chose of the mighty mighty Micheal Franti and Spearhead. We are blessed. Wicked blessed to have the Franti vibe in our film. Our fall barnstorming tour is mostly booked with 30 stops so far, another 20 to come. Response from the film, from the handful of people who’ve watched it, trickles in. Most of it is embarrassingly positive. The praise fills me up, of course, and then rolls off. The criticism, however, sticks like pine pitch. I tell Stump as much.

Fug em, he says. Lotta people said I was nuts. Still do.

In a flash, comes a memory: I’m 24 years old, working as a bartender and projectionist in The Slope après-ski movie bar in Vail. It’s down a thin stairway that begins 100 feet from the Vail Village base chairlift (before the fancy Vista Bahn). Your eyes take a moment to adjust as you lean your skis against the wall and step through the heavy door, out of the bright afternoon sun. Down into the dark. You’re enveloped in dank and warm, parting a humid curtain of odor: dank carpet mold, sweaty feet, beer and popcorn. At the front of the room glows a movie screen. Stretching away from it in the dim light are an elevated set of shag-carpeted tiers, each wide enough to lay a body down on. The tiers are covered in oversized pillows, ski bums, and the odd tourist in various states of embrace, drunkenness, and slumber. To the side of the screen is a small bar made of old skis.

And there I am, behind the bar, scrambling to serve. A Lenny Bruce favorite called Thank You Masked Man finishes on the screen. And then I’m running back to the narrow corridor behind the bottles to thread the next film. The waitress yells for me to put on the flick that’s just come in. I do so, gladly. Something new is a tonic. I can beat Warren Miller to his punchline every time. I’ve already been on Dick Barrymore’s journey with the K2 Performers so many times that I’ve taken to telling the barflies who wins the hot dog and wet t-shirt contests before they happen. Roger Brown and Barry Corbet have tripped me out with layout front flip into what would later be named Corbet’s Couloir enough times to let me think that it’s no big deal. The Ski Chase. Moebius Flip. Ski The Outer Limits.

This new film is not on film at all and I don’t have to thread the old projector. It’s on video cassette. The VCR projector is a hell of a lot easier and faster. The tape is in and playing.

Day glo Club A clothing. Limes and lemon yellows. This is something new. There’s a guy with a three-inch Mohawk haircut riding on top of a car. Guys I’ve never heard of: Glen Plake, Scott Schmidt, Mike Hattrup. Who are these yahoos? They’re not World Cup racers, but man they’re having a helluva time. The narrator sounds like a radio DJ, which it turns out he is. From Portland, Maine. The film is Maltese Flamingo, by a new guy named Greg Stump. And it’s a revelation. I see freedom and fun. A bunch of rebels following a crazy dream. Maybe a seed was planted there for me. Maybe it’s just another moment along the path. Either way, it’s a memory and I’m having it.

Kerig, here’s the thing, man, says Stumpy, bringing me back to 2009. You gotta make a hit.

I’m trying, Greg.

No you’re not. You’re doing. Not trying.

There is no try, I say, quoting Yoda. Only do.

Stumpy misses the reference.

Just knock the fuggin’ thing through the wall.

Thanks, Greg, I say, and I mean it.

Lots of love, man, he says.

For a moment the molasses doesn’t seem so thick.

The New Edge of Never Trailer

YouTube Preview Image

Lock and Load

“Lock and load, send the kid in,” says Nate Wallace, an expatriate friend of Glen Plake’s who’s living in Chamonix. His line comes at the beginning of a scene that’s set at the top of the Poubelle Couloir off the Grands Montets. It’s March 2005 and young Kye Petersen is about to ski the couloir with mentors Plake, Anselme Baud, and Stephane “FanFan” Dan. Everyone is being careful with Kye. And then Nate cuts through it all with his completely unfiltered dictum.

“Lock and load, send the kid in! It’s okay, you’re a kid. You’ll bounce.”

It rings in my head today.

My last 13 weeks have been like that, other people’s voices filling my skull, occasionally spilling out, as we’ve been editing The Edge of Never. Creating a 100-minute documentary feature film out of a script and a mountain of footage is like taking a three-month, underground mining expedition with people who never stop talking. The tunnel is dark and labyrinthine. The map is flimsy and you’re often too lost to know you’re lost. After a while you lose even your own voice, your very thoughts swallowed up by the caterwaul of the characters you’re cutting. The editor, Steve Haugen, and I share a lexicon made of other people’s quips.

“He go backwards!” exclaims FanFan.

“Lookey there, Dude,” says Plake.

“Our rope is very short,” says Anselme.

“You got razors, I got razors,” says Plake. “I’m gonna use em.”

“It’s okay,” says FanFan, “no pressure.”

“Guns, helicopters, and first descents,” says Eric Pehota.

We use these quotes in place of our own words in the way that junior high school kids used to employ Saturday Night Live impressions in place of original expressions. It’s vaguely funny to us and useful too, a cipher against complete lunacy, impenetrable to anyone who has not watched a thousand hours of this footage. It is an addiction, this mainlining of others’ words, one that I will begin to wean myself from today. Late last night we took the first step: we locked picture, ending the creative off-line editing process and beginning the technical on-line stage (color correction, audio sweetening, credits, titles, etc.). In five weeks we will begin showing the film on tour. I’m planning the coast-to-coast expedition now: 55 shows in 10 weeks. And I’ll be at every one.

Lock and load, send the kid in.


Nearly five years since this idea first turned over and began to become something, we finally screened a work-in-progress film version of The Edge of Never. About 100 invitees showed up to the Post Theater in Salt Lake City. Response was strong, though that may or may not have been a result of the excellent whiskey that High West Distillery, our terrific Park City based sponsor, was pouring.

On the survey, viewers rated it an average of 9.4 out of 10. The film, that is. The booze was an easy 10.

Now we’re responding to the tribe’s comments, criticisms and slaving away over hot Avids until the wee hours every night. Steve Haugen and the boys at Savage Pictures are the BEST and we’re gettin’ er done.

Moving on… Nationwide tour begins in seven weeks…

More on our progress here and also at:

Twitter http://twitter.com/EdgeofNeverFilm

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Edge-of-Never-Film/119644887600?ref=ts

PitchEngine http://www.pitchengine.com/agency-newsroom.php?id=6803

Youtube  http://www.youtube.com/EdgeOfNever

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgeofneverfilm/

Edge of Never Film on Facebook and Twitter

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