New England may not be home to the gnarly steep and deep terrain that inspires today’s ski films, but it is home to the longest running ski culture in North America. United We Ski, a short film about the rise and fall of small New England ski areas by T-Bar Films, came across our desk last winter and proved to capture the spirit of skiing as well as the rich ski legacy that pervades New England. Here’s the write-up from the January 2014 issue and the film trailer to start your week.
United We Ski filmmakers, Tyler and Elliot Wilkinson-Ray, grew up in Richmond, Vermont, skiing at nearby Cochran’s ski area, a family run hill with a vertical drop of 350 feet. As youngsters, the two brothers participated in Cochran’s strong racing program and returned as young men to coach. While driving their team to competitions around the Northeast, they conceived the idea of a documentary film about the rise and fall of small New England ski areas.
The concept gained traction in September 2012 when a Kickstarter campaign brought in $10,000—double their original goal. Additional financial support from local and regional businesses and a grant from the New England Ski and Snowboard Museum propelled the project. The rookie filmmakers spent the winter shooting interviews and action sequences at three unusual ski hills in Vermont: Northeast Slopes – a hill staffed entirely by local volunteers; Hard’ack – a skier that relies on skier donations to cover expenses; and Cochran’s – the first ski area in the country to buck the corporate trend and establish 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
United We Ski examines New England’s rich ski history and celebrates the vibrancy of its current skiing community. Interviews with historians, mountain managers, volunteers and skiers of all ages are tied together with slow-motion, high-definition footage of young local riders tearing up backyard powder and catching huge homegrown air. The film emphasizes the benefits of a ski-based community. At one point, two teenage snowboarders, who admit to being “from the wrong side of the tracks,” explain how many of their friends have made some bad choices and how they snowboard at Hard’ack to channel their energies and stay out of trouble.
In an age where the genre has degenerated into a neon circus of sponsored radsters hucking carcass and tear-assing around exotic mountain ranges, United We Ski is a thoughtful and human ski film that celebrates the roots of our sport. I highly recommend it. – L. Waring