Tales from the Road

  • SnoWorld Winter 2010-11

    Front-of-book Feature, Winter 2010-11

Weather, Gear & Parties at the Ends of the Earth

Published in SnoWorld, magazine of the 61st annual Warren Miller film tour

Winter 2010-11AT THE FAR ENDS of the planet, everything seems to ramp up several notches: the gear, the weather, the distance to medical help and the ability of Scandinavians to take a party into the realm of the obscene. Here are four memorable moments, and one very fuzzy one, from filming Wintervention.

[79°N, 500 MILES SHORT OF THE NORTH POLE]
1 PACK YOUR RUNNING SLIPPERS
“In Svalbard one of our main tents blew away in a wind sheer that ripped down off the mountains. Sleeping bags, food, and stoves were strewn across the glacier and I had one of the most abrupt wake up calls I can remember. We were 120 miles from the closest town and temperatures were hovering between ridiculously and stupidly cold. Thanks to the uncanny ability of still photographer Will Wissman to sprint in a full down suit and slippers, we managed to get the tent back mostly intact.” – Colin Witherill

[39°N, NINE MILES FROM THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE]
2 WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE PLUGGED IN?
The Photo-Sonics Super 16 Actionmaster camera rented by the crew in Breckenridge, Colo. captures up to 360 frames per second of high-definition action. That’s three to five times more than typical slo-mo. For a cameraman, this means four things: (1) You need an able assistant willing to lug around all that film you’ll be blasting through. (2) You can slow high-speed tricks to 1/12 of real time, revealing the flawless execution of the grab in the middle of, say, a Jossi Wells corked 540. (3) That same HD detail will allow you to examine the crystalline structure of all the snow packed in J.J. Thomas’s nose and pants when he over-rotates his landing on the 60-foot gap jump. (4) All the technology in the world will not help you remember to plug the camera in.

[64°S, MOTORING NORTH FROM THE ANTARCTIC PENINSULA]
Official Magazine of the Warren Miller film tour3 PARTY LIKE A FINN
One would expect some pent-up energy on the ship to Antarctica. One hundred professional athletes, cameramen and journalists waited a year for the expedition of their lives. When the trip finally came together, miraculously serving up epic conditions over six straight bluebird days (out of 30 total per year in stormy Antarctica), let’s just say some of the guests couldn’t contain themselves. We don’t like to name nationalities, but multiple accounts—granted, all of them fuzzy—of the Clipper Adventurer‘s “White Party” implicate the Finnish contingent, who have a taste for vintage scotch.

[37°N, FIVE MILES NORTH OF ZION NATIONAL PARK]
4 TEN-SECOND RULE
Director of Photography Tom Day: “In Utah I got my camera out, ready to take a shot. A skier above turned through the shot and threw up a little slough. The avalanche dragged me down a little bit and I just couldn’t get my camera with the tripod out of it. I let go and grabbed a tree. The camera probably went down about a hundred yards; the only thing sticking up was a tripod leg. I had to unbury it, full of snow, brush it off, and ten minutes later I was getting another shot.”

[78°N, PAST THE WORLD’S NORTHERNMOST TOWN OF 1,000+ INHABITANTS]
5 SKI TILL SUNSET
When you head even farther north than the land of the midnight sun, you reach the land of the all-night sun. The crew’s time-lapse shots of “sunset” show a relentless bright orb moving laterally across the sky, never dipping below the horizon. That can make for some odd working hours. Tom Day reports: “The sun never went down. It just spun around us all day long. We were shooting midnight to five in the morning. We’d come back to our campsite at seven in the morning, sleep, and wake up to maybe start again at three the next afternoon.”