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Four ISHA Award-Winning Films



Editor Seth Masia
Managing Editor Greg Ditrinco
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Seth Masia, Chairman
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To preserve skiing history and to increase awareness of the sport’s heritage

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Mason Beekley, 1927–2001

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Rick Moulton, Chairman
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Wini Jones, Vice President
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Four ISHA Award-Winning Films

By Seth Masia

These films were honored at the 30th Annual ISHA Awards in Sun Valley.

In Pursuit of Soul

Teton Gravity Research

The timing of this 34-minute film is prescient. In a year when skiers across the country have been frustrated by overcrowded and overpriced “corporate” resorts, In Pursuit of Soul portrays ski areas that have chosen to remain independent, relaxed and, perhaps, underdeveloped. These resorts, many of them family owned, seem rooted in an earlier time, one for which many skiers feel deep nostalgia.

The producers interviewed skiers, employees, managers and owners at Saddleback, Maine; Cannon Mountain and Black Mountain, New Hampshire; Bolton Valley and Magic Mountain, Vermont; Berkshire East, Massachusetts; Lost Trail, Montana; Brundage Mountain, Idaho; Snow King, Wyoming; and Mission Ridge and 49° North, Washington.

The typical independent resort is vital to the local economy. Without seasonal employees and visiting skiers, restaurants and retail stores fail, property values sink, and the tax base evaporates. These areas also teach local kids to ski, often for free through public school programs, assuring a new generation of customers and resort employees.

Some of these resorts have closed, then reopened. The challenges are many: snow drought, insurance premiums, capital investment and maintenance costs. They can’t afford to compete with destination resorts on luxurious lodges and high-speed lifts. But they can offer $40 daily lift tickets and affordable season passes. Local skiers forge friendships with resort staff and become loyal supporters, often over two or three generations. While some 60 percent of mom-and-pop ski resorts have disappeared over the past two or three decades, the roughly 400 survivors are beloved by their communities. Their owners are determined to persevere despite 100-hour work weeks.

The independent local ski hill is a sweet concept, and this is a sweet movie. 

View at

The Vladimer Sabich story

Spider Lives: The Untold Story of an American Skiing Super Hero

From the Bob Beattie Ski Foundation

An hour-long tribute film, Spider Lives is a journey into the rich history of ski racing. It chronicles Spider Sabich’s career trajectory from racing phenom to Olympian to World Cup victor to pro racing luminary, including the epic season-long battle with Olympic triple-gold-medalist Jean-Claude Killy for the 1973 World Pro Ski title. Previously untold stories recount the talent, charisma, generosity and celebrity of a once-in-a-generation superstar who seemed destined to become an industry icon in his post-competitive life. He was tragically killed in his home in Aspen at age 31.

The film, along with Sabich’s recent induction into the Hall of Fame, places the legendary skier in his rightful place among the pantheon of great American ski champions. According to the producers, the film was created because of the great love Sabich’s friends still hold for him. While financial constraints have made this production rough, it meets ISHA’s criteria for an award because of its oral-history content. A dizzying array of skiing colorfully illuminates not only Sabich’s life but explains the spirit of the decade during which he was at the top of our sport.

The Jake Carpenter story

Dear Rider: The Jake Burton Story

An HBO Documentary
Director: Fernando Villena
Producer: Ben Bryan

This 90-minute documentary recounts the life and work of Jake Burton Carpenter, who turned the Snurfer snow-toy into the billion-dollar snowboarding industry. After bailing on a Wall Street career, Burton began making laminated hardwood snowboards in a backyard shed in 1977. He learned that in order to sell product, he needed to build a sport and set out to do just that by organizing snowboard competitions and signing young athletes.

With wife and partner Donna, he realized that his target market was teenagers. Then, facing institutional inertia at ski resorts, the company cannily seized on the rebellious spirit of a new generation as Burton’s marketing theme. Today, two years after Burton’s death at age 65, Donna runs a company with annual revenue of about $400 million.

Jake and Donna loved shooting home movies. The documentary makes great use of intimate family footage, handheld scenes of early snowboarding and, notably, high-quality audio interviews with Burton himself. What comes through, in addition to his passions for family life and riding, is his focused, territorial approach to commercial competition. This manifested in his feud with Tom Sims, a grudge against mainstream media and pugnacious opposition to letting FIS and the IOC take charge of snowboarding competition. Burton was a creative force of nature on a par with a character like Yvon Chouinard—able to strike out in a new direction, unify a culture and pull millions of customers along for the ride.

The title “Dear Rider” comes from the salutation Burton used at the top of his annual letter to snowboarders, published in the company catalog and read in the film by Woody Harrelson. 

Stream Dear Rider on HBO

Arlberg's Hannes Schneider

120 Years Ski Club Arlberg

Blue Danube Media

In German, with English subtitles

Founded by six passionate mountaineers in 1901, the Ski Club Arlberg became the cradle of Alpine ski teaching and racing in Austria.

In 1907, at age 17, Hannes Schneider joined St. Anton’s Hotel Post, and the area’s ski club, as the first professional instructor in town, and after World War I his influence spread worldwide. With Arnold Lunn, Schneider organized the first Arlberg-Kandahar downhill race in 1928, when Alpine skiers still free-heeled on edgeless skis. As ski equipment improved and the sport grew popular, Schneider sent disciples across the globe—particularly to North America—to spread the gospel. When American friends liberated him from a Nazi jail in 1938, Schneider fled to New Hampshire.

This 24-minute film begins with a color portrait of the ski club as it exists today—as a training ground for local kids headed for international competition and as a social center for more than 9,000 skiers around the world. It then paints the history of skiing in Lech, St. Cristophe and St. Anton in broad strokes. Along with old footage of the Schneider days and of champion racer Karl Schranz, the film features interviews with Olympic champions from Trude Jochum-Beiser to Patrick Ortlieb. 

See the film at


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