On November 26 at the Wheeler Opera House, in Aspen, Colorado, ski filmmaker Greg Stump will finally debut Legend of Aahhh's, the long (long, long)–awaited follow-up to his classic 1988 film, Blizzard of Aahhh's. Executive editor SAM MOULTON caught up with the famously eccentric director as he was racing to finish the film.
Outside: Twenty-two years is a long time. What have you been up to?
Stump: I've been doing audiovisuals: lots of commercials and music videos. I directed Tony Hawk's Super Bowl commercial in 2000. I've worked with Seal, Willie Nelson ...
So why return to skiing?
I got tired of Maui, where I'd been living, and I needed to get back in the mountains. It was a quest. I needed to do it to move on.
Is it fair to say Legend is a documentary about ski films?
Definitely. I go back to the beginning. You learn who Leni Riefenstahl was before Hitler snapped her up. She was this hot little filmmaker who used mountain imagery in art films. That's where it all started. Then it's on to guys like Otto Lang, who brought ski films to this country, and pioneering directors like John Jay, Warren Miller, and Roger Brown. Eventually you get to me.
You mean to Blizzard of Aahhh's?
Yeah, Blizzard poured gas on "extreme." The skiers from the film ended up on the Today show. Then extreme was everywhere, and I handed off to guys like Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions.
You made Glen Plake a star. How come there aren't any ski-film stars anymore?
I've got interview after interview with people like Warren Miller and Klaus Obermeyer saying that today's ski movies have too much repetitive action, not enough artistry. These skiers are so young, and when they do talk, it's like "Shut the fuck up." If they were in my movie, I would get inside their heads on camera. They'd become interesting.
I've heard you describe the film as Ken Burns–y, only after lots of booze and acid.
I was joking. I call it a "true fable," two words that don't go that well together. That's the tagline. It's musically driven. It could be the Pet Sounds of the ski-movie world. It might even be the Sergeant Pepper's.
If it's a fable, does it have a moral?
For me, it's that people don't have to take extreme risks to make a good film. The last line of the movie is "Did my films help inspire a generation of egomaniac, machismo, monosyllabic, bro-ski suicide searchers? Or did they inspire a new breed of Baryshnikov-like athletic angels?"