Greg Stump to preview ski flick “Legend of Aahhh’s” at Mountainfilm in Telluride

Greg Stump to preview ski flick “Legend of Aahhh’s” at Mountainfilm in Telluride

By D. Dion


Greg Stump’s “Blizzard of Aahhh’s (1988) is perhaps the most beloved movie ever made about skiing. (Skiing Magazine ranked it #1 in its Top Ten Ski Movies of All Times, and a VHS recording of the film sits on the shelf of every self-respecting ski bum over the age of 30.) The movie also holds a special place in the heart of Telluriders, because it features lots of local footage from the 80s, from powder runs down Mammoth in neon-colored, one-piece ski suits to dreadlocked reggae musician Rasta Stevie waxing philosophical about his stint in Telluride politics and the vibe of the ski town.

It’s fitting, then, that the preeminent filmmaker would preview his newest work in progress, the ski flick “Legend of Aahhh’s,” here in his old Stump-ing grounds, at Telluride’s Mountainfilm festival this Memorial Day weekend. “I spent every winter from 1983 through 1988 in Telluride, with my brother Geoff. I really like it there,” says Stump.

“Blizzard” turned out to be a groundbreaking work; its out-of-bounds footage from France’s Aiguille du Midi opened the gates on the off-piste skiing scene here in the United States. It also launched the career of iconic skier Glen Plake (the guy with the multi-colored Mohawk hairdo) and put the word “extreme” into the sports lexicon. “‘Blizzard’ really had an impact,” recalls Stump. “The movie was pivotal. Backcountry wasn’t just for sinners anymore.”

The movie didn’t just have an effect on the ski industry—it also marked a turning point in the world of ski films. Instead of the wry, dry humor employed by Warren Miller in his ski films, Stump used storyline and incredible music to engage his audience. Today’s so-called “ski porn” industry, which relies heavily on music and footage of extreme skiing and jumping, owes much to Stump. Still, the filmmaker believes that “Blizzard” was not his best work; he prefers his 1991 “Groove Requiem in the Key of Ski.” He is also responsible for other classic ski flicks like “License to Thrill” and “P-Tex, Lies & Duct Tape,” but this latest film “Legend Of Aahhh’s” could be his magnum opus.

“‘Legend’ is a thinly disguised memoir,” laughs Stump. “The storyline looks at the history of ski films from Nazi Germany to Warren Miller, Dick Barrymore and everything in between, through my work and beyond to today, and how these movies affected the concept of big mountain skiing. But it’s from my perspective. The history according to Greg. I call the whole thing a ‘true fable.’”

Stump is certainly a reliable narrator: he got his start as an international amateur champion freestyle skier and appeared in the films of Barrymore and Miller before joining their creative ranks. He went on to become a revolutionary force in the ski cinema industry, changing the way people ski in this country, making stars out of his offbeat characters and introducing new music to the mainstream. A professional DJ, Stump not only had the connections to get great tracks for his films, but also had the skills to mix and edit his own audio along with his video. “Legend” promises more of the same, with music from Lukas Nelson (and his father Willie Nelson), Deathcab for Cutie, Strauss, Fort Knox Five and an as yet little known jazz ensemble from Los Angeles.

Stump says he hopes that “Legend” will break another ski film barrier by making it in the mainstream film industry, with a documentary style that could appeal to non-skiers. “I’m beginning to think this is really good,” says Stump of the unfinished film, set for a fall release. “People that don’t ski will watch it. I like to think it’s sort of Ken Burns-y, if you gave Ken Burns a tab of acid every day when he was working on it. It’s informative, but eclectic and moody. I hope everyone comes and checks it out.”

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