Film crew takes to Alaska's untouched ski terrain

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2010

PETERSBURG - A crew of professional skiers, photographers, and cinematographers seeking world-class ski terrain will be in Petersburg for the next month as they shoot a segment for their film, "Light the Wick."

Teton Gravity Research
Teton Gravity Research

The crew, from Teton Gravity Research, is made up of four skiers, four cinema/still photographers, two guides and a helicopter pilot. They are hoping to feature some shots of skiers on never-before-skied terrain around Petersburg.

Guide Jim Conway, who is in charge of the snow science aspect of the shoot said he thinks they are the first crew to ever film a commercial shoot in this area.

Meaning that every descent by each skier could be a first.

The group spent a few hours on a small plane scouting terrain in the Witches Cauldron March 19, and went as far south as Wrangell seeking skiable terrain.

So far, the group has had one day of filming, and reports from that day are good.

"It has been good snow, really stable," skier Dana Flahr said. "I'm excited."

Teton Gravity Research co-founder Todd Jones said the skiers for the film are top notch.

"We have some of the most progressive riders," Jones said. "These are some pretty rowdy people."

And while there is excitement about getting out and skiing for good footage, the group wants to be as safe as possible in the process.

Conway said being prepared and knowledgeable about the untouched terrain is paramount. Although it is an inexact science, there are precautions to be taken. He added that the group is using state-of-the art technology to reduce the risk.

He said the skiers would be receiving backpacks with portable airbags that reduce the risk of fatality if engulfed in an avalanche.

"My philosophy is that we are out here voluntarily risking our own lives," Conway said. "We want to be well-prepared."

Conway said there are some very unique areas and snow conditions in southeast Alaska.

"We really want to be here," Conway said. "There are definitely some new possibilities."

The group is prepared to endure some bad weather spells in order to film on some good days, Jones said.

"That's why we plan five weeks," Jones said. "We know we need a big window."

So far the crew has enjoyed seeing the sights around Petersburg.

Flahr, who has skied in British Columbia, Italy, Tahoe, Utah and Whistler this winter, said the time spent in Petersburg so far has been relaxing.

However, he said he didn't want to get "heli-belly," the term used to describe the condition that extreme athletes get from being stuck in hotels for days at a time and then ferried around in helicopters to extreme skiing locations with minimal exercise needed.

None of the crew has ever been to Petersburg before this trip, except co-founder, Jones.

Jones and three other co-owners started Teton Gravity Research in 1995 with money earned while commercial fishing in Alaska.

Before starting the company they skied in the winter and earned money fishing in the summer, Jones said.

Jones said he spent a month and a half in Petersburg on a commercial boat in 1998, but didn't even think about skiing in the area when he was here.

"I was here in August, so I didn't see the snow," Jones said.

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