The dozen friends that make up Bad Larry Productions have been filming ski and snowboard runs on Eaglecrest Ski Area for seven years, so they know the challenges of the lean snow years.
No such worries this season.
When the snows came last November and it became clear that this was no ordinary winter, the crew quickly ordered two top-of-the-line Panasonic Mini-DV cameras: the DVX-100A and the DVX-100B.
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"Once we saw what it was going to be like, we decided to throw the money toward better quality film," said Lucas Merli, 17. "It was definitely the best year we've ever experienced. The weather really worked out for us, no doubt."
The latest Bad Larry film, the 35-minute "Just Livin'," premieres at 7 and 9 p.m. tonight on the big screen at Centennial Hall. Admission is $3 and the public is welcome. Copies of the DVD also will be sold for $10 at Gravity Plan Boardshop in the Nugget Mall.
Live the dream
What: "'Just Livin'," the new 35-minute ski and snowboard film by Bad Larry Productions.
When: 7 and 9 tonight.
Where: Centennial Hall.
Admission: $3, all ages.
This is the fifth DVD for the crew, but the first Bad Larry screening in the venue that typically shows movies by acclaimed sports filmmaker Warren Miller. The group held past premieres at Eaglecrest and the Hangar Ballroom. Tonight's showings come at the end of a grueling summer-long Final Cut Pro 3 editing process for the crew.
"We've put days and days and days into this," said Donovan Bell, 19. "We've spent more time filming and more time editing this year. Over the last couple of weeks, we basically got off work and went straight into editing the movie."
The filming process was just as intensive with Juneau's record snowfall - 222.7 inches at the National Weather Service office on Back Loop Road. Many of their favorite spots vanished under the monstrous load. Other spots - born out of the ether by the tremendous wall of powder - seemed perpetually fresh. A lot of days it was too cloudy for wide shots, forcing the crew into close quarters within the trees.
"I can't even recognize half the mountain when I watch the clips," said Bell, who was in his first year at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., and missed most of the action at Eaglecrest. "I have to ask the other guys where they were half the time, and it's just at Eaglecrest. Some of our favorite drops all over the mountain just disappeared."
"There's a lot of places that are normally reliable that we weren't able to try," Merli said. "Most of the time you wouldn't have to go that far for fresh tracks, but you have to spend most of your time worrying about avalanche conditions. It was surprisingly good for how much snow we got. It just kept you on your toes."
On Sunday, Feb. 25, the crew was heli-boarding and filming in the skinny, bottlenecked "420 chute," on the backside of the bowl off Mount Ben Stewart.
Crew member Kanaan Bausler, then a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, was driven out of the chute by a small avalanche and ended up running into a rock wall. Merli, Kaitlyn Bausler, Wyatt Fournier and Sandy Miller constructed a backboard out of Merli's snowboard and rigged a neck brace. They were able to clear a space in the powder for helicopter pilot Brett Wilcox to land. Bausler was spirited away with a punctured lung and broken ribs.
Production went on hiatus during the prime filming time of the season, as much of the crew decided to spend time with Bausler in the hospital. Parts of the accident can be seen in the DVD bonus features on "Just Livin'."
"It was definitely a big wake-up call for us," Merli said. "I think we've always had a good appreciation of the mountains and the control, just the power, they have over us. But when something like that happens, it makes it pretty clear."
Bausler eventually recovered and returned to the backcountry. The crew trekked to a mountain adjacent to Ben Stewart at the beginning of June and rode a chute in spring conditions.
This winter's weather also attracted professional film crews from all over the world. Sometimes they stop on their way to heli-board in Haines. This year, they stayed here, for the good snow. The Bad Larry contingent hung out with them a little at Eaglecrest and up at a Big Air competition in Haines.
Most of the professional crews filmed Eaglecrest with hi-definition or 16mm cameras. Those movies will start coming out near the end of August, but a lot of the teasers are already available online on snowboard magazine and film company Web sites.
"It was all these big film companies that we watch and look up to," Merli said. "We definitely communicated with them and talked about different spots, what their experiences were, where they were filming, and gave them some pointers on where to go.
"It was interesting to see how they rode the terrain that we've been riding for years, and how they saw the mountain," he said.