Words & Photos: Pat Bridges
Three years ago when I walked out of the premiere for “That's It, That's All” I was let down. Not by the groundbreaking riding and filmmaking I had just witnessed but rather by the feeling that not enough people would get the chance to see this side of snowboarding in that supreme light. I felt what Brain Farm, Travis Rice and Curt Morgan had created with “TITA” was the perfect counterpoint for the mainstream to absorb as a juxtaposition to the jock-ish mainstream exploitation of snowboarding centered around the X-Games and Olympic spectacles. Snowboarding could have much more of a broad appeal outside of the context of judges, stock runs, one-upmanship dictated by degrees of rotation, and a prodigy turned corporate pitchman/puppet.
In turn, what I hoped was not for “The Art Of Flight” to eclipse “That's It, That's All” in terms of next-level production and action, but instead to take their abundant resources and use them to expose the final product to as many people as possible. As the first signature cinematic product of the Red Bull Media House, I believe they may have done just that with “The Art Of Flight”. For a multi million-dollar project to simply aspire to share shelf space alongside still-great releases like “Shoot The Moon“, “Vacation”, “Standing Sideways”, “TB20”, “The Shred Remains”, “Twe12ve” or “Defenders Of Awesome” would be a disservice to snowboarding as a whole. By that I mean riders already invested in our culture don't necessarily need Cineflex's, Varicams and super slow mo to get stoked. Don't get me wrong, it still does the trick, and perhaps “The Art Of Flight” will find itself within the pre and post-ride ritual more so than its predecessor but these trappings are somewhat superfluous. With a promotional budget that has an additional zero than the production one it appears that Red Bull and Quiksilver have provided “The Art Of Flight” with the resources to reach considerably more people than any project of this kind has ever dreamed to and for that they can't get thanked enough. One needs to go no further than the glitzy NYC premiere to find tangible proof of this push.
As I stood in the lobby of the Big Apple's Beacon Theater I was awestruck by how much of an event film “The Art OF Flight” has become. Unlike the predictable trappings of a So Cal premiere, this gathering garnered atypical excitement. People not normally clued into these types of shindigs were clamoring for tickets and the crowd was electric. I was particularly struck by the number of riders on-hand to partake in this debut despite their not making the marquee. Torah Bright, Darrell Mathes, Hana Beaman, Kurt Wastell, Willie McMillon, Daniel Ek, hell even JF Pelchat was there. When asked why he came all the way from Iceland for this debut showing, Halldor Helgason simply said, "It seemed like something I had to watch right away." Makes sense, since iTunes probably hasn't released “The Art Of Flight” to anyone outside the U.S. yet.
In order for “The Art Of Flight” to speak to a new audience, the traditional snowboarding story needs to be told in a new way using a different set of tools in terms of equipment as well as editing style. In turn, it can't be categorized as simply a snowboarding movie or documentary. “The Art Of Flight” truly is in a league of its own. To say this film is dramatic is an understatement, but in all actuality, the drama encountered by the production is probably understated and it isn't fabricated. Lago did break his jaw, the helicopters did nearly crash, the avalanches did happen! The fact is no other effort has had the wherewithal or resources to capture these moments in this medium or the free reign to broadcast them or perhaps most importantly, the need to highlight them in order to educate the masses. Some might view these segments as audacious or indulgent, which in any other context they would be, but those who take this view and fixate on it are being needlessly jaded. There is more than enough tried and true, never-been-done trick porn to keep the skeptics satisfied as well, even if it takes five viewings to realize it.
“The Art Of Flight” isn't simply a vehicle for the best snowboarder alive, Travis Rice. Rather, it is an amazing ensemble of talent with each rider showing they can at least hang. Most of the tricks provided by the supporting cast would likely be in contention as their ender in a traditional part because the features they hit alongside Travis were probably the most hectic they'd encountered all year. A seemingly stock 720 becomes much more when placed in the context of a 200-foot gap. Furthermore, the cameras employed to capture that action are unmatched with all angles covered. Of particular note are Jack Mitrani's two-story high backside alley-oop and Luke's Mitrani's BS double chuck in Aspen, Mark McMorris's triple cork in the same locale, and Pat Moore's FS 5 off of a Teton tree. Brainfarm once again documented plenty of historic Jackson backcountry booter action including a massive frontside 1080 double cork by Scotty Lago on The Jawbreaker and Bjorn Leines sending an enormous backside 720 nearly twice as far as any you'll see in other videos, making him the only rider besides Rice to land a trick on this particular gap and have it appear on film.
Besides Travis, three other riders share the spotlight enough to be considered stars of “The Art Of Flight”. The first is John Jackson, whom when it comes to taking flight, he prefers the redeye. John Jackson provided the perfect foil for Rice to have his most productive AK assault to date. John sends it in the midst of spines and chutes pulling tricks where others would pull out. John J's mid line 720s and gaps with no regard for speed, steeps, or slough make it all look too easy. By gaps, I mean nearly ten-story drops.
Mark Landvik is one of a handful of riders who appears in multiple segments. Alongside Travis and Jackson, Lando picks some dicey paths down multiple AK peaks outrunning avys with each descent. Lando also sets down his first double cork in Jackson Hole and sticks the largest handplant transfer off of a tree to date. Then there is Mark's late spin section, which will hopefully spark a renaissance of these stylish rotations.
Nicolas Müller may be the most memorable of the supporting riders. His British Columbian antics–though seemingly effortless–are way stepped up. Technical tricks like McTwists on uncommon terrain contrast slash-laden lines that are done in classic Müller style with no deviation from his all-flowing form. The trick that surely will receive the most recognition is Nico's nollie alley-oop barrel roll redirect…at least that's what I think it was!
Of course there would be no “Art Of Flight” without Travis Rice and as such it comes as no surprise that he is the real star. It appears that his progression as a snowboarder only takes pause once he unstraps. In Alaska, Rice plays with terrain that others labor hard to manage. In Jackson, he builds two-story booters that few riders don't back away from and then chucks cab 12s off of 'em. When it comes to high alpine tree pruning his dexterity is awe-inspiring and no matter how unwieldly the stump, he charges it, regardless of if it'll end with a stomp. In Revelstoke, Travis appears to have found a new arena and again he links multiple tricks in lines including Cab sevens and frontside 180s to switch backside 7s.
As a whole, “The Art Of Flight” is almost too much movie. I myself had to watch it again to fully grasp the layers involved. In addition to the details I culled from the repeated viewing, I also found myself even more in awe of it. It would be redundant to say that you should see this movie. I'm sure a lot of you plan to or it's highly likely that you already have. Instead, I urge readers to find someone who has never seen a snowboard movie before and have them watch it. Of course if this movie does what I hope it will, and the support it garners creates legions of new snowboarding fans who go out and try it for the first time, the next challenge will be for the real thing to live up the promise of “The Art Of Flight”.