Big Mountain Heliskiing & Bella Coola Heli Sports Hosts Theatrical Documentary Ski Film Shoot in Bella Coola -- The First of Its Kind

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“The film utilizes new technology that hasn't been exploited in any ski film to date. One of the main goals of the team was to “film skiing in a totally new way.”

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chronology of big mountain heliskiing.

Big Mountain Heliskiing Bella Coola High Ground Production's documentary film on the modern history of big mountain heliskiing completed its ground-breaking shots in the Coast Range near Bella Coola last February.

Documentary ski film shot in Bella Coola…… first of its kind. Director Mark Obenhaus, and producers Jordan Kronick and Gabrielle Tenenbaum, partnered with Cablecam International, West Coast Helicopters and Bella Coola Heliskiing to shoot several of the best freestyle skiers in the world as they confronted some of the most pristine slopes in North America.

The film is taking a different approach than your usual ski movie, bagging in-depth interviews with extreme skiers from those who started it all to the few at the top of the sport today and tracing the sport from its modest beginnings to the skiers that keep pushing the limits.

Producer Jordan Kronick, a Canadian filmmaker based in New York, who has made television documentaries with the late TV reporter Peter Jennings, says that the film is intended to follow the “chronology of big mountain heliskiing.” The still-untitled film profiles around eight or nine main skiers, with a supporting cast of many others, and aims to tell the story behind the emergence of big mountain skiing, appealing to skiers and non-skiers alike.

The filmmaking team was sold on Bella Coola after speaking with the co-owner of Bella Coola Heliskiing, Beat Steiner, who himself has a wealth of experience in filming ski movies. At the end of January an inaugural trip to Bella Coola convinced the team that they were in the right place, and filming started in early February. Beat recommended West Coast Helicopters to fly in the equipment and the athletes, which was a natural choice for the skiers who have flown with West Coast Helicopters pilot, Richard Lapointe, on several other projects and consistently rate him as one of the best pilots in the business.

Extreme freestyle skiers such as Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Chris Davenport, Eric Pehota, and Doug Coombs spent almost a month filming on locations like Mad Dog Glacier, Noomst Trees, and Mt. Saugstad. BCHS Head Guide Paul Berntsen was on hand to scout locations for the skiers and provide information on the routes. At one point, there were 25 people on location at the shoot on Mad Dog Glacier. With the current popularity of documentaries, the team is hoping to capitalize on the public's fascination with extreme skiing and insatiable appetite for true life stories.

The film utilizes new technology that hasn't been exploited in any ski film to date. One of the main goals of the team was to “film skiing in a totally new way.”

Cablecam International has made a worldwide name for itself by pushing the limits of what film can really accomplish for the viewer. Cablecam suspends its cameras on custom-made rigs high above the action that enables the filmmaker to capture the action and the 'feeling' of the shot at the same time. The company has been an integral part of Hollywood films like 'Catwoman' and 'Troy', and the technology has also been employed by the NFL, the Olympics, and the Kentucky Derby.

Cablecam has never been used in the backcountry before and had to be set up by world class climbers on both locations, with Mad Dog Glacier proving to be quite a challenge for the rigging team. It took four full days to complete the set up. The heliskier is positioned on the opposing ridge from the Cablecam, which is operated via remote control by the filmmaker and runs on cables on an X and Z axis (back and forth and up and down). As the skier begins the run, Cablecam follows the skier and can get to within five feet, traveling down the slope at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.

As Kronick explains, “It's a totally different perspective than those shots taken from the helicopter. Instead of feeling removed from the skier, the Cablecam allows the viewer to experience how the skier may feel.”

The team wrapped up filming on February 25, but they are far from finished. After a week at home in New York, they were off to shoot skiing in Chamonix, France, Valdez, Alaska, Iceland, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The entire filmmaking team enjoyed their stay in Bella Coola and would especially like to thank their hosts Fraser Koroluk and Holly Willgress at Brockton Place, Robin, Pat, Doug, Ted, and Richard at West Coast Helicopters, Bella Coola Heliskiing, Brian, Linda, Bill, Shannon, Kim, and Tarihi at The Bay, and all of the staff at the Bella Coola Valley Inn, and the Shop Easy. As producer Jordan Kronick put it, “The town is great and the people in Bella Coola are great.”

Filming is expected to be completed in October 2006 and a release date is slated for 2007.


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