Humans descending snow-covered hills and mountains on slats attached to their feet has been a popular subject for movie-camera-wielding auteurs since the early days of the medium.
And it wasn’t long before Hollywood — and other international film centers — found the activity made for good cinematography, if not a good movie.
Perhaps the first ski-themed film that caught the American public’s attention was “Sun Valley Serenade”, which was filmed not long after the iconic Idaho resort opened in the mid-1930s and featured two well-known Glenn Miller songs, “In the Mood” and Chattanooga Choo-Choo”.
Ski resorts became a common backdrop for several James Bond movies, including “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “A View to a Kill” (Roger Moore knew how to wear Bogner), and they also had cameos in many other thrillers, not to mention several comedies and romantic films.
In anticipation of this weekend’s Academy Awards presentation, here are a handful of Hollywood-type movies that may not be Oscar worthy but are worth seeing. (Note: Movies made by the likes of Warren Miller, Greg Stump, Teton Gravity Research et al aren’t strictly scripted, they’re more of a montage, and hence aren’t included in this list.)
Hot Dog … The Movie
Squaw Valley’s legendary Chinese Downhill is the climax of this paean to Squaw’s — and a few other West resort’s — hedonistic free-dogger days of the ‘70s. The sex-and-snow comedy, which was released in 1984, set the template for later similarly themed movies, including . . .
Whistler and Mt. Hood provide the backdrop for this1991 film centered around a battle between two factions — the partiers and the straights— of a fictitious ski school. Shenanigans and a climatic on-snow competition ensue.
In one of his earliest starring roles, Robert Redford plays a hot-shot loner on the U.S. Alpine ski team in this 1969 release, which Roger Ebert said was “the best movie ever made about sports — without being about sports.” Great racing sequences on fabled downhill courses, including the Hahnenkamm and Kandahar tracks in Austria and the Lauberhorn in Switzerland.
The acting may be a touch wooden and the plot a bit predictable in this 1972 release, but who can turn down a ski-resort caper movie staring the Swiss and Italian Alps (Zermatt and Cervinia to be precise). And then there’s Jean-Claude Killy, the 1968 Olympic triple gold medalist, playing the lead role.
Better Off Dead
A teen comedy released in 1985 features skiing and backdrop scenes filmed in the Utah resorts of Alta, Snowbird and Brighton. It also has John Cusak starring as the love-sick and put-upon hero who gets the girl after — yes — a climatic ski race.