The history of snowboarding movies is nearly as long as the sport itself. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most important films so far.
It all began with the end of the world: “Apocalypse Snow” was the title of the first film to feature snowboarding, back in 1983. The film, directed by Didier Lafont, showcased all the new winter sports that were emerging in the early 80s and already presented high-speed powder runs, backcountry airs and gap jumps performed by Les Arcs local Régis Rolland.
The film spread the word and made snowboarding famous around the globe. 1985 also saw Steve Link and Tom Sims doubling for British agent James Bond in “A View To A Kill”.
And in the same year, Burton’ first movie “Winter Waves” was released. Think downhill and slalom races won by Andy Coghlan, but also jibbing fun on the slope and snowboarders hijacking a helicopter in search of untracked terrain.
1988 brought a revolution: “(All quiet on) the Western Front” was the first movie by Fall Line Productions, and Noah Salasnek, Dave Seoane, and Chris Roach with their day-glo gear and rad, skateboard-inspired moves started a new freestyle movement. This VHS featured everything that makes snowboarding movies so great: innovative tricks, heavy beats, and it made you want to go shred! This video changed some lives, just like the following Fall Line flicks did, “Snowboarders in Exile” (1990) or “Riders on the storm” (1992).
“Snowboarders in Exile” invented a story line following the adventures of Dave Seoane, Damian Sanders, and Steve Graham: “Snowboarders in exile is driving a car that isn’t legal, it’s living on the edge!” Like most movies of that time, it tried to show what snowboarding is all about, and to explain its lifestyle.
Entering the 90s, the grungy lumberjack look began to displace day-glo pants, and snowboarding became more and more radical. 1990 saw the birth of two production crews that are still vital today: Mack Dawg Productions, and Standard Films. MDP took off with “New Kids On the Twock”, while Standard Films’ “Totally Board” series was launched with Shawn Farmer's legendary road jump at Mt. Baker and one of the first Alaska snowboard trips.
In 1992, Ken Ach’s “Nature of the Beast” took snowboarding global: it was filmed in Alaska, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and showed Terje Haakonsen stepping it up with his fakie-to-fakie 900's.
Snowboarding progressed rapidly in that time, new board shapes were invented, and young riders pushed the sport to new limits. 1993 introduced Burton’s “Scream of Consciousness”:
It featured Craig Kelly’s and Jeff Brushie’s steep big mountain lines, but also a legendary interview with Terje who stressed the rebellious spirit of snowboarding in those days: “What do you think of the attitude of snowboarders in general?“ “I don’t know.“ “Is there anything you know?" "I don’t know.“ “Did you go to school?” “No.“ “What’s your goal?“ “Get a car!“
Further highlights of the mid-90s include “Roadkill” by Fall Line Films (1993), directed by the legendary Dave Seaone (who would go on to produce Subjekt:Haakonsen, 8 Tracks & The White Album), and Volcom’s “The Garden” (1994), still Bryan Iguchi’s favourite snowboard video: “It brings me back to a good time... a time of discovery, everything was new, travelling with friends, riding new places and exploring the backcountry.”
In the late 90s, freestyle movies reigned supreme, led by Boozy the Clown Productions’ hardcore „Whiskey“ series: booze, pee, Black Flag! Mack Dawg released their “Decade” in 1998, promoting a new style of urban rail riding.
Entering the 21st century, digital production possibilities allowed more and more film crews to realize their ideas, DVDs ousted VHS tapes, and productions teams like Kingpin, Chunky Knit, or Finger on da Trigger, as well as companies like Forum pushed the limits. Robot Food’s “Afterbang” (2002) and “Afterlame” (2004) with riders like Travis Parker, Jussi Oksanen and David Benedek still rank among the best snowboard movies ever.
The noughties also put Europe back on the list of filmmaking. Joni Malmi’s “Euro Gap” (2001), JD Pictures’ “Kingsize” (2003), or the movies by Storbis, Isenseven, the Pirates and, above all, the Absinthe crew put the old continent back in the game and convinced fans with fresh music and storytelling. A milestone in European snowboard movies was released in 2005. “91 Words For Snow” by Blank Paper Studios featured riders such as Shaun White, Jeremy Jones, David Benedek, and Nicolas Mueller, giving an insight into the creativity of snowboarding and finding 91 words to describe its culture.
On the other side of the Atlantic “First Descent” was shot in the Alaska backcountry, featuring the adventures of Shaun White, Hannah Teter, Shawn Farmer and Terje Haakonsen with slices of boarding history mixed in. In this film, one of the most radical operations in winter sports was documented, Terje's descent from mountain 7601.
2005 also saw one of the first all-girl snowboard movies documenting the strength of the female riders, “As If” by Misschief Productions. And in the same year, accomplished editor and cinematographer Curt Morgan and US rider Travis Rice in cooperation with Oakley and Red Bull presented “The Community Project”.
Instead of each rider working towards an individual segment, this super 16mm and 35mm snowboarding film was a group effort based around different locations and the lifestyle of snowboarding. In 2007, Axel Pauporté put out his impressive big mountain documentary “Lines”, Think Tank pushed urban snowboarding with rail’n’jib movies like “Thanks Brain”, and “Let It Ride: The Craig Kelly Story” documented the life of one of the greatest snowboarders ever.
2008 was another key year for snowboarding movies, as the groundbreaking “That’s it, that’s all” by Brain Farm and Travis Rice hit the shelves.
This movie, once again directed by the incredible Curt Morgan, thrilled viewers all around the world and impressed them with high-definition pictures never seen before, in the style of the famous “Planet Earth” documentaries. In 2009, Mack Dawg Productions celebrated their 20th anniversary with “Double Decade”. Teton Gravity Research, in partnership with Jeremy Jones, put out another highlight big mountain snowboarding film, “Deeper”, in 2010.
And 2011? “The Art of FLIGHT”, produced by Red Bull Media House and Brain Farm, will push the boundaries once again, opening a new door for the future of snowboarding. All good on the Western front!