The Sick Screen

Picture 1

The Powder Video Awards Remains the Pinnacle of Achievement for Skiers and Filmmakers

By Matt Hansen and Johnny Stifter

In the movie Believe, which won Movie of the Year at the Eighth Annual Powder Video Awards, in 2008, Seth Morrison throws a 160-foot double front flip off a cliff in British Columbia. The air is so huge, so aggressive, and so much bigger than anything else in the year of film, it seems upon first viewing that Morrison would be a shoo in for Best Air Natural, which recognizes the best huck off a natural feature. At the very least, it would be a nominee.

But watch it again. And again. That’s when you’ll notice that when he returns to earth, his binding explodes and prevents him from stomping the landing. Though photographer Chris O’Connell confirms he was able the ski away on one ski, the movie fails to show this. It was also shot from a single angle from far away in poor light. The consensus: while it was an incredible air, cinematographically it was only so-so and it wasn’t clean. Thus it failed to qualify for a nomination.

The trophy ended up going to Eric Pollard, who floated a smooth 180 off a 40-foot cliff in Alaska in the movie Idea. Pollard’s trick, while not being particularly big or aggressive, was all style and shot in beautiful evening light. And that ended up counting more in the eyes of more than a dozen industry professionals who make up a panel charged with choosing winners in 14 categories. They have been at it again this season, watching and critiquing movies as the Powder Video Awards and Reader Poll returns for its 10th year. Winners will be announced January 30, 2010, in Aspen.

“The video awards are a very cool thing that recognizes all the efforts that go into making however dozens of films are being made every year,” says Mike Douglas. “People are putting an entire year of work into one part or one film. And this is the place where everyone can get together and celebrate what went down the season before.”Picture 3

After starting as a relatively small bash in Las Vegas during the annual ski and snowboard tradeshow, the event has evolved into the biggest red carpet event in the industry. It has not only spurred new visions for the ski film genre, but, in an era where athletes put more emphasis on filming than competition, it has become the single way in which athletes and filmmakers can be judged against their peers. “My Powder Video Awards I’ve won over the years are among he most treasured things I’ve gotten in my career,” says Douglas. “To me, it’s more than winning an event because it’s a season’s worth of work, and that makes a little bit sweeter.”

The one misconception is that the awards are selected solely by the Powder staff, and that they typically honor those athletes appearing in the films sponsored by the magazine.

“It seems more that the industry runs the whole show, and the people who are sponsors of the magazine, which is a tight-knit group,” says Morrison. “I think it would be more important to bring the whole thing to the readers. It just seems to be the same movies and the same athletes every year.”

Morrison, of course, is one of those skiers who gets recognized every year. He has won five of the eight Reader Polls, has won Best Male twice, Full Throttle, Best Air, and has had numerous nominations—usually in films sponsored by Powder (Believe was not sponsored the magazine, and won three awards). Obviously, as someone who skis regardless of awards or recognition, he’s not talking about himself, but rather expressing a desire to get more skiers involved that would help showcase a broader spectrum of the sport. “It would give other movies an opportunity,” he says.Picture 3

Which is the reason for the panel. It consists of writers, photographers, athletes, industry professionals, as well as Powder staffers. Each is asked to view submissions by all filmmakers—and then they vote and comment on the best performances in every category. From these votes and comments, the final nominees and winners are chosen. The goal is unbiased decisions from those who know skiing and the intricacies of filming best—something that would be impossible to get with an online poll. The reader’s subsequently get their say in the Reader Poll, whose winners are selected by exclusively online voting.

To be certain, making these selections gets tougher every year, as the quality of ski films and variety of perspectives evolves to unheard of levels. It is no longer merely ski porn. To the contrary, it is the sharing of perspectives, vision, influence, and, lest we forget, the power to make us all want to step onto a pair of boards and rip.