Saturday, December 14, 2013

Septuagenarian Shares Director's Cut of Vail Doc

There's a fun event taking place this afternoon in Edwards, Colorado. Pioneering ski documentary maker Roger Brown, now 78, will be at The Bookworm to talk about the Director's Cut DVD edition of his 2012 documentary Vail: The Rise of America's Iconic Ski Resort.

If you're not familiar with Brown' life story, it's Black Diamond-worthy. As a youth, he overcame a temporary bout with polio and paralysis to make it into Dartmouth. Later, he pursued his dream of competing in the Olympics. From an official bio:

Roger found out he wasn’t a good enough skier to make the Dartmouth ski team so at the end of his freshman year he and two other students traveled to Chile to train. Roger made the team when he got back and he raced in the American Olympic team tryouts, but a bad wreck in the downhill ruined his chances. That summer he got a letter from the Dean of the college essentially saying he would have to make a choice between skiing and academics. He gave up the skiing.

Years later, Brown would become the official cinematographer of the Vail resort, a run that started in 1962 and zigzagged delightfully through 1989. His documentary officially premiered exactly one year ago as part of Vail's 50th anniversary celebrations, and the Director's Cut edition is being offered as a 2013 local Christmas gift for $39.95

How far has Vail come since Brown first started filming on the slopes? This far:

"I started filming in Vail before there were any lifts," remembers the Gypsum-based filmmaker. "I first went up in a little Kristi Kat when they were taking potential investors up, along with pro racers, to show off the potential in the back bowls. I'd been hired by Bob Parker, one of the founders at Vail, to film these sojourns, then stayed on to help promote skiing in the Rockies to people from around the world."

Perhaps someone at The Bookworm will bring up one of Brown's earliest and most intriguing other endeavors. In 1963, he was hired for what he thought was a film about the search for Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey. But thanks to the location's proximity to a Russian atomic facility, this turned out to be an Argo-like cover for a U.S. spying expedition.

It was also thanks to his time on that project that Brown was able to secure a second-hand version of an extreme slow-motion camera being used by the Navy. The technology allowed Brown to start capturing skiers in slow-mo, a few years ahead of Warren Miller.

The beauty of the Director's Cut is that it has allowed Brown to share footage he was forced to cut out last year to fit into a PBS 56-minute window. He joked at the time that having to leave so much on the chalet room floor would possibly cost him some personal friendships.

[Meet and Greet with Filmmaker Roger Brown]

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