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It’s Been 29 Years Since Hollywood Made a Great Ski Flick and I’m Getting Impatient

For decades, goofy ski comedies fueled generations of ski bums. Where have they gone?

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I don’t believe many skiing love affairs start with a burgundy 1990 Toyota Camry, but mine does. Growing up just outside Chicago, we called our family’s Camry “the fast car,” and most Friday nights my siblings and I piled into it and my dad zipped us around our town. I loved that car and lived for those end-of-the-week rides because they meant a blast into the curious and amazing world of skiing. 

Those rides always ended at the same place: Blockbuster (place nostalgic sigh here). And there was one film, without fail, I always rented no matter what was on the new releases wall, no matter what my brothers and sister were eyeing: Ski Patrol The Movie.

It is not a good film. It didn’t do particularly well at the box office. It doesn’t have a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb. Fancy film critics probably classify it as a preposterous mega turd that will lower your IQ. However, it is somehow still a great film. 

When I was 7-years-old, the plot, the characters, the slapstick humor, the skiing, everything about the film made me smile (it still does, in fact). I fell head over heels in love with ski culture, which is odd since I didn’t click into skis for the first time until I was 23-years-old. But once I did, I uprooted my Midwestern life and moved to Telluride, Colorado, to become a ski bum forever. Before I even knew what pizza-French fry meant, my decades-long love affair with Ski Patrol The Movie made the ski bum life my dream.

Mine is not a unique story. An entire generation of skiers was inspired by the campy ski films of the 1980s and 90s. Many a goggle-tanned skid was encouraged by similar films—like Hotdog, Better Off Dead, and Aspen Extreme—to pack their cars with all their earthly possessions and move to a snowy little hamlet to live out their mountain dreams; to ski in neon onesies, to throw spreadies and twisters and daffys, to grow a mustache or a lightning bolt mullet or a loosely braided side pony or an ultra-crimped and teased perm, to slam bumps on straight 215s and click into powder planks to submarine into snowy depths, to live the heart exploding joyful life of a ski bum hero. We revere everything about the skiing, the goofiness, the eye-rolling cheese, all the awesomeness of these films. They are the reason we all set off for a life in the mountains. 

So why doesn’t Hollywood make them anymore?

Nineteen ninety three’s Aspen Extreme is the Lawrence of Arabia of ski films in that it’s well-produced, well-acted, has a plot you can actually follow, and made almost half its budget back at the box office. After that, Hollywood gave up on the ski romp film. 

The fact that all these films stand the test of time and are cult classics is great, but we need new lovably moronic schlooshing movies! And we don’t even need a new story! 

For example, we don’t need a movie about a marriage in crisis amidst a Euro ski vacation like the 2020 Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell stinker Downhill (more like Let-Downhill, amiright?!). 

And we don’t need a movie like the admittedly stellar giggle-fest Hot Tub Time Machine or even the legitimately great Dumb and Dumber—although we do appreciate the former’s devotion to neon and the latter’s ridiculous Aspen gazillionaire villains. Neither has much skiing. And on the topic of other things we don’t need: jokes rooted in racism, sexism, or homophobia. While our 80s and 90s classics have aged pretty well, those jokes…have not. 

Here’s what we want, Hollywood: Our protagonist should be new to town, from the Midwest or Back East, and searching for the next step in their life. They need to join a motley crew of local skiing misfits and there should be a very strong, heart-tingling romantic subplot. And this ragtag-but-loveable ski crew needs to save the town and the ski resort from a feather-coiffed group of evil ski schoolers or mega resort land developers. And slapstick hilarity wraps around it all. That, and some jaw-dropping skiing.

Not good skiing, not great skiing, but “kick you in the gut, make you want to move to the Rockies” type of skiing. Tahoe legend Debbie Dutton was Shannon Tweed’s stunt double in Hotdog. Pro mogul and freestyle skier Robbie Huntoon doubled on the same film for protagonist Harkin Banks, who worked on Ski School and Ski Patrol. Skiing’s version of Greek gods, Scot Schmidt and Doug Coombs laid down some of the most kick-ass skiing ever caught on film for Aspen Extreme. In fact, legend holds the director told Coombs, “Stop skiing so good!” because it wasn’t believable and the camera crew had a hard time keeping up. 

This, we want this.

These terrible and terribly awesome films of ours have an emotional jet pack attached to them. That rocket is fueled by neon and over-the-top campy humor and sliding around on sticks for the sole purpose of finding the biggest grin ever. That’s what Ski Patrol the Movie showed me when I was a kid. And once I moved to the mountains in my 20s, I found an entire community that was after that, too. 

Skiers don’t take much seriously, except our dedication to and search of soul vibrating goofy fun. These ski flicks celebrate that and help us all tap into the important pursuit of something frivolous. They’ve absolutely ruined our lives for the very best. And we need them to return and destroy some more “normal” adulthoods. 

They say the ski bum is a dying breed. I say we just need Hollywood to do its part, and the next generation will arrive from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by Mud Season, in thrashed Subaru Outbacks and Caravans they’re trying to pass off as mini-Sprinters, to battle anyone here for the real estate. Also, some affordable housing would be nice.