Pain and Glory: Kim Reichhelm


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Squaw Valley, California, 1988

It was the first run on her first day of shooting with filmmaker Greg Stump, and freeskier Kim Reichhelm wanted to make a big impression. Her chosen line narrowly avoided a cliff by making a tight but doable turn around a big pine tree just above it. But Reichhelm misjudged and hit the tree, which knocked her off balance and over the cliff. It was a spectacular tumble, headfirst, with cameras rolling and a cordless mike picking up every impact. Somehow, she emerged unscathed and laughing (a little hysterically, she admits). The footage made Stump’s 1989 License to Thrill , and even landed her a spot on Letterman. Reichhelm went on to win two World Extreme Skiing Championships, “but nobody remembers me for that,” she says. “I have bar owners come up to me all the time and say, ‘I rewind you more than any video I’ve ever shown.'”