There's a new ski movie crew on the block. Strictly Business is a group of skiers based out of Boulder, Colorado, adding some flavor to the ski film world. The skiers and filmmakers involved have made it clear that they are going to do things their way, and could care less about what anyone thinks of it.
Strictly Business has taken a different approach on the ski movie production attitude, beginning with the title. Viewers will notice the obvious sarcasm to the title within minutes after starting the film, as this "business" is anything but strict. An early collection of beautiful scenery and lifestyle shots is sharply interrupted by a bruising collection of crashes, jokes and high-level tricks set to a pumping 1980’s Italian disco track.
Strictly Business - Full Film
“People take skiing really seriously, so we just wanted to poke fun at the serious nature of some skiers," said Andrew Mildenberger, head cinematographer and editor for Strictly Business. "Skiing is the most fun thing we do, so why not make the movie fun too? We are here in the ski industry are there because we love it, so I wanted to make it as fun as possible.”
This fun is noticeable from the beginning of Ethan Swadburg’s opening segment. While Swadburg has become known for his butter-smooth style and difficult trick selection, his segment in the film makes it clear that he is a pure skier and not just some punk in the terrain park. Swadburg takes us on a trip around North America, filming in Colorado, Montana, British Columbia and even Alaska. Whether he is skiing technical pillow lines in Canada or gap jumps over crevasses on Oregon glaciers, Swadburg skis it all with the ease.
Another standout rider in the movie is Boulder, Colorado’s Peter Koukov. Koukov has been making a name for himself by posting Instagram videos from Keystone’s famed A51 terrain park. One of the most creative minds in skiing, Koukov is always finding a new approach to a rail or jib feature, and is able to "wow" with his compact style and unusual trick and feature selection.
For his Strictly Business part, Koukov decided to step away from the terrain park and into the urban environments of Colorado’s Front Range cities. His creativity is on display immediately in his segment: Koukov finds eight different ways to ski over and across a simple 3-step wooden staircase.
Two other segments in the film fully display the camaraderie and team mentality of Strictly Business. A spring trip to Alaska showed the raw ability of the riders; they also spent the first of April celebrating “Frank Day,” an Alta tradition rooted in good times and, of course, not taking anyone too seriously.
Watch more: Troy Murphy's "Two Aprils in Alaska"
A March trip to Southwestern Colorado's Purgatory Resort displays what happens when someone collects fifteen of the best park skiers in the country and gives them a private park for a week. On top of starring in the film, Durango’s Chance Conaty also served as the crew’s private jump builder, driving the snowcat to push snow into the 60-foot booter featured in the Purgatory segment.
No review of Strictly Business would be complete without mentioning Ben Smith’s closing segment. In a segment that can be considered a display of control and mastery over a pair of skis, Smith has inserted himself into the conversation of the best film skiers with this segment and will be someone to keep an eye on for years to come.
For Mildenberger and the rest of the Strictly Business crew, they are just doing what comes naturally, and what they do best. Through the power of hard work, dedication and friendship, Strictly Business has redefined what it means to make a ski movie. Looking back on the creation of the movie, Mildenberger credits the group’s willingness to trust the team and the process as the reason for the end product being true to the skiers, filmers and editors behind the project.
How does Mildenberger describe his masterpiece?
“It is honest. And it is genuine. We all are best friends already, and that comes out in the movie.”
Check out more movies: The Reel Deal 2018
Editor's Note: In 2018, the ski movie Strictly Business won Best Amateur Cinematography and Amateur Film of the Year at the the IF3 Film Festival. One of the skiers in the film, Levi Ascher, is now an intern for SKI Magazine, and we asked him to review the film for his first assignment. You can see his part starting at 8:50.