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You’d be forgiven, after watching pro skier Lexi duPont shred in Alaska, thinking you’re watching a superhero at work. She’s completely at ease amongst jagged and unforgiving mountains, picking lines from cell phone photos the way most of us would choose from an online menu. Fearlessly tackling a 4,000-foot, near-vertical line, she never loses her cinematic smile. But, as “Shaped by Descent” documents, the path to this point took years of dedication and a constant balancing of her risk/reward lifestyle.
“Shaped by Descent” is as much an origin story for duPont’s skiing career as it is her love letter to Haines, Alaska, where she arrived a decade ago. With the name duPont (yes, that duPont), she didn’t know what to expect from this weird, tiny town in rural southeast Alaska. But over the years, it’s become her second home.
Featuring interviews with duPont’s family, as well as archival film and photos, it’s easy to see how duPont’s path led her to Haines. She was practically born on skis in Sun Valley, ID, where her mother was allegedly one of the first women to do a backflip on snow and her brother-in-law is US Ski Team and big mountain legend Reggie Crist. Despite the obvious advantages, the role that her determination and talent play in her rise as a pro are evident throughout the film.
“Shaped by Descent” features duPont shredding a ton of incredible Alaskan lines, but overstates her role somewhat as a pioneer of women’s big mountain skiing in Alaska. Her contributions to the women’s big mountain canon are better understood as building on the foundation laid by Wendy Fisher, Ingrid Backstrom, and others. Despite that, “Shaped by Descent” is a layered and sentimental look at how one of the most exciting skiers of her generation was influenced by one of big mountain skiing’s most unusual outposts.