I’ve been very lucky to have pointed my cameras at dozens of brand-new ski resorts in America and Europe starting way back in 1947 when I shot footage with my 8mm camera at a new resort in Colorado called Aspen. It boasted the world’s longest chairlift and lift tickets cost a whopping $4 a day and accommodations could be purchased at Ed’s Beds for $3 a night in a dorm. Of course, dormitories were all they had.
In November of 1949, I first turned my 16mm camera on a new ski resort in California called Squaw Valley. It boasted one double chairlift, two rope tows and accommodations for 40 people.
That was the first winter with my 16mm camera and the beginning of what became an annual pilgrimage for me traveling all over the world to share the footage. It seemed as though over the years I was privileged to document almost every new ski resort anyone built.
Most of these new ski resorts had almost no budget for marketing and I was able to camp out in whatever accommodations were available and introduce my audiences to new places from Sugarbush in Vermont to Mammoth Mountain in California, and everything that was built in between.
When Vail opened in 1962, I was lucky enough to be filming in the Back Bowls when the total lift ticket sales for the day were $8.
Since these new resorts had no marketing money, I would produce the movie and take my expenses in raw land at the same price the developers pay for it.
When Chamonix, France, decided to build a new gondola I was lucky enough to fly to the summit with a world champion skier in a French army helicopter and film the first person up at 10,000 vertical feet to cut untracked powder snow and bring it back to my audiences all over the United States and Canada.
I filmed the birth of Keystone, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, Colorado, and watched a four-lane freeway change from an hour and a half drive from Denver to a seven-hour traffic jam on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Over the years I managed to participate in the creation of 65 feature-length ski films that averaged between 15 and 20 different ski resorts each year.
The first year that Walt Stopa started up a man-made snow machine in Wisconsin, luck was once again on my side when I introduced man-made snow to tens of thousands of people that first year it was in operation.
Over the years my 16mm camera became a magnet for skiers the world over. Unfortunately, in today’s world the construction of new resorts is virtually a thing of the past.
In today’s world of lightweight electronic, high-performance cameras, the capabilities of reproducing nature are much easier than the cameras and editing equipment we used in the old days.
Today there are two new generations of ski and snowboard filmmakers and I applaud every one of them for exploring the limits of filmmaking.
My only wish is for there to be many more new and bigger resorts for them to point their cameras at.
We were very lucky when I was making movies because we only had one format – the 16mm film, a 16mm projector, a dark room and exciting images on a white screen.
It used to be very expensive with a 100-foot roll of Kodachrome, including processing for screen time that captured the same images that today electronically cost almost zero.
I’ve been asked quite often if I had my career to do over, would I change anything? The only thing I would change would be to get along with a lot less sleep and make a whole lot more movies.