Nearly 18 years after the film Aspen Extreme debuted to much acclaim in the ski world, the film's writer and director, Patrick Hasburgh, is considering making a sequel.
When Hasburgh wrote and directed Aspen Extreme in 1993, he had no idea the film would generate such a cult following.
"I'm completely blown away and flattered when people tell me how much they love the movie and how it changed their lives or how it motivated them to move to Big Sky or wherever, it knocks me out," Hasburgh told ESPN this week. "It's really unreal, no matter what country I'm in, people seem to know and love the movie. It's humbling."
So why make a sequel now, after all these years? "EJ Foerster, the second unit man on AX who shot most of the great ski footage, with Doug Coombs skiing the frozen waterfall, and I have talked about it for years," Hasburgh says. "Like me, EJ is always stunned by how much life is still in AX, how many people still love the movie."
In case you've forgotten, the original film goes something like this: T.J. Burke and Dexter Rutecki, friends from Detroit, head to Aspen to live the ski bum dream. T.J. flourishes as a ski instructor and becomes popular with the ladies, while Dexter turns to selling drugs to survive. Doug Coombs serves as the extreme-skiing stunt man for the film, which ends in tragedy for one of its main characters.
Hasburgh already has a rough sketch of the synopsis for Aspen Extreme 2. "The way I see it, Dexter had a kid that he didn't know about back in Detroit. When the kid reaches 18, he sets out to find out about his crazy dad Dexter. So he heads to Aspen to find T.J. and learn about his dad. But T.J. has long ago left for Alaska, where he flies as a helicopter pilot," Hasburgh says. "So Dexter's kid goes to Alaska to try and find out from T.J. who his dad really was, but he ends up discovering who he is and what his limits are, and T.J. gets to heal. They basically just rediscover themselves and their own limits, in the steeps of Valdez."
"It's a father son story," he continues. "The father Dexter's kid never had and the son T.J. never had. My wife thinks it should be a daughter not a son, which, as I think it through, might even be better."
Hasburgh, now 60 and living in Mexico, had been working in Hollywood for 12 years before he created Aspen Extreme, which he admits was part autobiographical. "I first went to Aspen in 1971, back when Highlands Bowl was still way way out of bounds. I was a ski instructor with the Aspen Ski School, working mostly at Snowmass and I was a raft guide during the summer."
He left Aspen in 1980 to pursue a career as a writer, and after a decade writing for various TV shows, he wrote the script for Aspen Extreme. "Aspen Extreme is pretty much my life story, or variations on that theme," he says. "I'm not from Detroit, I'm from Buffalo, but our ski hills were just as small. I've had friends die in slides."
The original script was purchased by Disney. "My original idea was a much darker and more poetic story, but Disney wanted Top Gun," he says. "The film you see now is still only about 75 percent of the film I wanted to make. At one time I begged Disney to let me re-cut and release my version of AX, which I still dream about doing, but maybe doing a sequel is the answer to that. One of the reasons I'm passionate about a sequel is that I might to get fix what's wrong with the first film by making a clearer statement in the second."
In order to make a sequel, he needs to have Disney release the licensing to the film to him or decide to fund the project. Hasburgh is hoping Paul Gross, the actor who played T.J. who's now a successful director, would want to return to play T.J. again.
The soonest the film could be out would be around two years from now. "If there's some interest," Hasburgh says, "if we could create some kind of groundswell, Disney might want to put the film into development, which would be great."