Two years ago in an interview with ESPN.com, legendary ski filmmaker Greg Stump said he was just weeks away from finishing his final ski movie, "The Legend of Aahhh's." Soon after that, the movie had a very preliminary screening at the Telluride MountainFilm Festival in May 2010. "This is not a finished product," Stump told the audience in Telluride. And then two years passed with no grand premiere, and no word of a finished movie.
This fall, however, Stump -- the man behind 1998's ski film "The Blizzard of Aahhh's" and nearly a dozen other ski films from the 1980s and '90s -- is finally ready to unveil the film, which documents the history of ski movies and their influence on the extreme skiing movement. It features interviews with filmmakers Warren Miller and Dick Barrymore and skiers Glen Plake, Mike Hattrup, Scot Schmidt and more. "Legend" will be playing at theaters around the country this fall and winter. We spoke to Stump about the movie he's calling his swan song.
You spent over four years working on this film. What took so long?
It was a very difficult and ambitious project. Every door I opened, there would be another 10 doors behind it. How do you make the history of the ski film in 90 minutes? That's not easy. At one point, the film was two and a half hours long. I did test shows and then I'd go back into the editing room and cut anytime the audience looked at their watch or did anything but stare at the screen.
I was there when you showed "Legend" for the first time at Telluride MountainFilm two years ago. The film is quite different now than it was then.
I think I had about 40 minutes done at that point. That was half of a rough draft.
You've shown the final movie in Jackson, Boulder, and a few other places already this fall. How is it being received?
It was very well received. We've had really good crowds and everyone appears to be glued to the screen. We had guys who were in their 70s and guys in the 20s come up afterward and say they loved the movie.
It was a very ambitious project. Every door I opened, there would be another 10 doors behind it. How do you make the history of the ski film in 90 minutes? That's not easy.” -- Greg Stump
And how about you? Are you happy with how the movie turned out?
I'm really happy. I think it's the best film I've ever made. There's not a dull second in it and it has a really strong ending, a big finale with a poignant narrative point at the ending. It raises the question did these movies influence a generation of reckless cowboy skiers and risk takers? Or did they spark athleticism and excellence? I believe the movies gave people the freedom to do both.
Two years ago, you called this movie a "thinly disguised memoir." Is that still true?
I've been joking that it's a thinly disguised memoir, and a lot of it is autobiographical. It's not about skiing entirely, but more about the ski film's influence on the sport of big-mountain skiing. It starts in the 1930s and ends with what kids are doing today. One of the biggest challenges I had was to get me out of the movie as much as possible.
Is this really your last ski movie?
I think this is my swan song for ski films. I don't have any interest in going out on the hill and shooting skiing anymore. This movie needed to be made and I felt like I had to make it before I could move it.