Powderwhore films are about snow and soul
December 3, 2013
Powderwhore Productions was established in Salt Lake City with a goal of making backcountry winter sports films that had a lot of soul.
Not only do these films feature the action shots of skiers and snowboarders, but they also include the human element, said Powderwhore Productions filmmaker Noah Howell.
"We enjoy the storytelling and we like that we cover more than the ski porn," Howell told The Park Record. "We want to make films that have that excitement but we also want to tell why people are doing what they are doing and where they are going. We want to give a more realistic feel to the films rather than ‘there’s a big mountain and someone is skiing it.’"
On Thursday, Dec. 5, Powderwhore Productions, in partnership with the Park City Film Series, will present a special screening of its ninth film, "Elevation," at the Jim Santy Auditorium
The film, which was shot earlier this year, takes the viewer to Mt. Rainier and Holden Village in Washington, the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, the Tetons, the Wasatch Mountains and Ruth Amphitheater and the Tordrillo Mountains in Alaska.
The featured skiers and snowboarders include Park City’s Andrew McLean and Zach and Cindi Lou Grant and Oakley’s Ian and Neil Provo.
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Choosing where to shoot is one of the more enjoyable aspects of making the films, Howell said.
"Finding these places is partly accidental and partly keeping our eyes open to what’s going on and thinking of areas we haven’t explored that we’ve heard of from friends," he said. "This all comes from different sources and that’s the fun part for us, because we don’t know where the next project is going to take us. Sometimes it’s all about where the snow falls."
Another criteria is diversity, Howell explained.
"We want to give a roller-coaster ride to the audience and feature some different areas that have unique characteristics," he said. "So having a big hit list makes that easier to do, and it helps us get excited about the project, because we are always looking to do something different than the last film."
One of the most intriguing areas that were shot for "Elevation" was Holden Village.
"That town was hard to beat," Howell said. "We had heard so little about it and there wasn’t much information about skiing there. So it was fun going into that."
While the town ended up in one of the more spectacular segments of the film, the crew had reservations when they arrived.
"We rode a boat in and looked around and saw there wasn’t much snow on the slopes," Howell said. "We actually wondered what the hell we were doing there, and I was thinking about the next boat out, because we really thought we were going to end up with nothing."
Once the filmmakers climbed out of the boat, the segment began to unfold.
"We were picked up on shore by a bus and drove up the hill to a place that reminded us of ‘The Shining,’ except there were a lot of friendly people there," Howell said with a laugh. "We found ourselves in one of the most remote villages in the United States. And that was fun."
In most winter-sports films, the filmmakers are usually held hostage by weather conditions, but shooting another segment in "Elevation" couldn’t have been more perfect.
"We were shooting Ian and Neil Provo in the Tordrillos in Alaska and found the best weather we’ve ever had," Howell said. "I’ve been going to Alaska for seven years and I’ve never got anything there easy. You always get bad weather or bad winds. But this time it was great. It has snowed two feet and it was absolutely stable, no avalanches, and there were no winds for eight days.
"Those guys just teed off for eight days in the best powder on the planet in perfect conditions," he said. "That was a gift and I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again."
While a majority of any film’s success depends mostly on the visuals, Howell knows music is also a factor in whether a film appeals to audiences.
"Music is huge and a big part of the film for us," he said. "You can put a different track to the same footage and get a totally different experience.
"We don’t have a big budget, so we spend a lot of time sifting through a bunch of music submitted by independent record labels," Howell said. "We go through a bunch of horrible stuff to find the gems."
Some of the artists who have their music in "Elevation" include Parlovr, Yppah, the Dorais Brothers, the Agnostic Mountain Choir, Gauntlet Hair, Sunset and Laughing at Linus.
Other music is provided by Ron Contour, CTZNSHP and We Are Wolves.
"We always think its fun to introduce the audience to music by bands they have never heard of," Howell said. "We get a lot of feedback afterwards by people who want to know who did the music for a certain scene."
Making a Powderwhore film is a seasonal project and "Elevation" proved to be no different.
"We start filming in January and shoot through the spring," Howell said. "During the filming, we get a feel for where it’s going."
the time summer comes, the editors wrap up their work and book the film for tours that take place in October and November.
"We started the tour in Salt Lake and we’re going to end it in Park City on Thursday," Howell said.
The Park City screening will also be a fundraiser for the Utah Avalanche Center, a collaborative effort between the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center and the nonprofit Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center.
The organization’s mission is to give winter backcountry travelers the tools and information they need to stay alive in avalanche terrain.
"There will be an opportunity drawing during the event and the prizes that we will give out have been provided by our sponsors," Howell said. "We’ve got skis, poles and a big bag of goodies that we will give away."
The sponsors are Voile, Black Diamond, Backcountry Magazine, Mountain Hardwear, Backcountry.com, Flylow and Scarpa.
While the "Elevation" tour is nearing its end, Howell is already thinking about the next film.
"We already have a lot of places where we want go next time," he said. "We’ve made nine films, and we can’t stop there. We need to make at least a number 10."
The Park City Film Series will present a special screening of Powderwhore Production’s ninth film, "Elevation," rated PG, at the Jim Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library and Education Center, 1255 Park Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. The event will also be a fundraiser for the Utah Avalanche Center and will feature an opportunity drawing. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.org or http://www.powderwhore.com.