By: Jackson Hogen
Published: March 17, 2020
In May of 2009 I accepted the quixotic assignment of encouraging the famed cineaste, Greg Stump, to complete his meta, “making-of” movie, Legend of Aahhh’s, about the origins of his magnum opus, The Blizzard of Aahhh’s. The search for Blizzard’s backstory led Stump down the trail of autobiography and into a brief tour d’horizon of all ski cinema.
A trailer that traced this path debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier that winter, creating the illusion that a finished product might be right around the corner. The hold-up in the film’s further development wasn’t artistic malaise or mid-project inertia, but an oversupply of story and footage to support it.
The stunning poster created for the Legend of Aahhh’s premiere was inspired by a campaign poster for Hunter S. Thompson when he ran for Pitkin County Sheriff.
And there matters stood. For a month or so I focused on distribution plans – all hopelessly grandiose – while attempting to spark Stump into a state that more closely resembled completing the film, rather than polishing particular sequences. A finished product was overdue, and progress to that end was hard to discern from my vantage point.
I have no plausible explanation for the tactics I chose to accelerate Stump’s process. For whatever reason, I began to send him song lyrics, from the end of May until late August, 24 in all. To give this Revelation the chewiness my Dear Readers have come to expect, I’m loading a representative sample into the Short Swings section of Realskiers.com. for your leisurely delectation.
Should you dive into this scattershot collection, you’ll soon discover that its constituent parts are lacking in thematic unity. Most seem to have no connection whatsoever with ski movie making, skiing or each other. Viewed in their entirety, they seem ill-suited to the task of marshaling Greg’s competing Muses but do provide a body of evidence that suggests that I had surpassed Stump in drifting away from what is colloquially known as “reality.”
The project got back on the rails later that summer, when Stump reassembled his original cast – the legendary troika of Schmidt, Plake and Hattrup – along with a crew of supplemental cast members whose principal function was to maintain a perpetual party for the duration of the weekend. Rumor had it the coterie of hangers-on consumed 24 cases of domestic brew on Saturday alone.
Against all odds, sobriety reigned long enough to capture the must-have footage with the movie’s stars. As the weekend was drawing to a close, I was finally summoned to appear in my Pontiff of Powder persona. I delivered a rambling, unscripted sermon/diatribe, replete with a powerful healing of a convulsing believer. I went on for a good 20 minutes of exquisitely inappropriate comedy, all of which has been deemed unsuitable for, well, any audience.
The same fate awaited a twilight hot tub scene that would be immortal had it not been suppressed for impropriety, impiety and affronting delicate sensibilities.
When by October of 2010 there was still no movie, I was relieved of my sundry duties in the production department. It would be another 13 months before a not-quite-finished version of Legend of Aahhh’s would debut at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, and two more years before the final cut was released.
Given the Sisyphusian nature of my dealings with Stump during this period, the casual reader might imagine that this history would cast a shadow over our relationship. Far from it. I had worked closely with Greg before Legend – on Hotel Bella Coola, my farewell bouquet to Head – and would relish the opportunity to do so again. He is kind enough to say of our time together on Legend, “I would never have finished the movie without you.”
Today, Stumpy is not only one of my dearest friends, by easily my most faithful correspondent. We speak several times a week, often at great length, striving to out-amuse one another. He’s unfailingly supportive and applauds my every dip into the inkwell. While the various plans we are currently concocting are as elusive now as completing Legend was then, I don’t strain at the bit but gently encourage forward momentum.
It was my pleasure to nominate Greg Stump to the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, an honor he was to receive next week in Sun Valley at the annual induction ceremonies. That event, like thousands of others, has been postponed. No worries. As I observed in my recent meditation on time travel, in reality Stump is already a Hall of Fame member, and he always has been.
I can’t mention the Hall of Fame without thinking of another dear friend, John Fry, who the world lost this past January. John wasn’t just the finest editor of his generation; he was a visionary, a brilliant raconteur, an outspoken opponent of injustice and one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known. He was the sort of quiet giant who can never be replaced, whose absence leaves a hole that can never be filled.