Dave Shively: No big names

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Dave Shively

Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com.

— I thought everybody in Steamboat knew Dexter Rutecki.

The guy is a legend.

But when I made reference Wednesday night to the totally-radical, yellow one-pieced character from 1993's Aspen Extreme, my comment fell flat on deaf ears - albeit ears on folks that had recently made the move from flatland states devoid of ski resorts and the trickle-down common knowledge of skiing's few pop culture showings.

It's not just the characters of freeskiing lore.

Without the competitive platform of the Olympics or the X Games, the real people throwing themselves off cliffs in the name of skiing's "progression" have no guaranteed audience for the currency of filmed footage.

This is where the ski movie comes in.

Long before Al Gore invented the internet to deliver free digital footage to all, long before World Series games ever came to Denver, the end of October meant a trip to the Paramount Theatre to see what Warren Miller had come up with each year.

I grew up and began to secretly envy the smoother tricks and easier turns my snowboarder friends were having while Miller's films began to grow stale - the same slow-motion powder turns through a series of pitches for different resorts, Obermeyer jackets and Nissan Pathfinders.

'1999' changed everything for me - the film and the year. Scott Gaffney and Shane McConkey brought their movie that fall to show a tiny Colorado Springs audience. I chatted with McConkey afterward to make sure he was a real human. This laid-back little dude not only broke every ski movie convention I knew - poking fun at everything from ski blades to Vail Resorts - he opened a whole new sport. Backflips over cliff bans, inverted switch landings in the park, thousand-foot couloirs straight-lined on fat, twin-tipped prototypes. No glitzy resort or heli-serviced outfit plugs, just "double-secret" locations in the continental U.S. Rocky Mountain backcountry as close as Berthoud Pass, athletes pushing nothing but themselves.

But if you don't soak in ski culture through the low-budget movies, ski magazines or Web sites, you've probably never heard of McConkey.

'Steep' may bridge the gap between Miller-quality cinematography and the core ski royalty names ski town residents should know. McConkey's ski BASE-jumping antics provide the trailer fodder for this documentary take on big mountain skiing - which could mimic 'Riding Giants' delivery of big wave surfing to mainstream audiences, production complete with zip-line-mounted tree cameras normally used to track NFL punt returns. While Sony Pictures Classics' distribution plans have not been finalized, the release is planned "for year's end in 25 top markets and major ski towns."

Just as Laird Hamilton's personal journey highlighted 'Riding Giants,' 'Steep' is centered around Doug Coombs.

Never heard of the late two-time world extreme ski champion, Alaska heli-ski pioneer and man widely regarded as big mountain skiing's best? You may remember him as the guy who did the stunt skiing for a guy named Dexter Rutecki.

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