Breaking trail

Utah-based Powderwhore Productions just dropped the trailer for their newest film, "Breaking Trail," which premieres Sept. 28 in Salt Lake City. For the past six years, the company has primarily made backcountry-focused telemark ski movies, but this year, they've branched out to include alpine touring skiers, splitboarders and telemark skiers, including athletes like Ane Enderud, Drew Stoecklein, Andrew McLean, Forrest Shearer, Jake Sakson, Paul Kimbrough and more. We talked to Noah Howell, producer and co-founder of Powderwhore Productions, about their new direction.

It's about time you gave up the whole tele-only thing. Why did you finally make the switch?
There are several reasons. We felt like [2010's] "Television" was the best telemark movie we could have made and we didn't want to make the same movie again. And a lot of our athletes are locking it down and we didn't want to cut them off. Also, we realized we're a backcountry film company and by calling it a telemark film, we were limiting ourselves. We're also tired of the tele as a religion thing. It's never been that for us. Initially it was the only mode of transportation for accessing the backcountry and then it became our niche. But we were never preaching it as the only way. We don't care what tools you're on if you're enjoying yourself.

Do you think telemarking is dead?
That's a stupid question. Telemark is a turn. It can't die. I don't get why people want to check its heart rate. There are a lot of people doing it and they're enjoying it. There's no way to say whether it's alive or dead. I think it's obvious that a lot of people are switching over to AT and a more lightweight setup, but that doesn't mean the sport is dead.

Fine. Switching gears then. What were some of the highlights of your travels last winter?
We went to the Lost River Range in Idaho. Drew Stoecklein's parents have a ranch in Mackay and their backyard had some really incredible mountains. We were lucky to have good corn on the first day of summer and we skied some of the most unique features I've ever seen. We shredded in the mornings and did some pond-skimming in the afternoons. I also got invited with Doug Stoup on an Ice Axe Expeditions trip to Spitsbergen, Norway. We sailed the Arctic fjords on a 60-foot boat and skied virgin lines every day. It was a surreal place to shoot with 24 hours of sunlight shining down on the sea and the snow.

You guys are almost entirely human-powered on your ascents. Could all of your new athletes hold their own on the uphill?
About half the folks we shot with were new this year and there were some who were more accustomed to backcountry skiing than others. It was a mixed bag. Our moto is 'we try hard' and everybody did just that. It's actually nice to shoot with people who are a little bit slower. You can run around them and set up shots.

The title is pretty obvious, but is there some kind of double meaning in "Breaking Trail?"
It's a little bit of a break in a new direction for us so we found it fitting. Also, it conveys the message that this is a film focused on the adventure end of skiing and a huge part of that is getting there by your own will and means. I hope it doesn't come off as elitist though, or that the backcountry is better. Although it is less crowded, better snow, free (once you've purchased thousands of dollars of gear), no lift lines, no hours of operation, nobody telling you where you can or can't go, no speed control and it's much more beautiful. Ok, so maybe it is better?