Having worked in Waterville Valley for 32 years (the majority of those years as Tom Corcoran’s assistant), and as a parent of a Dartmouth student (’13), I’m anxiously waiting to see the new documentary film, “Passion for Snow.” Paul Feely, of the New Hampshire Union Leader, writes about it, below.
Given its location in the snowy hills near the Vermont border, it’s no surprise that Dartmouth College and its students are closely associated with skiing. That bond is celebrated onscreen in the new documentary film, “Passion for Snow.”
Based on the 2010 book “Passion for Skiing” by Dartmouth College graduate Stephen Waterhouse, class of 1965, the film covers 100-plus years of skiing history at the college, from the first Dartmouth Winter Carnival through present day.
“The film covers an amazing story that has unfolded over the past hundred years,” said Waterhouse, who served as executive producer of the film version of his book. “You’ll see not only many champion skiers in action, but also people like Dr. Seuss, the late Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop and Robert Frost, who were influenced in their careers after spending winters in Hanover.”
The 62-minute film features segments and comments from Dartmouth alumni who helped transform the sport of skiing into the $25 billion industry it is today. The filmmakers find a connection to Dartmouth in almost every aspect of the snow sports industry – from the design and manufacture of skiing gear and apparel, to the development of slope side techniques, resort development, medical innovations – even the equipment used in snowmaking and grooming operations at ski hills around the globe.
“Through the film, you will feel the passion of generations of Dartmouth skiers, nationally and internationally,” Waterhouse said. “The many first-hand accounts and newly discovered vintage footage make a fast-paced hour that puts you on the slopes with many of the greatest legends in winter sports.”
The film premiered in February in the Loew Auditorium at the Black Family Visual Arts Center on the Dartmouth campus, coinciding with the 103rd Dartmouth Winter Carnival. The film opens with footage of “The Grinch,” created by Dartmouth grad Theodor Geisel – also known as Dr. Seuss – sledding downhill towards Whoville.
Other highlights include a segment on the late Dr. Koop’s crash off a Dartmouth ski jump causing temporary paralysis; U.S. Ski Hall of Fame member Tom Corcoran discussing founding Waterville Valley; and Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney discussing her win in the World Cup while enrolled there.
Suzanne Young, Class of 1977, works in Dartmouth’s Alumni Office and attended the film’s premiere.
“I loved it,” Young said. “My father, two brothers, and a son all went to Dartmouth as well, so we have Green running through our family’s veins, and there was a lot in there I never knew about. I was a member of the ski team, and seeing some classmates in it really brought back some memories. It’s so well done.”
The documentary, which took two years to produce, approaches Dartmouth’s connection to skiing from several angles. The film covers Dartmouth skiers’ roles in World War II as part of the 10th Mountain Division, the development of commercial ski resorts and the arrival of skiing as a focus of popular filmmaking said Waterhouse, who partnered on the script with producer Lisa Densmore, Class of 1983.
The film also features Dartmouth’s role in the development of adapted skiing technology for disabled athletes, including a segment on the late Paralympian Diana Golden, Class of 1984, who lost her right leg at age 12. She joined the Dartmouth ski team in spite of her disability, and eventually went on to win 10 gold medals over eight years of racing in the World Disabled Ski Championships, culminating in her induction into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.
“There’s no question in my mind – it all started in Hanover,” says Percy Rideout, Class of 1940, during the film’s conclusion. Rideout was a former captain of the Dartmouth ski team, and a captain in the 10th Mountain Division who fought in the Battle of Riva Ridge in the Italian Alps in 1945. Rideout was interviewed three years ago for the film; he died Jan. 25.
Diane Boyer, Class of 1978 and chairman of SnowSports Industries America, is also featured in “Passion for Snow.”
“Skiing is an intrinsically Dartmouth tradition,” Boyer says. “Where most people would be whining on a cold, snowy, blustery day, a lot of Dartmouth folks are reveling in the fact that they’re in this climate.”
A majority of the film footage and many of the stills used in the project were provided by the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth. Ski legends Chick Igaya, Class of 1957, and Ralph Miller, Class of 1955, also contributed.
“We worked with staff at Rauner, and sources of old ski film outside Dartmouth, to pull out some nuggets that have not been seen, or rarely seen, before,” Waterhouse said. “We have the first ever collegiate downhill races in 1930 that led to the first ever U.S. National Downhill Championship on Dartmouth’s mountain in 1933. Igaya persuaded the Japanese Ski Association to allow use of the only known film footage of his 1956 Olympic Silver Medal slalom run in Cortina, Italy. Miller located some old footage of his amazing ski run in 1955 when he became the first man to ski over 100 m.p.h. in Portillo, Chile. It’s all here.”
Longtime filmmaker Buck Henry, class of 1952, lent his vocal chords to narrate the film – while openly stating he is no fan of the sport.
“Buck hates snow and he doesn’t ski,” Waterhouse said. “But he agreed to it, and he did a brilliant job.”
Beyond the film’s upcoming premiere in Hanover, Waterhouse hopes to submit his film to festivals.
“The festivals we expect will be interested in this film focus on sports, primarily winter sports,” Waterhouse said.
In addition to Waterhouse, the production team involved on the project includes producer Densmore and associate producer Rick Moulton, a Hanover native and an expert on vintage film.
There are no further showings scheduled in New Hampshire for “Passion for Snow.” It will be screened April 11 at the Village Cinema in Vail, Colo.