New Film Documents Montana’s Freestyle Skiing Legacy

BOZEMAN — A new feature-length documentary from Montana PBS about Montana’s freestyle skiing heritage will premiere on Montana PBS at 6 p.m. Sunday, January 30. It will be accompanied by free screenings at the Crawford Theater at the Emerson Center in Bozeman on January 26. and at the Wilma Theater in Missoula on January 27.

“Mavericks” follows the careers of a number of freestyle skiers from Montana, including Olympic gold medalist Eric Bergoust from Missoula, Bryon Wilson from Butte and Maggie Voisin from Whitefish. Using visuals from international competitions, archival footage and original footage, the film captures “the struggles, victories, unparalleled work ethic and unwavering spirit of some of the state’s most renowned athletes in a sport where mere seconds determine the outcome of a career,” according to Kelly Gorham, producer and screenwriter. Montana PBS production manager Scott Sterling is the film’s producer, director and editor; and Aaron Pruitt, director and general manager of Montana PBS, is the executive producer.

The filmmakers call Montana’s freestyle skiers the sport’s mavericks, with several freestyle skiers across the state getting their start on homemade jumps and going on to go on to impressive careers. Freestyle skiing is a sport involving jumps, bumps, half-pipe, slopestyle and more, with skiers often performing aerial jumps and spins.

“Opportunities to do a movie like ‘Mavericks’ don’t come around often,” Sterling said. “This film was as exciting to produce as it was to watch, and I’m thrilled to bring Montana’s incredible freestyle skiing legacy to the fore while celebrating our local athletes and inspiring future generations.”

At the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Bergoust won an Olympic gold medal and set a world record for jumping. A dozen years later, Wilson won bronze for her performance in moguls at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Voisin followed with an X Games gold medal in Colorado in 2018 and a second X Games gold medal in Norway in 2020. She also competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. , where she finished fourth in the slopestyle competition, and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Freestyle Skiing Team for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are due to begin next month in Beijing. The film also follows the careers of Olympians Heather McPhie of Bozeman, Darian Stevens of Missoula and Bradley Wilson of Butte.

Gorham – a former competitive freestyle skier who decades ago trained and competed with many of the people featured in the film – began creating ‘Mavericks’ history more than 10 years ago . Crews began filming “Mavericks” in 2018, capturing footage of athletes performing at several major events, including the 2018 FIS VISA Freestyle International in Deer Valley, Utah, and the 2019 FIS World Championships in Deer Valley and Park City, Utah. Other filming locations have included Missoula, Butte, Bozeman and Whitefish. Gorham said he and Sterling also sifted through hundreds of hours of archival footage to find the right clips to use in the roughly 57-minute film.

But even though it features impressive skiing feats in a beautiful setting, Gorham said the film is not what many would consider a traditional ski film.

“I feel like we’re innovating,” he said. “We focus on the history (of the sport), as well as today’s modern freestyle. We also talk about the dark side of freestyle skiing: injuries, failures, self-doubt.

Gorham, now 49, said his own experience and reality as a freestyle skier was perhaps the reason he was so determined to make sure the film dealt with injuries and more.

Gorham, who grew up in Missoula, competed in freestyle skiing from 1986 to 1992. He enjoyed regional success, including competing at the 1989 U.S. Junior National Championships in Telluride, Colorado. In 1991, he was part of the US Junior ski team. He also qualified for the Junior World Championships held that year in France, but was unable to compete due to injury. He spent the following summer in Oregon training at Mt. Hood and expected to continue competing at a high level. But an accident led to bone grafting surgery, ending his career as a competitive skier.

Making a movie featuring several of his closest friends and ski teammates was difficult in some ways, Gorham said.

“So many of these people (in the film) that I’ve known for so long; I felt an added pressure to write a story that does justice to the story and the people,” he said.

Still, his deep understanding of the sport and his friendship with many of the people featured in “Mavericks” likely benefited the movie, Gorham added.

“At the same time, I’m not an outsider and it was very easy to talk to them,” Gorham said. “I had a comfort that I don’t know I would have had otherwise in asking them the toughest questions about things like injuries and the mental side of the sport.”

At its heart, Sterling – who grew up on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado, and also has a passion for skiing – said the film is a story about people who work hard and love what they do. .

“These people happen to be skiers, and they do some really cool stuff with their bodies and some really amazing stuff,” he said. “But for me, it could be cyclists, chess players or anything else. The goal is to tell their story, which is a Montana story.

“We made this movie to appeal to everyone,” he added. “We want him to appeal to a Broadus farmer as much as someone who is a (competitive freestyle skier).”

Sterling and Gorham agreed that the film benefited from what they called a unique collaboration.

“This project probably wouldn’t have happened, at least in this way, without Kelly’s experience and knowledge on the subject, and without Montana PBS’s experience, assets and desire to tell the story.” , Sterling said.

“It was a tough production, and it needed someone with Scott’s experience to lead it across the finish line,” Gorham said.

Gorham added that he was delighted with the final product.

“If I had a million dollars and another year to work on it, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “I feel like it’s the best movie we could do.”

Gorham and Sterling are both graduates of the MSU School of Film and Photography.

In addition to premiering Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. on Montana PBS, “Mavericks” will air again at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3, and on the Montana PBS Pledge Campaign on Monday, Feb. 28.