Island Lake Lodge in Fernie just released “Winter of Our Content,” a 22-minute tour de force featuring some of the best skiing in the Kootenay Rockies. We catch up with Mike McPhee to learn about how this sick flick came to be.
Two years ago Island Lake Lodge started work on a film project called Winter of Our Content. It involved helicopters, snowcats, GSS cameras, wingsuits, snowmobiles, big mountain terrain and some of the best athletes in the world. The movie was shot entirely at Island Lake Lodge Catskiing in Fernie, British Columbia, and to discover more behind-the-scenes info about it, we tracked down the company’s Mike McPhee for an interview. (Scroll down to watch the entire movie.)
A big crew was involved in the making of Winter of Our Content, Mike. Who were some of the people behind the scenes and what was it like working with them?
We had a ton of people involved. Probably five or six different cinematographers, sound guys, a couple editors, etc. Josh Pearson, formally of the Ride Guide, and our local in-house guy Nick Nault probably did the most filming. It was fascinating dealing with the GSS (Gyro Stabilization System) heli-mounted camera. We had to bring in a aeronautical engineer from Revelstoke to certify it on the airframe of the helicopter. When you’re shooting from a heli, you are constantly watching the clock, so it adds a fair bit of stress. We did capture some exceptional early morning alpine shots, one of which is shown in the opening. It was also great to work with famed Canadian writer Leslie Anthony and American musician Chuck Ragan. The whole team from Teton Gravity Research was also fun to have at the lodge, though they were a bit more loose than tight. [Ed note: another TGR release this season is called “Tight Loose.”
This film took two years to create. Why so long?
From the onset we wanted to take our time and do it right. We also had one poor winter a couple years back and with Island Lake being full most of the time, there was very little cat time available. So yeah, basically we just took our time to get the diverse shots we ended up with.
The music tracks have a real down-home country vibe to them. Was that an intentional thumbs up to western culture?
Funny, yeah we wanted a more mountain culture vibe for sure. I would classify most of it as edgy alternative folk or indie. There are two great songs by Chuck Ragan, who was/is a punk rock/indie legend – he headed up the band Hot Water Music for many years.
The powder skiing definition that starts at very 8:07 is poetic. Who wrote the script?
I wrote the treatment and Leslie Anthony did the final script. Though it has been done before, we really wanted to hone in on the sensation of powder skiing and try to articulate and show how unique it is. After all, it’s what many of us are addicted to.
Is that a real weatherman near the beginning of the flick?
You bet, Rob Carlmark is an Emmy-award-winning weatherman from California. We found him through a friend and he graciously helped us our with that section.
Sick tree skiing segment around 13:50. What’s your favourite run at Island Lake?
Island Lake has some exceptional tree skiing. Scot Schmidt says it’s some of the best he’s ever seen. My personal favourite run is called Stump Fluff and is a ridge with steep fall lines and huge old growth trees.
Do you often host BASE jumpers ’cause the wingsuits segment was a surprise?
Funny, we don’t usually have wingsuit action going on. We did plan to have a section about pushing your limits, exhilaration and inspiration. Some of the guys from the GoPro Bomb squad and Kavu team where in Fernie for another event, so we hosted them for a day in the spring and they put on a bit of a show for the cameras. If you watch close Hartman Rector does a barrel role trick which is next level! So yeah, that part is all about pushing your limits and inspiration.
Finally, what’s with the history of Island Lake – why do you guys keep attracting the pros?
There is a long history at Island Lake which involves some of the top skiers and boarders of all time. The first lodge opened in 1988 and soon people like Scot Schimdt, Craig Kelly, Jason Ford, Terje, Jake Blattner, the Egan Brother, Trevor Peterson and others where filming and shooting photos here. Mark Gallup, the famous photographer, was also a shareholder and helped bring all those guys to the lodge.