Timeless Education: “The Fine Line” by Sherpas Cinema

Timeless Education: “The Fine Line” by Sherpas Cinema

“The Fine Line” by Sherpas Cinema is on our must-see list for every backcountry rider. The film, released in 2009, was created by Sherpas founders and childhood friends Malcolm Sangster, Dave Mossop, and Eric Crosland after four of their close friends died in an avalanche in Canada. It’s artful, beautiful, powerful, and definitely worth watching—and rewatching.

First, the opening sequence captures the massive power of an avalanche better than anything we’ve seen. It is terrifying, sickening, and beautiful, and something everyone who ventures into avalanche terrain should witness (from the safety of the couch). This alone is motivation enough for beginners to get the proper training. The film also shares the stories of the survivors and reenacts the deaths of the founders’ friends—all haunting narratives.

To further illustrate the force of nature’s fury—and our powerlessness in the face of it—the film features stunning time-lapse sequences that are, in part, responsible for the film winning a bajillion awards. We see and feel the humbling strength of waterfalls, waves, wind, and tides; and we realize the reverence with which we must approach the mountains.

The skiing is, as you would expect, awesome, with an all-star cast too lengthy to mention here. (One notable is Dave Treadway—the ski world will never stop missing him.) It also includes a ridiculously awesome if rather pointless segment on no-boarding (snowboarding without any foot straps). It’s not crucial to the plot, but you gotta admit those guys have style. (Our only nitpick is that we don’t recall seeing a single female skier. It does features Michelle Parker, but she’s just standing there, talking…. Come on, guys.)

Finally, the film is insanely creative, using an astonishing variety of media that includes vintage footage, Claymation, line drawings, and the contents of your pantry. (In a stop-motion-animation sequence of the history of the world, Pangea consists of Nerds candy, rice, and what appear to be banana chips.)

All in all, “The Fine Line” captures both the euphoria and the horror of riding in avalanche terrain, and is a powerful motivator to enroll in an avalanche course (or three). Two thumbs up.

Download it on iTunes.

Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late Skiing Magazine (RIP). She now uses freelance writing as a beard to ski powder anywhere it falls. She lives in Denver with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat. 

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