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Snowboarder's film highlights brain injuries

Published March 11, 2013 8:05 pm

Awareness • Free screenings to promote wearing ski helmets.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

World-class snowboarder Kevin Pearce had to re-create his life after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a training accident at Park City Mountain Resort on New Year's Eve day in 2009.

"The Crash Reel," a film about his challenging recovery that debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival, will be shown at six locations Wednesday in northern Utah, part of a "Love Your Brain" awareness program sponsored by the Utah Film Center, Powder Mountain Resort and its new owners, known as Summit. All screenings are free on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Encouraging snowboarders and skiers to wear helmets is the main goal, said Summit spokesman Thayer Walker, noting that Pearce will reiterate that point March 30 while judging a rail jam contest at Powder Mountain.

The resort also will emphasize the goal March 29-31, offering a $10 discount on day passes to anyone showing a helmet at the ticket window.

Pearce was gearing up for the 2010 Winter Olympics, one of the few athletes on the planet capable of challenging the legendary Shaun White's supremacy in the halfpipe, when he hit his head on a halfpipe lip in a training run.

Just like that, Pearce's snowboarding career was over. From then on, he was locked in a persistent struggle to do many tasks that were simple before his brain injury.

Utah is a natural place to stress brain protection because Pearce's injury occurred here, his lengthy rehabilitation involved many Utahns, and the state's residents understand the inherent risks because so many participate in winter snowsports, said Lucy Walker, the two-time Academy Award nominee who directed "The Crash Reel."

"This story is close to the heart of a lot of people in the community who are skiers or snowboarders themselves or have family members who are — and some have been injured," Walker said in a telephone interview Monday from the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

"The Utah community is at the forefront of this," she added. "Some people took care of Kevin on the mountain. Some were involved while he was in treatment in the hospital."

But Walker, who was nominated for Academy Awards for the documentaries "Waste Land" and "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom," believes Pearce's story resonates with a broader audience as well because it's a tale of "somebody who works really hard to get the top of a sport" only to suffer a devastating setback.

"When Kevin had his accident, he had to re-create himself," she said. "People can relate to the challenge of that."

Walker also thinks viewers will appreciate the loving attention Pearce's family provided during the roller-coaster ride through rehabilitation.

"His family is an amazing part of this movie," she said, praising the strength they displayed in "dealing with people with disabilities and understanding how you support people. That comes through really strongly in the movie."

"The Crash Reel" will be shown on HBO in August, but is not scheduled for general theater release until November.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

'The Crash Reel'

A film documenting professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce's recovery from a traumatic brain injury will be shown for free at 7 p.m. Wednesday at five locations:

• Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City

• Park City Library

• Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, Alta

• Pineview Lodge at Wolf Creek Resort, Eden

• Peery's Eqyptian Theater, Ogden

• Sundance Resort above Provo