Utah’s powderhounds find hucks, hope in drive-in ski films

(Photo courtesy of Nick Alegre) Tim Durtschi catches air in Jackson Hole while filming for the upcoming Teton Gravity Research film "Make Believe," which will be shown at the Redwood Drive-In on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020.

The ski flick for decades has been the harbinger of hope, but never more so than in the chaos of 2020.

“It’s crazy. There’s just such a new norm now and, like, looking into winter, I just have no idea what to expect really, especially with the ski resorts,” Millcreek resident Tim McChesney said. “And I’m excited to watch all the ski movies and remember that, like, things will get back to normal eventually and skiing will still go on.”

McChesney isn’t just one of the hundreds of powderhounds who build their base layer of winter stoke with the action- and snow-packed films, which start cropping up like clockwork in late September. He is also one of the athletes, this year appearing in a segment of Teton Gravity Research’s 25th anniversary film “Make Believe.”

McChesney shot the Aspen, Colo., segment of the film in February alongside fellow Salt Lake City-area skier Blake Wilson and Aspen native Colter Hincliffe. When COVID-19 hit a month later, he wasn’t sure what the fate of the film would be or how it would be shown with theaters shut down across the country.

It wasn’t until just three weeks ago that he learned that in addition to private showings, the tour would pull into drive-in theaters across the West. “Make Believe” will make its lone Utah stop Thursday at the Redwood Drive-In in West Valley City.

Also turning to the drive-in model is Matchstick Productions. Its “Huck Yeah!” — featuring Wasatch Mountains regulars McKenna Peterson and Lucy Sackbauer — will be shown as a drive-in event at Solitude Mountain Resort on Friday. That event is sold out. Other ski flicks, such as “Tanner Hall Forever” by Frozen Ambrosia/1091 Pictures, Level 1′s “Nothing” and "Swiftcurrent' by U.S. Ski Team member Maggie Voisin will be released online. The grandaddy of ski filmmakers, Warren Miller, will also go with a virtual format instead of its traditional nationwide tour to release its 71st film "Future Retro,” in November.

“Make Believe” is about a dream turning into a reality. McChesney, 30, said that describes his life. He moved to Utah from Montana 12 years ago to ski and also study at the University of Utah. For a time, he competed in slopestyle for the US Ski & Snowboard team and on the Dew Tour but eventually decided to focus on film skiing. This is his first film with TGR, one of the biggest players in the action sports-production industry.

“I feel so fortunate that the past 10 years, I’ve basically just been traveling the world skiing all over and, like, [there are] so many insane experiences that skiing’s brought me,” McChesney said. “So it does feel like a dream.”

And if that dream can come true, maybe there’s hope for the 2020 ski and snowboard season, too.