Ode to Muir, the latest film from Teton Gravity Reseach, starting Jeremy Jones and two-time Olympian Elena Height as they venture through the John Muir Wilderness on a 9-day adventure of splitboarding, winter camping, and epic lines. We were lucky enough to be able to buy tickets to the sold-out World Premiere of the movie held on October 11, 2018, in Boulder, Colorado.
The selection of Boulder as the location for premier was by no mistake. Unlike other films that have premiered in Jackson, this movie was brought to Boulder to align the story with the advocacy group Protect Our Winters. With this shift in venue, also came with it a change in storyline. Jeremy Jones was at the Boulder Theater to provide the movie a proper introduction. Jeremy touted this movie as “…the most important movie I ever made, I’m not saying its best movie I ever made.” This isn’t the typical stoke movie, but rather a film with a deeper purpose. Jeremy explained Boulder has been vital allies with the environmental movement as well as the fact that Colorado will be one of the key battlegrounds for the upcoming 2018 election.
During this 9-day adventure, the dialog led by Jeremy Jones with Elena and his takes us through their journey through the John Muir Wilderness and connects the deep experience with the outdoors to the legacy set by the efforts of John Muir. In our opinion, the respect paid to the legacy of John Muir in this movie is a coming of age for Jeremy Jones and the entire TGR film crew. They have grown past the “look at me” view of the sport to the look at this issue that will impact all of us without action. The action sequences to some appear to intentionally be less epic than what was previously seen from Jeremy and his crew. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of lines in this show, you will feel stoked for the season. Think of it as how mature filmmakers eloquent way to stress the importance of the key message.
Through thoughtful b-roll and edits of the dialog that occurs on the trail, TGR brings praise to John Muir for being remarkably foresightful in not only the message to explore and connect with the outdoors, but also to establish Muir as one of the architects of the protect the outdoors. Its also reminds us of a time when this belief was commonly shared with politicians and stood the test of time from the late 19th century and most of the 20th. Even as recent as Ford and Nixon, pictures are showing the presidents in the wilderness reinforcing the need to have policies that protect the outdoors.
However, this is no longer the case now in the 21st century. At the time we need leadership the most, the governing bodies at the federal level not only denying the issue of climate change that is facing all of us but also dismissing the scientific method that provides the evidence of the warming. Capstone this situation, the USA has recently become the sole country in the world to withdraw from the Paris Accord.
Ode to Muir connects the water that Jeremy and Elena source from snowmelt to California’s water supply. Jeremy’s dialog explains how snow from the Sierra Nevadas provides most of the clean drinking water to California residents as well as irrigation for architecture that is shipped throughout the US. As the climate change progress, many of the glaciers that formed the Sierras are now shrinking so quickly that the concept of a final descent of certain couloirs has now become an unfortunate line item in the record books.
The presented solution to solve this dilemma is to broaden our experience out in the wilderness. That progressing our expertise into the outdoors will lead to a greater sense of the need to protect it. Once we make protection personal, we can, in turn, hold our elected officials a higher standard for protection policies. To this end, this is why Elena was selected as Jeremy’s travel mate. Before the adventure, Elena explains that she has never winter camped nor been on split board. In fact, her ability to ski is illustrated to limited as she yells “pizza, pizza, pizza” down a slope. She is, by all accounts, a novice in the backcountry. Though the course of the journey with Jeremy, the audience is soon reminded that she has been sidelined from participating in the 2018 Olympics. As a result, she is left with a sense of disconnect with the sport and an unclear head on her future. By the end of this epic experience, Elena has put her personal issues aside and has taken up the call to encourage other people to seek out a wilderness experience. Furthermore, she highlights how this experience should also be protected for all future generations to enjoy.
While we really do appreciate Elena’s experience and transformation, we did find concern with taking a never ever into the backcountry without some illustration of the risks of a backcountry adventure they embarked on. While arguably there is no one else more qualified than Jeremy Jones to trip lead such an experience, the movie purpose is to encourage others to consider a similar adventure. Given we all won’t be able to go on an adventure with Jeremy Jones, we found the film lacked some message of safety in the backcountry concerning. No scenes were showing the testing of a beacon, carrying a probe and shovel in the event of a slide and communication was left to don’t worry we have a Sat Phone. Avalanche risk mitigation was left to a brief statement from Jeremy, “the older I get, the more I prefer older snow.” While comment alludes to how snow stabilizes as it consolidates over time, the film does not provide an explanation as for why Jeremy prefers old snow. Without my own prior knowledge I gained through my individual AIARE training, I may have left with the thought that older snow makes better tasting water. Lastly, there is also a sense that Elena is potentially putting herself at risk through the sheep syndrome, following the leader without question. One scene, in particular, she voices the concern over the exposure that they are climbing, but she is only encouraged to press on and respect the exposure.
I suggesting not these safety factors were actually ignored, but rather, raising the question if the film could have benefited included such details of a backcountry experience. Mind you, through Outdoor Retailer and other events such as this premiere, I have been in attendance where Jeremy Jones has spoken or been part of an expert panel. I genuinely believe that he is a trained professional and would never intentionally put anyone in harm’s way. I am merely suggesting that the filming or edit may have accidentally overlooked that alongside a story encouraging people to embark on a wilderness adventure comes an obligation to also represent safety precautions. For those that are reading this, I hope you’ll stop and consider the importance of Avalanche Training before you head out. Please look up your local AIARE avalanche awareness and level 1 training classes.
Settling this particular concern aside, we are excited to see how this film is received to the broader audience outside of liberal Boulder. There are many places where this film will be seen that do not have the precondition of evironment over top of all else like those that live in the People’s Replublic. If the movie is well received elsewhere, perhaps we have a chance. Regardless of your viewpoints or reaction to this movie, I do hope that you do engage in the upcoming election. This is quite possibly the most important vote coming up in our lifetime. We need to show up.
Until next time, pray for snow and celebrate when Ullr Provides!!
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