Warren Miller’s “Off the Grid” showcases extreme snow sports fanatics doing what they do best. These world-class athletes push the limits of their skills and the backcountry locations where they exhibit them. The film is filled with scene after scene of gravity-defying stunts, human bodies simultaneously carving and working with the snow. Even if you’re not the biggest snow sport aficionado, this film has a universal appeal. It successfully demonstrates the passion these athletes feel for the sports that have inspired their lives.
The film excels in capturing the visual delights of the snow and snowboarding. Top skier Jenn Berg says, “Just to be fully engrossed in your own wave of snow is a magical feeling. …You open your eyes, you see nothing but white until you flow out of the snow you’ve created.” Expect to see some eye-popping sequences in which skiers and snowboarders wind their way down impossibly daunting snowcapped mountains. Among the most impressive clips is Jaime Pierre’s world record cliff jump off of a 245-foot cliff — the equivalent of a 25-story building! Such feats would not be possible without the aid of a helicopter, a unique means skiers and snowboarders take advantage of to reach extreme “jibbing” locales. “Jibbing” refers exclusively to skiing within terrain parks. This is only one of the many skiing terms viewers become familiar with through the film.
As the film unfolds the viewer is exposed to the worldwide subculture of skiing and snowboarding. The segment from Kashmir, India, where top skiers tour the exotic landscape, best exemplifies this global aspect. The feelings expressed by the skiers are the same, namely, that they are stoked! The snowcapped mountains and smiling faces are indistinguishable; they display the power of skiing’s ability to transcend cultural divides. But these “ski bums” don’t take it too seriously. Most of these thrill-seekers are more concerned with expanding the sports and revolutionizing the way they enjoy them. Their love for the snow and the pleasure it promises is what drives them.
For the subjects in Warren Miller’s movie, the snow is the ultimate playground. Different segments are even dedicated to other lesser-known winter sports. This includes a clip of Japanese snowball fighters — yes, you read that right! — who face off against each other with the epic quality of soldiers going to battle. There are even clips of the 6th annual Monopalooza in Wyoming and Utah, the world’s biggest meeting of monoboarders — those who get their fun by riding down hills with wide, ski-like boards. And while some might view these less popular sports as goofy, the boarders themselves feel that, “This is our flavor, we love it!”
“Off the Grid” is not just a montage of skiing clip after skiing clip. Instead, Warren Miller has managed to produce a movie with tons of entertainment value. The camera work varies from scene to scene, sometimes treating the viewer with handheld shots as if one were actually cruising the slopes. The soundtrack complements the ski-bum lifestyle, promoting a love of nature, snow and speed. This film is meant to kick off the official start of winter and to inspire the would-be snow athlete to buy his or her lift tickets immediately.