SKI RACER – a film by Paul Ryan on the 1969 World Cup circuit – A Summit Films Production

I made Ski Racer in 1969, 39 years ago. I watch the film today and wonder about all the choices that go into making a film. There is no traditional narrative, no singular event was portrayed; rather I was trying to use the cinematic process to convey the visceral element of ski racing and its nuances, in particular the emotional dichotomy between severe racing competition among individuals and the more reflective joy of free skiing. I wanted to create a cinematic equivalent to all this.

As Dumeng Giovanoli says in the film, “I like to race because I like to be better than my friend… to go faster than him. But when the racing season is over, I go back home and ski for myself… free, in powder, it’s like you fly… that’s really skiing not racing. Racing is something different, much different.”

The film is impressionistic, it treats Slalom, Downhill and Free Skiing as separate experiences with different emotions. Fragments of many different races are edited together to create nature of each discipline.

The significance and the appeal of Ski Racer probably lies more in the film making than the subject matter. It was perhaps the first film to combine the irreverent energy of rock music, optical effects and complex quick cut editing to create a transcendent subjective representation of racing.

I avoided traditional narration in favor of using the very personal voices of the racers themselves. Billy Kidd, Jean Claude Killy, Spider Sabich, Dumeng Geovanolli, Karen Budge, Karl Schranz, and many others, seemed to welcome the chance to express their motivations and feelings of what racing meant to them.

The film is reflective of the times. The ferment of late sixties is echoed in the interlacing of music from The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Mike Bloomfield, and Indian Ragas with the ski action.