Whether you’re an avid skier or just looking for a fun way to hang, drink and watch one-of-a-kind ski films with your friends this weekend, there will be something for everyone at Freeski Film Fest, the annual two-day event hosted by Level 1 since 2003.
Level 1 is a Denver-based production company bringing freeskiing and its culture to life through feature-length films, short edits and wildly fun events. For Josh Berman, founder of Level 1 Productions, what once was merely a dorm-room passion project has transformed into one of the most well-known and respected ski production companies in the world.
When Berman started Level 1 Productions in 1999, it just so happened to be at a juncture in the ski world. Although more traditional forms of skiing weren’t out, new waves and styles were definitely making their way in, and Berman was there to capture it all.
“What’s important to note is that Josh started getting into filmmaking and documenting skiing right at the start of the freeski revolution,” said Conor Smith, producer and curator at Level 1 Productions. “When things were evolving past mogul skiing and the first X-Games was happening and there was a new generation of freeskiing coming up, Level 1 was a part of documenting the big changes that were coming.”
In the beginning, Berman and his friends would just film what they could with the limited resources they had.
“I was filming what I knew and what I had access to,” said Berman. “There was no way we could afford snowmobiles, let alone access to heli-skiing. So we were shooting in terrain parks, hiking around in little Cottonwood Canyon, super easy access stuff, and then skiing in the streets.”
Whether hiking to find the perfect spot or taking to the streets, learning to work with what they had paved a path of creativity that is evident in their work and speaks to the freeskiing culture as a whole.
“It’s creativity. It’s an opportunity for a number of different athletes to look at the same thing in a different way and to do things that have actually never been done before,” said Berman about freeskiing.
At this year’s Level 1 Freeski Film Fest, you can expect to see seven new, never-before-seen freeski short movies each night. The lineup of 14 different films is not only impressive but also offers an assortment of freeski flavors.
“The film festival we’re doing here in Denver showcases all types of freeskiing. Powder in the backcountry, park skiing and street skiing,” said Smith. “That’s always what Level 1 has been about. Not just one any specific category of skiing but documenting everything about the sport.”
A few movies Smith is especially hyped to see include an all-ladies ski film by Laura Obermeyer that Level 1 helped produce, a short film by Sammy Carleson who is “one of the best powder backcountry skiers ever,” according to Smith, and a short film by Jake Mageau, aka Mr. Mango, who is “one of the most creative skiers on the planet,” Smith said.
From the diverse range of films to the overall atmosphere itself, everything about the Level 1 Freeski Film Fest lends itself to be much different than your typical Warren Miller, mom-and-pop premiere.
“It’s more energy. Standing room only versus something that is seated. We try to create an atmosphere that’s just as much of a party as it is a film premiere,” said Smith. “If you go see a Warren Miller movie or you go see a Teton Gravity Research movie it’s going to be an hour of people skiing pow in beautiful places. That’s awesome, but we try to do something much different and showcase what’s happening throughout the sport.”
Professional skier and Denver native Calvin Barrett has been going to Level 1 Freeski Film Fests for 10 years now and still looks forward to the event every year.
“These premieres are a great chance for people from the freeskiing community to come together and get hyped up for the upcoming season,” Barrett said. “Growing up it was especially cool to be able to meet some of your favorite skiers and heroes and get posters signed.”
If you want to experience all the hype at the Level 1 Freeski Film Fest this weekend in Denver, head over to Level 1 Productions’ website for more information on lineups, locations and tickets, which run for $20. If you can’t make the premiere in Denver, Level 1 will be taking the show on the road this year, making appearances in Bozeman, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Boston and Burlington. For details on tour dates, head here.