“If you made it into this show tonight,” Sheridan Opera House Mountainfilm host Lance Waring told the standing-in-the-aisles crowd at the Sheridan for a night of local ski movies and memorials, “then you’re a local.”
And while not everyone there was a “local,” the entire audience got a strong dose of what makes the community of Telluride so special.
The theme of the evening was big mountain skiing, which meant it was dedicated to Andrew Sawyer, the beloved local adventurer who died on Memorial Day, last year.
For those who knew him, the night ran high with emotion. For those who didn’t, by the evening’s end, there was no-one left who wasn’t inspired by the level of energy in the room.
First came a conversation with writers Bill Kerig and Rob Story about Kerig’s new book, The Edge of Never, which follows Kye Petterson as he travels to France to ski the same route his father died skiing. Although the subject matter is very serious, Kerig and Story kept the crowd entertained as they cat-and-moused their way through the creation of the book.
Waring then introduced The Edge of Telluride and its director, filmmaker James Kleinert.
“Take a deep breath and get ready to drop in,” Kleinert warned the audience. He wasn’t joking. What followed was a film full of stunning footage from the epic 2008 ski season.
But as the story progressed, it became clear there was much more going on than simply riding beautiful powder. Skiers in the film – Josh Geetter, Kim Havell, Scott Kennett and others – described their ski-mountaineering as an extremely spiritual experience, a way to relax and enjoy life, while getting closer to the force of the mountain.
In the film, Kleinert highlighted each skier (and even a snowboarder, Jason Troth). It was, however, Geetter’s second (and more successful) trip through the Grandfather couloir that was the highlight of the dynamic film.
Viewers enjoyed the serene, seemingly unreal shots of skiers in chutes once considered impassable – and then being invited to dial into the skis, thanks to helmet-cam shots. Looking down an almost vertical chute we hear heavy breathing and ice scraping. Between the deep breaths of life-risking maneuvers, there is only room for the purest of emotions. “F…!” mutters Geetter, as the audience laughs and the suspense is broken, briefly, as he continues his descent.
Moment by moment, the audience was on the edge of its seat, occasionally letting out a holler or a yelp of support.
After the film, Geetter, Havell, Kennett and Kleinert came onstage to briefly discuss the film, thank the audience, and dedicate the evening to Wasatch pioneer Andy Sawyer, with Geetter reminding his listeners that Sawyer had been fine-tuning those same routes since 1992 and was, arguably, the father of the big mountain ski pioneering movement here in Telluride.
Following the film came a powerful and heartfelt celebration of Andrew’s life, led by his brother, Hugh Sawyer, who described the joy his younger brother Andrew had brought to so many in Telluride.
Andy’s longtime girlfriend Sheila Kohli read a two-part poem, the second part a song, in Hindhi, and then came the slideshow of photos and music showcasing the delights of Andy’s cheerful and positive personality.
Friends read some of their favorite Andy-isms – “Work is overrated!” and “Oh yeaaah” as the slides flitted by, and when it was over, the applause just might have been the loudest and longest of the entire weekend, as . The “true locals” of Telluride set their emotions free to celebrate the life of a fellow local. Leaving the Sheridan that night, one couldn’t help but feel inspired to live their lives to the fullest and enjoy each moment.