(Last Updated On: April 17, 2010)
Movie of the Month: The Performers
Director: Dick Barrymore
Where can I find it? Netflix, Amazon.com
The Performers is another one of Dick Barrymore’s classic ski films. At only 24 minutes in length, it is packed full of ski footage—footage still considered as high quality even today.
The Performers tells the story of five skiers sponsored by K2: Charlie McWilliams, Pat Bauman, John Clendenin, Bob Griswold, and Jim Stelling. These skiers were selected by K2 to tour the US on a good-will mission. They toured from California to Maine and back again in their red, white, and blue motor home—colored to match the famous K2 skis of the era.
The first major highlight of the film takes place in Aspen, Colorado. There, the K2 Performers were asked to judge two events. The first event was a “Hot Dog” contest. This was a competition where skiers were judged on form, turns, and jumps down a steep mogul run. The second even the K2 Performers judged took place in the evening where they judges the girl that looked best in a K2 t-shirt.
The second major highlight of the film takes place in the then new Snowbird, Utah. There the Performers experienced over-the-head powder—ski footage which would rival even some of today’s powder segments inn our best ski flicks.
Highly noteworthy was the Performers style. This movie was the beginning of what is today considered freestyle skiing. The Performers not only hucked themselves off of large cliffs. They hucked themselves in style, pulling 360’s, backflips, mule kicks, and double spread eagles. These skiers pioneered a new era in skiing that is still in force today. And they did so without helmets or goggles!
But, the most striking thing to me about The Performers was the realization that this movie shows that the ski bums of today are just like the ski bums nearly 40 years ago. The “Hot Dog” contest can be compared to today’s extreme competitions. The t-shirt contest gave insight into the Aspen party scene at the time- a scene that has not changed one bit. And skiers are still pulling 360’s and backflips off of massive cliffs and shooting epic powder scenes.
The Performers rings true to the age-old cliché that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The ski bums of today are not pioneering a new lifestyle or a new era in skiing. This new era was actually started 40 years ago by Dick Barrymore and the Performers. I thank this movie for putting me in my place and giving me this lesson in history. All avid skiers should experience The Performers themselves to understand the true roots of today’s skiing.
Update: The Performers had such an impact on the skiers of the era that a 25-yr anniversary mission was repeated in 1996. You can read more about it here in this article from Ski Magazine: http://www.deadlinecom.com/pdfs/theperformers.pdf