(Last Updated On: July 16, 2010)
Movie of the Month: The Edge of Never
Director: William A. Kerig
Where can I find it? www.edgeofneverfilm.com/
The Edge of Never has easily become one of my favorite ski films. Although, I suppose “ski film” isn’t exactly the correct classification for this movie. Perhaps the correct classification is “ski documentary”. In Edge of Never, Kerig documents 15-yr old Kye Peterson, being guided by Glen Plake, Mike Hattrup, and Stephane Dan, down the Glacier Rond in Chamonix, the same run his father died on over ten years before.
Kerig tells the story from the beginning, detailing how he called up Glen Plake wanting to make a film about “the heart and soul of skiing”. Kerig wanted to travel to Alaska to do so, but Plake steered him in another direction. Kye Peterson skiing the Glacier Rond was Plake’s idea.
The Edge of Never documents Kye’s travels to Chamonix, and his family’s struggle to let him go there. Only 15 years old, Kye is an excellent skier, but has a lot to learn about the mountains, especially in a place like Chamonix where a skier dies nearly every day. Kye is mentored by Anselme Baud, one of Chamonix’s premier pioneers of ski mountaineering, whose guidebook led Kye’s father around the terrain of Chamonix. But, he is also mentored by the famed Glen Plake and Mike Hattrup, as well as their guide Stephane Dan (called “Fanfan”). Together, they teach Kye how to “read” the mountains and how to make controlled turns in steep, inconsistent snow and terrain. After a ski down the Couloir Poubelle, featured in Greg Stump’s Blizzard of Ahhhs (in which Plake and Hattrup are featured), it is decided that Kye is ready to ski the Glacier Rond.
The Glacier Rond segment begins with a surprise visit by Doug Coombs. In the book Edge of Never, Kerig explains that this visit by Coombs was unplanned. But, it’s clear that Coombs wanted to meet Kye. Coombs explains to Kye that he knew his father well, and that they skied many first descents together. But, the visit was short. Kye and Coombs went their separate ways, although the novel explains that Coombs later returned to try to ski the Glacier Rond with Kye, but their group was already experiencing difficulties, and Coombs was discouraged from joining them.
On the arete above Glacier Rond, Kye takes out an aluminum bottle with his father’s ashes. As suggested by Plake the previous night, Kye throws his father’s ashes over the Glacier Rond, and asks for a moment of silence. Kye’s voice is often monotone when speaking of his father, but it is clear that Kye is merely trying to suppress his emotions.
Trevor Peterson, Kye’s father, was a well known extreme skier making his way through the ski industry in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. He died in 1996 while skiing the Glacier Rond solo. Not everything is known about his death, but it is clear that he died in an avalanche, likely triggered by himself, in a section called the Exit Couloir. Trevor was not buried in the avalanche, but died from trauma-related injuries, although it is not clear weather his death was instantaneous.
Kye, Fanfan, Hattrup, and Plake ski the Glacier Rond together. Sunlight is quickly fading on them, as is clear in the movie, so it is obvious that the group was pressed for time. Still, Fanfan took the time to make sure that Kye was attached to a rope through the more dangerous and icy portions of the steep Glacier Rond. The film does not show the group’s descent through the Exit Couloir, largely due to their limits on time and the quickly encroaching nightfall. But, the book also explains that their one remaining cameraman had to head down because his wife was giving birth.
The Edge of Never capture’s Kye’s innocence and naivety in a way that is lovingly funny. Something in you just wants to snatch this kid up and give him a giant hug. But, at the same time, Kye’s Chamonix experience is a coming of age story. Kye clearly transforms from a boy into a man, from a jibber park skier to a ski mountaineer. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for the help of Plake, Hattrup, Anselme, and Fanfan.
One of the most touching scenes of the documentary was a sensitive moment captured between Anselme and Kye. Anselme points to the Gervasutti Couloir and explains that his own son, only 24 years old, was taken down there and killed by a serac before his own eyes the previous spring. “This is a bad story,” says Anselme, “but it is a beautiful life. And anyway the mountain is here. We have to take the best of the mountain and follow life.”
But, the character that stood out the most for me is Glen Plake. In Stump’s movies of the 90’s, Plake appeared as a debaucherous star-crazed adrenaline junkie. But, The Edge of Never makes it clear that Plake was either stereotyped by Stump or has changed. Plake acts as a father to Kye and a mentor to Kerig. The Edge of Never would not exist if it weren’t for Glen Plake.
At the end of the movie, Kerig admits he “got complacent”. He and the film crew were relieved after Kye skied the Glacier Rond both successfully and safely. Afterword, they went out to film Fanfan and two ripping girls (Meg Oster and Kasha Rigby), but tragedy happened. Someone fell deep into a cravasse, resulting in multiple bone fractures and other injuries. His condition was so serious that he had to be rescued via helicopter. Though his injuries were life-threatening, the person indeed made a full recovery. Kerig, however, blamed himself for this misfortune. Still, and interview with the character shows that he believes he himself is to blame.
One of the closing scenes of the documentary shows Kye, 4 years later, shredding in the backcountry, the Tantalus Range. It’s obvious that he has become comfortable in the backcountry, skiing big lines. But, he still likes to throw in his “jibber” tricks every now and then. Kye has grown into a real skier, poised and perfect. Kye also looks just like his father.
Kerig wraps up the point of the movie by stating, “This journey has shown me that it’s not about choosing between a life of passion and the people you love. The real question is whether you have the courage to take complete responsibility for every choice and the faith to fully embrace every moment.” His ending statement is consistent with the theme of The Edge of Never– Ski mountaineers are one big family. Although Kye lost his beloved father, he gained an amazing family.