As much as Seth Morrison is one of the best and longest serving extreme freeskiers out there; we approached The Ordinary Skier with a little scepticism. With so much focus on one person the film could, on paper at least, not just have extreme skiing, but extreme doses of sycophancy contained within. Thankfully it’s not really like that at all. Of course there is an occasional homage from the great and good, but it doesn’t descend into anything more than the respect one of the greats deserves.
One of the keys ways it does this is to take the focus off just being a film about Seth Morrison. It might just be us Europeans (less likely), or it might be because the big studios are based in North America (more likely), but ski films in general are US/Canada-heavy. That’s where the split focus in this film comes in: it’s mainly shot in Chamonix. This means that although Seth is the main star, he’s not always the main draw. Well, at least to us Eurocentrics.
So, this is not a ski film in the mould of the average. Sure, it tells you about Seth Morrison’s life, tangentially touches on the growth of extreme skiing (see Steep for more), and even makes you sympathise for his mother (‘not enough focus on mothers in ski films’ would likely be a comment should this review be written by our mother – an unlikely scenario, we’ll admit). We’re also not going to lie: you have to put up with a lot of the customary pro skier talking heads. However, watching the guys rappel down into a couloir from the Auguille du Midi makes the occasional platitude worthwhile. N.B. the current slightly irritating adverb of choice for skier talking heads is: ‘super’, as in ‘super-awesome’.
The other main reason why this film does not descend into a Morrison love-in is that he comes across as a likeable, grounded guy. We all know pro skiers are slightly loopy (mainly in a good way) so it’s a pleasant surprise to find Seth Morrison to be focused and reserved character, committed to his job and appreciative of what it brings. In fact, what comes across more in this movie than most is the sacrifices that the pros make and their feelings towards those choices. Not that we’re advocating marching for extreme skiers’ rights here (we’ve not much truck with playing for the sympathy vote) but it is satisfying to have it confirmed that all jobs are frustrating in some way.
We realise that we haven’t talked much about the skiing, but we’re not going to in any detail. This film isn’t really about that. It’s not heli-drops, big lines, huge turns and massive jumps but mainly ski mountaineering in Chamonix. Segments that really bring home the dangers of the sport and the level of challenge – much moreso than many films we’ve seen. Be that the extreme slopes and poor snow conditions, or the dangers of glacial crevasses, there’s plenty to go at. You even get to see JP Auclair sporting a fine moustache at one point.
The Ordinary Skier is clearly a must for Seth Morrison fans hungry for a bit of biographical detail, but its appeal does go much wider. We found ourselves really enjoying this film and regularly dipping into it over the course of this season so far. We suggest you do the same.