Taos was the place to be last year. Storm after storm tracked through the south, leaving New Mexico gasping in powder while the northern half of the country skittered and scratched on hardpack that tasted of leftovers and freezer burn. Cinematographer Bruce Benedict went down to Taos to shoot skiing with Mike Hattrup and Glen Plake. Earlier today he stopped by the office with visual evidence of the orgy that went on down there, and the results are impressive. In the five hours since he left, I’ve watched this seven-minute teaser tape of face shots and powder bumps six times.
Six or seven years ago, Benedict was one of Powder’s best photographers. But, in a fit of logic that has yet to be explained, he abandoned still photography for the relative glory and riches of shooting movies, most visibly with Greg Stump. (Indeed, Benedict’s quirky and evocative vision was a huge factor in the success of the early Stump films.) He only shot three days for Stump’s last film, “Dr. Strange Glove,” and none for the current one, “Groove Requiem,” and I hadn’t really seen his recent work.
While he was here, I asked him why he went to Taos. After all, with no sponsors and n planned outlet for the footage, it didn’t seem like he had much chance to earn back whatever money he spent shooting.
“Halfway through last winter,” he said, “I realized I didn’t have any plans to ski and I figured, what the heck, I’ll call my buddies and we’ll go shoot. I missed them and the thrill of hanging over the side of steep places, and I couldn’t let the winter pass without playing in the snow.”
What? Just shoot skiing? People don’t do that anymore. Do they?
Benedict’s story brings to mind some of the issues swirling around skiing these days, particularly issues of environmentalism. As you’ll read in the article, “Does Colorado Need Another Ski Area?” by Glenn Randall, there are three proposed ski areas in Colorado that could become reality in the next few years. To build or not is a thorny question. Certainly, we’d love more places to ski, yet the impact on the environment would be severe.
Every quad chairlift, every snow-making gun, every grooming machine hurts the world in some way. Two of my favorite things—resort skiing and magazine publishing—take a large toll on the earth. The reality is that everything we do—from flushing a toilet to building a ski resort—has an impact. Everything has its cost. The challenge is to move forward with that understanding and make intelligent, well-planned decisions for the future.
What does Benedict have to do with questions about the environment? Well, I think it all comes down to being true to your values. Are you doing what you’re doing because you believe it’s a good thing or are you doing it because you’re going to make money? In Benedict’s case, it was clearly because he loves to make movies. But what about the developers of these proposed resorts? Are they motivated by their love of skiing or their love of profit?
I am not anti-development. I am not “anti” sponsored movies. Nor am I against profit. But what I absolutely hate is the loss of vision and erosion of spirit that sometimes comes with the quest for money. I believe that if you make something good and true that people want, you will profit. That, I think, is what Benedict is doing, and that, I hope, is what these developers are doing.
First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.2, October 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.