Greg Stump: Builder of Aahhhs
October 30, 2012
A fable, at least according to Webster, is a story “about supernatural or extraordinary persons or incidents; legend.” In his latest offering, Greg Stump — that iconoclast of ski filmmaking — probes this definition head-on in “Legends of Aahhhs — a True Fable.”In it, Stump gathers stalwarts of the industry for one-on-one interviews. Men like Dick Barrymore, Otto Lang, John Jay and Klaus Obermeyer are shown discussing ski filmmaking and its impact upon current big mountain skiing. Ah, and there’s one guy named Warren Miller.“Otto Lang was a pretty big one to interview and I’d traveled extensively filming with Barrymore, but I was very nervous about Warren,” said Stump, who skied in a Miller movie as a young freestyle champ.“He’s a very competitive guy and although we’d met once before, I wasn’t too sure how the interview would go. We sort of blindsided him with our movies — he didn’t see us coming. I had grown up in radio and we didn’t like his movies very much because the music was really repulsive if you were our age and into music.”Catchy, unusual, often unknown soundtracks became a trademark on Greg Stump films. His productions didn’t so much shake hands with the younger crowd as high-five and fist-bump. Non-mainstream beats pushed the popularity of ski movies like “P-tex, Lies & Duct Tape” and “License to Thrill.” And although Stump personally thinks “Groove Requiem in the Key of Ski” should hold the title, SKIING magazine named 1988’s “Blizzard of Aahhhs” the No. 1 Ski Movie of All Time, in no small part due to the groundbreaking music. Now “Legends” carries this forward with the Quebequoisian electronica of Bran von 3000, funky hip-hop from Fort Knox Five and world dance beat dubs of Liquid Stranger. Add in some Hawaiian slack-key guitar from Makana and the strong music roots of Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son), and you have a typical Stump music score.“The first movies I did, I put the soundtrack together at the radio station where I worked. And then the first time I did the music in the studio was on “P-tex, Lies & Duct Tape” and I felt like someone had taken a trash can off my head,” Stump said with his typical candor.In 1995, Greg Stump was filming in Russia and watched as an avalanche almost took out his athletes. Two weeks later, it happened again with skier Scot Schmidt and snowboarder Craig Kelly. It was enough to make Stump step away from the increasing dangers of extreme and big mountain filming, which brings us full-circle to “Legends of Aahhhs.”The film is airing in multiple locations nationwide, but the Squaw Valley show is the only one that includes a discussion panel. Skier, author and doctor Robb Gaffney, along with North American Freeski champ Tim Dutton and now Schmidt, will join Stump to hash out whether the sport is inspiring recklessness as filming requires higher, faster, more risky shots to impress today’s younger audiences. The 52-year old filmmaker looks forward to his Squaw visit — the place where he originally met a young Glen Plake, whose fame was set up by appearances in three Stump productions. He says, “Squaw Valley was one of the places we loved to film at — such a big, beautiful ski area and so challenging. But that terrain was so accessible for me, with lift access for my 50-pound camera pack. I first saw Squaw when I was 14 and went to a summer freestyle camp put on by Salomon. I was just a kid from Maine, it was pretty eye-opening. I got to meet guys who were legendary in hot dog skiing — Wayne Wong, John Clendenin. They gave us a T-shirt that said ‘I got hot!’ and I was so proud of that shirt; I wore it constantly.”Discussion about Plake drives the topic back to “Legends of Aahhhs” and the issue of danger and the recent tragedy on Glen’s attempt to ski Mt. Manaslu in Nepal.“I saw him on “Anderson Cooper 360” — it was pretty intense. Glen was laughing and crying at the same time and you just knew he’d been through this horrible ordeal. I was just very impressed with him.” Regarding Plake, he continues, “Glen and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I was this Michael J. Fox preppy guy from the East and Glen was really scary to me. I didn’t want him around; he was a liability. It was like David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen — and I’m Eddie!“But Glen is such a natural athlete and very intelligent. These are things I didn’t really pay attention to when we were filming. Did you know he speaks Japanese? One time, Glen and (his wife) Kimberly were visiting me in Hawaii and we stopped in this little, very authentic sushi restaurant. Glen held court with all these guys, telling stories and mimicking people perfectly in their language. He had these guys rolling on the floor, laughing. Glen speaks four languages fluently and none of them are English,” Stump said with a chortle.Gone are the days when these guys shredded majestic mountains on 210s with rear-entry boots, but the narration of “Blizzard” holds true for today’s skiers: “a bunch of “Oh no’s” … “A collection of wows” … “The blizzard of aahhhs.”Now just add legends.