A Skier's Journey

The risks and rewards of La Grave, France, through Jordan Manley's eyes.
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The risks and rewards of La Grave, France, through Jordan Manley's eyes.
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In a departure from the hucks and handrails of standard ski movies, Jordan Manley, well know as a still photographer, put together a three-part film series, “A Skier’s Journey.”

The second episode, which came out this week, spotlights La Grave, France. It’s a ski film, but it’s also a travel narrative, and a reflection on the value of skiing.

Chad Sayres, with his Saskatchewan meets South Boston accent, provides the narrative arc. He’s joined by La Grave locals Joe Vallone and Bruno Florit, who give insight in to the culture of skiing in the Alps.

“For a lot of people in the ski world last year the issue of dying while skiing became really front and center, and that really had an impact on me,” Manley says. “It’s something that I thought about a lot that year. It’s the reality of skiing big mountains.”

Manley has spent a portion of the last three seasons in La Grave. “It’s a spot that has become really special to me and my friends there,” he says. “It’s a reflection of how much we enjoy it and the tension between risks and rewards when you’re skiing.”

The weight of those risks is apparent both in the cinematography and the tone of the film. Tense climbing scenes and sketchy, exposed lines are bracketed by reflections on why skiers are motivated to push themselves.

“There is a scene in the La Grave episode that I really wanted to capture, where Chad is entering that traverse.” Manley says. “My first time on the traverse is set in my mind. I’ve never had a moment where I was so gripped, so I wanted to make sure that I gave that lots of space in the video.” 

Manley says he wanted the episodes to be a reflection of his skiing experience. “I think everything that I touched on in the episode is what comes up skiing every day,” he says.

Watching the episode is like flipping through a series of highly detailed photographs, even though Manley says he approaches video differently than stills. “I think you have a different mindset when you’re shooting video. You have to switch the mode in your brain, even if the shots aren’t that different,” he says.

The two episodes he’s released so far vary dramatically, which is a reflection of their locations. The first film in the series is a trip to Kashmir, India. You can immediately feel the jolt of being in a new country, as Sayer and Manley wind through the streets of New Delhi on the back of a rickshaw. Conditions didn’t quite play to their favor—see the avalanche scene—so most of the skiing is in low-angle trees, but it almost feels secondary to the rush of being in India.

The third episode in the series, a trip to the Freshfield Icefield with the Rocky Mountain Sherpas, will be released in two weeks.