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Chris Benchetler getting it good. photo - Peter Morning
Team Clif Bar Blog
May 3, 2012
Over the Hill and Picking Up Speed

Team CLIF skiier Donny Roth sent us this report from his recent trip to Glacier National Park where Sweetgrass Productions is shooting for its latest film.  Donny had a chance to ski some amazing lines and ruminate on being the eldest member of his crew.  The fantastic images are courtesy of Ben Sturgulewski of Sweetgrass Productions.  Be on the lookout for the new film in the fall of 2013 - it should be another stellar celebration of winter.

I remember one summer, long ago, my grandparents’ had these cocktail napkins that had a sketchy, line drawing of a guy on a bicycle.  The caption read, “When you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.”  I couldn’t have been but six or seven years old, and had no concept of “over the hill,” but the idea of my grandfather ripping down a hill on his bicycle really cracked me up.  It still kind of does.

As an athlete on the roster with Sweetgrass Productions sometimes I feel over the hill.  At the age of thirty-seven, I am a solid ten to fifteen years older than most of the other athletes and the film crew.  For the most part we all get along perfectly – we are all young at heart.  But every now and then, like when they build a huge jump, they look at me with an expression as if I should be finding a comfortable chair, or maybe playing shuffleboard.

Sweetgrass is known for putting together beautiful, artistic films with more soul than the typical ski film.  The films, like the crew, are down-to-Earth – it’s the stuff we can all relate to in some way.  One of the reasons for this is that most of the filming is done without mechanical assistance.  There’s an occasional chairlift used, but for the most part the hard work is done by human-power.  The challenge presented to Sweetgrass is that audiences demand shots of the big lines that represent the forefront of our sport.   Doing this without the use of helicopters is a tall order.

It’s exactly this challenge that earns me a spot on the Sweetgrass roster.  My “extra years” in the mountains are beneficial to the team when it comes time to find our way up in a reasonable manner or make decisions about the likelihood and consequences of avalanches.  Yet, as with the other athletes, when I turn my skis downhill the camera rolls.  Watching the younger guys charge inspires me.  It takes an amazing amount of strength and courage to crush the big lines.  It’s too easy to say, “When I was younger…” I’m not ready to say this yet.

I will spend the spring and fall working as hard as ever to be ready to ski those big lines with the strength, power, and agility of the young guys.  As long as it doesn’t become an excuse, I don’t see my age as a disadvantage.  I train more intelligently every year, know how to not abuse myself unnecessarily, and thanks to companies like Clif Bar, I am better supported than ever.  I don’t see this as the twilight of my career.  I see it as the pinnacle.

I may be over the hill, but I still want to pick up speed.

Posted by: 
George Thoma
Winter Sports
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