You can’t beat Aspen Extreme |

You can’t beat Aspen Extreme

The bad girl sidles purposefully up to the innocent ” and vulnerable, and talented ” boy and says, “So, I hear you’re the best skier on the mountain.” That is such an awesome line that my friend Ellie has been using it on her friends in the 15 years since.

Please. You can’t resist 1993’s Aspen Extreme, “the Top Gun of the slopes.” “South Park” even spoofed it, producing “Asspen.”

Says the ski instructor Thumper in that episode: “OK, you see what he did? He french fried when he should have pizza’d. You french fry when you pizza you’re gonna have a bad time.”

Aspen Extreme begins when two working-class boys from Michigan, who ski at local Mt. Brighton yet are apparently fully capable of big-mountain conditions, light out for the West, an idea hatched in a fit of pique when the skier/aspirant writer T.J. receives a rejection slip from Esquire. As the “crushedbyinertia” blog archly noted, “I guess no one told him to start small and work his way up to the big publications. Now, if Hatchett Fillipachi doesn’t want his stuff, he might as well just throw it the [expletive] away.”

It’s always fun to see a film made in your area, to pick out slopes, streets, restaurants, bars. This flick has bonuses: See the Maroon Bells right next to Highway 82. An empty Highway 82! Pick out the Snowmass lodge grafted onto Aspen Mountain’s slopes. Discover that ski instructors are the pinnacle of glamour and athleticism, thus at great risk of disappearing into a vortex of Aspen excess. The film’s good girl (blonde) even has a rule against dating ski instructors. There are zero female instructors.

The film also has really good ski scenes.

I was in this valley when it was filmed; remember the off-season night on the deserted mall that I asked my sister, “What on earth is that light on Ajax? That can’t be the moon.” The sky suddenly exploded in fireworks. We walked on wonderingly, hearing a single appreciative, lonely whoop from across town.

Turned out the scene was from Aspen Extreme, and local police were bombarded with complaints because of the racket and lateness. We later watched the movie in a theater packed with yelling locals. That scene never even showed.

I’ve tried to get the film for my sons, trekking in vain to Sounds Easy, Blockbuster and the Aspen library. (Netflix surely has it.) Recently, the film came to mind again when I heard of an upcoming 15th-anniversary benefit showing. I tried the Aspen library again, and hit pay dirt.

Our household loved it.

“Nice!” Teddy, 15, shouted as the hero, skiing out of bounds, falls headfirst down a manhole-sized crevasse into deep-blue water.

Of the ski scenes, he reflected, “These are good, especially for being so old-time.”

A local woman, Lizzie Talenfeld, was ski double for the sly, wealthy cougar character Bryce (black hair). Lizzie, as Bryce, rips it up, long black wig whipping along like a semaphore, alongside T.J., who is very conflicted but having an awfully good time. (Lizzie does rip, and you can see her talented teenage son Jesse Hoffman on, airborne at the 2008 U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Open, Crested Butte.) Lizzie’s scenes were shot near lift 1A, Aspen Mountain.

Doug Coombs of Jackson Hole skied backcountry and bowl segments, filmed at Aspen Highlands amid whirling powder and cornice jumps. It was also Doug who, as T.J., skis down a frozen waterfall, and that scene even today remains sick. I watched it again with admiration and sorrow, because the congenial, humble Doug, whom I’d met, died in 2006 at 48, skiing a couloir in La Grave, the French Alps. His friend Chad VanderHam, 31, of Keystone had apparently hit ice, and disappeared over a cliff edge. Doug tried to help him, and also washed over.

Aspen’s Olympian Andy Mill also appears in the film, as himself.

Aspen Extreme will air February 6 at the Wheeler Opera House, and it is the best time you’ll ever have at a B movie.

Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at

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