Marolts’ movie coming to Summit Canyon in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” It’s a dual life that seems straight out of a Hollywood script: Bespectacled twin brothers who work ordinary day jobs as accountants ” and also happen to climb and ski some of the world’s highest peaks without oxygen.
Except this is no summer blockbuster. It’s the real life of fourth-generation Aspenites Mike and Steve Marolt. And as seen in Mike Marolt’s latest adventure documentary, “Skiing the High Line,” the story doesn’t need big studio gloss to make for compelling cinema.
Mike Marolt, who is also the founder of Sunlight Mountain Resort’s 24 Hours of Sunlight coming up Feb. 23-24, is quick to admit that as a director, he’s still a pretty good accountant. He’s only been filming for seven years, all of it on big peaks incorporating a learn-as-you-go approach. Modesty aside, Marolt understands how to weave a story together by fleshing out the stark contrasts of the principles in his films, himself included.
It’s why “Skiing the High Line” includes plenty of shots of the 43-year-old Marolt brothers punching calculators at their downtown Aspen offices and spending quality time with their wives and young children.
That footage is spliced between shots from an expedition to Tibet in April and May, where the Marolts and lifelong friend Jim Gile logged ski descents from the death zone on two of the world’s tallest peaks, including a plunge off Mount Everest’s North Ridge from 25,500 feet.
The camera is the link to these two very different worlds, telling the story of ordinary guys with ordinary lives whose recreational pursuits qualify as extraordinary.
The hour-long film, which had its first screening at the Wheeler Opera House earlier this month, is the third feature chronicling the high-altitude skiing exploits of the Marolts and company. Mike Marolt says it’s unquestionably the best film he’s made yet.
“It’s a slow process when you don’t have any film school experience, and I don’t,” says Marolt, the son of the late ski racer Max Marolt, the first Olympian from Aspen. “Everything I have is just on the job, in this case, on-the-mountain experience. All of the experience to get to this point taught me what has a chance to be something that a good editor could take and use.”
Marolt has a mentor in local cinematographer Cherie Silvera, the woman who first put a camera in his hands during a 2000 expedition to 26,290-foot Shishapangma in Tibet. It was there where the Marolts made a name for themselves in the mountaineering community, becoming the first North Americans to ski from above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).
The footage from that expedition became a one-hour special that aired on the Outdoor Life Network and NBC titled “Skiing in the Death Zone.” The experience planted the seed for Marolt’s future filmmaking endeavors, and solidified a partnership between him and Silvera.
While the pursuits of the Marolts and Gile fall under the umbrella of big-mountain skiing ” the biggest mountains, Marolt laughs ” the local says his films should never be confused with those that fall into the extreme-sports canon.
The inherent risks of climbing and skiing 8,000-meter peaks are undeniable, but Marolt says he and his friends have never compounded the danger by taking unnecessary risks for short-lived glory. Case in point: Despite the chance to reach Everest’s summit in May for a thrilling climax to his film, Marolt turned back around because he wasn’t sure whether he had the energy to make it back to his tent at the mountain’s highest camp.
Steve Marolt, who heads up the logistical planning of the group’s expeditions, was the only local to ski off Cho Oyu’s 26,906-foot summit ” his second descent from atop an 8,000-meter peak. A case of bronchitis kept Mike Marolt just a few hundred feet from the top on Cho Oyu, while a communication snag halted Gile. Mike Marolt and Gile still managed to ski from above 8,000 meters on Cho Oyu, however ” a careful descent captured by rolling cameras.
“The bottom line is, and I make it very clear to all my sponsors, my life and my toes are more important than the film,” says Marolt. “When push comes to shove, that takes precedent over everything. … You can’t be stupid and you can’t be greedy. Whether you’re trying to get the great shot or whether you’re trying to get to the summit, greedy people get hosed in the mountains.”
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After a rough stretch through the middle of February, the Glenwood Springs High School boys hockey team is back in postseason contention following three straight wins.