Dances with Clouds

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The art of dance is a tough discipline to master even when participants are able to practice and perform their movements with compliant partners in stable environments on dry, consistent surfaces. This film elevates the level of difficulty considerably–to 10,349-ft to be precise–by deliberately imposing extreme conditions upon both athlete and filming equipment. In addition to the aforementioned strength-sapping high-altitude of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, the dance floor consists of steep, avalanche-prone slopes of summits covered with up to 12′ of powder snow. The mountain is so remote that the only access for free-skiing is via helicopter, and conditions are so unpredictable and dangerous that around a dozen backcountry skiers die every year in the U.S. alone participating in the sport–mainly from being crushed in avalanches. More than 50#’s of specialized equipment and clothing is necessary in order to even physically survive the runs, which reach speeds in excess of 40-mph while dodging numerous deadly obstacles such as trees, rocks and cliffs in sub-zero temperatures. One small mistake at any moment (even the helicopter flights are risky, with a crash just this season killing 3 skiers and the pilot) can lead to a catastrophic or fatal injury. The violent physical forces levied against body and equipment during the descents are borderline savage, and completely relentless. Yet what emerges is beautiful and meaningful to an extent that acolytes will eagerly risk their mortal existence to experience a few fleeting moments dancing with the clouds.

Director – Kyle B Wagstaff

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