Monday night, the Clay Center gets a few degrees cooler when “Teton Gravity Research: Winterland” makes its West Virginia premier at the Caperton Planetarium and Theater.
“Winterland” celebrates the wilder side of ski and snowboard culture. It includes jaw-dropping winter visuals and appearances by notable free skiers like Angel Collinson, Christina Lustenberger and Todd Ligare.
The film will be presented at the Clay Center by Ligare and skier/model Amie Engerbretson, who is part of a tour that has been taking “Winterland” around the country.
Engerbretson has been part of ski culture almost from birth. She said she was 10 months old when her father strapped her first set of skis to her feet.
“I kind of walked early,” the Utah native explained. “My dad had me in skis immediately. That first set sort of velcroed on to my snow boots.”
Engerbretson’s father, Jeff, is a former professional skier and follow-cam operator who photographs and films extreme outdoor athletes and skiers.
The toddler would grab on to the rope tow at her home slopes in Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, California, and the motorized line would pull her along.
She doesn’t remember any of that but said there are pictures and videos of her skiing laps in the driveway.
“My whole life growing up was being surrounded by skiing,” she said.
She took a short break from ski racing in her teens to pursue ballet, but never gave up on skiing or the snowbound lifestyle.
“I didn’t love racing,” she said. “I love big mountain skiing. I love free riding.”
Engerbretson has a real passion for skiing, though she was quick to point out that what she did was more complicated than just letting a camera crew follow her around on a mountain.
“I don’t compete. I don’t race. I don’t go to the Olympics,” she explained. “My job is to create ski media, whether that’s for a brand or whether I’m promoting and inspiring the story of skiing.”
She makes skiing look good. She makes it look cool.
And skiing is cool, Engerbretson believes, but it takes a lot of work to translate that into a photograph or onto the screen.
“You have to have amazing communication with your team,” she said. “And you have to be able to nail what you’re doing on the first try. You only get one chance.”
The job itself can be a lot of waiting around.
“On the best days of skiing, we’ll ski only two runs,” she said. “It can be a really long, drawn-out process — and it can be dangerous.”
Engerbretson said she has to stay in good shape. She maintains a regular and vigorous exercise regimen that incorporates everything from trail running and yoga to a little weight training.
Fitness is important, not just to perform the leaps and jumps on the slopes, but to bounce back when you fall down and get hurt.
Almost everyone takes a spill and gets hurt eventually.
“My personal trainer calls my pre-season workouts ‘pre-hab,’” Engrebretson said. “On the off-chance you get hurt, if you’re strong, you come back even faster.”
The skier and model said she’d been lucky, so far, with few major injuries and nothing career ending.
“I try to keep my body really well-rounded,” she said.
But Engerbretson added that she doesn’t worry too much about dieting. She saw a lot of unhealthy dieting when she was a dancer.
“I eat like a normal person — in moderation,” she said. “I don’t subscribe to any insane dieting or nutritional practices. You eat what your body tells you and if your body is really telling you you need ice cream, OK have a little bit of ice cream.”
The job is the job, but Engerbretson said it doesn’t stop her from skiing. Through the winter season, except on travel days, she spends most of her time in ski boots somewhere.
Some of that might be considered training, but she said she didn’t always think of it that way.
“My days off are maybe not the best powder days,” she said.
Days that would look the best on film, she meant, but Engerbretson said it’s still fun.
Her part of the ski world can alternate between hectic, tedious and exciting, but Engerbretson was the farthest thing from tired of it.
“I love sharing,” she said. “I love inspiring.”