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From Utah to Finland, “This is Home” hits the slopes for white-knuckle skiing

THIS IS HOME - Utah Segment
Despite annual releases from the likes of Warren Miller, making a ski film is no easy task. From fluctuating mountain conditions to the kind of patience needed to wait for that perfect shot, the variables factoring into this kind of filmmaking are many. For French director and skier Etienne Mérel, embracing this kind of uncertainty helped him piece together an astounding collection of ski footage for the Switzerland-based company Faction Skis.

Aptly titled This is Home, the film showcases a handful of Faction riders as they not only show off their expertise in traveling downhill at breakneck speeds but also the mountains they call home. From Finland and France to Montana and Utah, the film’s diversity is one of its strengths as each segment provides a wildly different experience. Watching freeskiing pro Candide Thovex hurl a backflip over 11-year-old Henry Sildaru is as jaw-dropping as it is awesome. And that’s just one 5-minute segment of the feature — before you know it, Mérel’s vision takes the viewer to an entirely new snow-filled region.

Home is where the mountain is

“Faction has done such a great job with its whole webisode series, so it was pretty exciting to have the idea of a full-length project,” freeskiing freerider Johnny Collinson told Digital Trends. “The idea of going to each other’s respective homes was great, mainly because I’ve really never filmed in my hometown (Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah), so it was cool to try to bring a project there and show the mountains that shape my story and my skiing.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

For Collinson, he took pride in not only hosting some of the Faction riders at his home mountain but showing them a side of Little Cottonwood Canyon — namely the backcountry — that they wouldn’t typically ride. While even passive skiers know of Alta and Snowbird resorts, Collinson’s time spent carving up the backcountry was what truly shaped him as a skier.

“Everyone on the team is fairly familiar with Little Cottonwood as far as the resorts go, but the surrounding area is really what’s made me the skier I am today,” he added. “So, it was fun to bring the team around and ski these classic lines and, for me, I like pointing them out to people in the canyon but rarely do I get to go shred them with people — let alone film it.”

A familiar face behind the camera

From a filming perspective, Mérel — who already has a long history of working on Faction’s webisodes — took it upon himself to not only sit behind the camera but to edit the film as well. After zeroing in on the film’s theme of exploring each rider’s home, Merel admitted that prepping for the filming process was a little harder than expected. That is, once he started working with a large group of people, getting everyone on the same page was far from easy.

“We started maybe two months before winter, working with the riders and trying to create a schedule,” Mérel told Digital Trends. “The hardest part at the beginning was to convince people to be in the same place at the same time. Everybody just has a different schedule, so it’s tricky. You also have to deal with the weather conditions — basically, you need to show to these places at the exact right time. It’s not easy but still super fun.”

Though getting everybody in one place at the same time is more of a scheduling task, filming when the conditions are just right is an entirely different hurdle. After acknowledging that just about each place they chose to ride featured perfect snow conditions, Mérel admitted the scene was less than ideal in Collinson’s home turf of Utah. The mountains there still had a ton of snow but the weather was unseasonably warm during filming, which impacted the amount of powder they encountered. Not a scene killer by any means but far from ideal.

This is Home takes to the road

With the movie filmed and edited, Faction took the show on the road, helping fuel the ski craze at each of its stops. With domestic stops in Eagle, Colorado, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon, on the docket, the brand also booked appearances overseas in Madrid and Liverpool, England, bringing the excitement of the upcoming snow season to places not typically associated with skiing.

This is Home does a stellar job of showing off its professional roster of skiers riding world-class mountains, producing an awe-inspiring film capable of making anyone giddy to hit the slopes.

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Rick Stella
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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