"First Descent": An Alaskan adventure

Dec. 6, 2005, midnight | By Devon Madison | 14 years, 10 months ago

Snowboarding documentary is exciting but lengthy

Five of the world's best snowboarders come to Alaska to ride the Alaskan back-country. What do they have to show for themselves? A movie that reveals their deepest passions and records their wildest tricks.

In "First Descent," a documentary produced by Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison, five world renowned snowboarders, Shawn Farmer, Terje Haakonsen, Nick Peralta, Hannah Teter and Shaun White meet up in the Alaskan back-country to free ride some of the biggest mountains in the world. The documentary also tells the history snowboarding, dating back to when it first evolved in the 1970s. The movie focuses on the evolution of snowboarding, interviews snowboarding pioneers and legends, shows some of the "sickest" snowboarding tricks ever taped and, of course, follows the five snowboarders as they spend two weeks conquering feats that others have never even dreamed of.

The film is thrilling. It shows hair-raising footage of the group as they accomplish several runs down some of the steepest mountains in the world and even catches Farmer and Teter taking some rough tumbles down the slopes. The movie also follows the individuals before their trip to Alaska, and shows incredible footage of each boarder accomplishing some of their greatest feats during competitions.

The film intertwines the history and fads of snowboarding by using the snowboarding founders who made the sport what it is today. Farmer — one of the snowboarders who took the trip to Alaska — and Peralta were two snowboarding pioneers who paved the way for some of the younger snowboarders like top American-competitors, White and Teter, who joined them in the mountains. The group is also joined by Haakansen, who is considered to be one of the best boarders in the world.

One of the most remarkable parts of the movie is watching Farmer, the oldest snowboarder take the trip, create a jump near his home and snowboard over the street onto the other side of the road. Another gripping part of the movie is watching Haakansen of Norway ride down the Alaskan mountain "7,601," which is named for its height. This particular mountain was a "first descent," by Haakensen, meaning that no other boarder had ever ridden down the mountain before. Another climactic part of "First Descent" is when one of the boarders is caught in an avalanche, and must out-ride it and find a safe route down the rapidly breaking mountain.

Unfortunately, the movie runs dry in some areas, especially when covering the historical background of the sport. "First Descent" would be more interesting if it focused more on the five characters and less on the history of snowboarding. The documentary also spends too much time discussing the rivalry between skiers and snowboarders. Overall, the movie could have been shortened to keep up with the tempo of what a snowboarding documentary should be: fast paced.

"First Descent" is an overall enthralling film. It features jaw-dropping shots of the Alaskan Back-country and the boarders who rode down the "powder," knowing very well that any moment could be their last. As Farmer says in the movie, "Unless you're fully prepared to be in a situation of life or death, you shouldn't be up here."

The ride may be long, but watching the talented five set a new standard for boarders is worth the wait.

"First Descent" (110 min, at select theaters including Loews 14 Theater in Georgetown and Loews Rio 18 Theater in Gaithersburg) is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and a momentary drug reference.

Devon Madison. Devon Madison has a famous brother and sister. What went wrong? No one will know. More »

Show comments


No comments.

Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.