Ski Peru 1979
Despite its age, Peter Chrzanowski's ‘Ski Peru’ keeps finding its way back onto my screen while the rest of my ski video collection languishes on the (now virtual) bookshelf. ‘Peru’ is not merely a vintage ski mountaineering film—it's a heck of a story.
Inspired by the exploits of extreme skiing's gods (Patrick Vallencant and Jean Marc Boivin) 21-year-old Canadian Peter Chrzanowski hatches a scheme to ski Peru's highest peak, 22,000-foot Huascaran.
Impressively, Chrzanowski talks a crew of documentary filmmakers from New Brunswick into coming along to film the adventure.
That the Canadians have no real high-altitude mountaineering experience doesn't seem to diminish anyone's enthusiasm—until they actually reach the base of the peak, and begin to consider what they're up against (note: Huascaran lies in the Cordillera Blanca, the same range where Touching the Void takes place).
The sheer naivety of the expeditioners (at one point, they "lose" their film crew, prompting a discussion in which their safety advisor's responsibilities are "redefined") makes ‘Ski Peru’ a singularly accessible film for non-mountaineers. Rather than being put off by arrogance or emotionless professionalism, we are able instead to share the Canadian crew's wonder and anxiety as fellow neophytes.
Ultimately, Huascaran bests the Canadians, and they're forced to abandon their summit bid. And then who appears on the trail but Vallencant and Boivin, skis on their backs, in person. They have their own plans, and they're happy to take Chrzanowski's camera and continue on to the summit to film their own first ski descent of the peak.
Is this actually a coincidence? Who cares. It's still the best moment in ski film history, as far as I'm concerned. And the footage of the French extremists descending Huascaran's sheer upper reaches is worth the price of admission alone. Recommended.