Alumnus’ movie showcases College’s skiing culture
By Jay Webster, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Friday, February 8, 2013
Since its opening in 1957, the Dartmouth Skiway has come to symbolize a critical aspect of the College’s heritage, paying homage to the hostile weather of the Still North on which many students thrive. It comes as no surprise, then, that skiing plays a critical enough role that it has been memorialized in “Passion for Snow” (2013), a documentary that explores the impact that Dartmouth alumni have made on the development of the skiing industry over the 20th century.
The documentary was adapted from 2010’s “Passion for Skiing,” a nonfiction book by Steve Waterhouse ’65 Tu’67, who also served as the film’s executive producer.
“Along the way, I realized a lot of people don’t read books these days — people go to theaters, they look online,” he said. “I knew we had to make a documentary out of this.”
The documentary, which has been an endeavor five years in the making, sought to combine a number of back stories that approach Dartmouth’s connection to skiing from unconventional angles. The film discusses Dartmouth skiers’ roles in World War II through their participation in the 10th Mountain Division, the development of commercial ski resorts and the emergence of skiing as the subject of filmmaking, according to Waterhouse, who co-wrote the script with producer Lisa Densmore ’83.
The film also discusses the College’s history with the development of adapted skiing for disabled athletes, notably featuring Paralympian Diana Golden ’84. Golden, who lost her right leg at age 12, joined the Dartmouth ski team in spite of her disability and eventually went on to become a decorated athlete and an inductee to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. At the beginning of her college career, Golden showed up to the team’s first practice and told coach John Morton that she wanted to join.
“He says, ‘Well, we’re doing stair work right now,’ and Diana puts her crutches aside and starts hopping up the stairs on one leg,” Waterhouse said.
While the film offers a compelling visual representation of the emotional narratives featured in the book, it inevitably does not tell the full story.
“Whereas the book may talk about, say, 1,000 individuals, we could only cover maybe 50 or 100 at the most in the film,” Waterhouse said.
Percy Rideout ’40 assisted with the production of both the film and the book. He died on Jan. 25, two weeks before the premiere of “Passion for Snow.”
Rideout, a resident of Ashburnham, Mass. and a former captain of the Dartmouth ski team, served as captain the 10th Mountain Division, notably fighting in the Battle of Riva Ridge in the Italian Alps in 1945, according to his obituary. Rideout was interviewed three years ago for the film and plays an important part in its conclusion.
“We have Percy coming on and saying, ‘Well, there’s no question in my mind — it all started in Hanover,’” Waterhouse said. “He says it in a very confident way, and that’s how his words end the film.”
Diane Boyer ’78, the first female chairman of the board of SnowSports Industries America, a trade association that represents the interests of the snow sports market, was also interviewed for “Passion for Snow.”
“I was always a skier — Dartmouth enabled me to ski and follow my passion while I was in school,” Boyer said.
Boyer discussed the importance of skiing as a defining tradition of the College community.
“Skiing is an intrinsically Dartmouth tradition,” Boyer said. “Where most people would be whining on a cold, snowy, blustery day, a lot of Dartmouth folks are reveling in the fact that they’re in this climate.”
In addition to the vast number of skiers interviewed for the documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Buck Henry ’52, whose credits include “The Graduate” (1967) and “Heaven Can Wait” (1978), provided narration for the film even though he was completely unfamiliar with the subject matter.
“Buck hates snow, he hates the snow and he doesn’t ski,” Waterhouse said. “But he agreed to do it, and I think he’s done a brilliant job.”
Beyond the film’s upcoming premiere in Hanover, Waterhouse hopes to submit his film to festivals.
“The festivals we would expect to be interested in this are ones that focus more in sports, primarily winter sports,” Waterhouse said.
Regardless of continued success beyond the Dartmouth community, however, the film’s creators said they simply hope that the film will memorialize the College’s skiing traditions for future generations.
“Perhaps it will become a longstanding tradition to show the film at Winter Carnival, as that is where the story begins,” Densmore said in an email.
“Passion for Snow” was a collaborative effort that included Baker-Berry Library, Rauner Special Collections Library and the Hood Museum of Art.
The documentary will premiere tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center.