By Steve Hubrecht

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The latest ski movie from prominent extreme sports media company Teton Gravity Research (TGR) will have its Invermere premiere this weekend.

The Invermere show is this Friday, Nov. 24 at the Columbia Valley Centre. It’s one of just six stops on the North American tour for TGR’s ‘Legend Has It’. How did little old Invermere manage to become one of a mere half-dozen screenings across the whole continent for a movie of this magnitude? Well, the big-time film has considerable small-town appeal for Invermere residents, since it stars not one but two Columbia Valley-bred big mountain skiers who are at the pinnacle of the international extreme ski scene — Christina ‘Lusti’ Lustenberger and Ian McIntosh.

The title ‘Legend Has It’ refers to the time-honoured skier and snowboarder habit of spinning tales – sometimes tall and sometimes true — about fabulous power dumps, unbelievable lines, secret backcountry cabins and other near-mystical facets of ski life. Sometimes they sound too fabulous to be fact, but then again maybe, just maybe, they could be the real deal. The film traverses the globe with a host of top-notch backcountry rippers, shifting the fiction and fact of legendary ski locations from Patagonia to Alaska and beyond. Those who check out the movie will find the ski facts — visible to your own screen-viewing eyes — as wild as any ski fiction.

Unquestionably the most outrageous segment of the film features a ski mountaineering expedition to the Karakoram Range in northern Pakistan, captained by Lustenberger. She and fellow skiers Jim Morrison and Nick McNutt spent days just getting to their base camp, not far from the fabled Trango Towers. There, in a landscape of sheer, soaring granite walls and ragged spires like nothing else on Earth, the trio attempt to ski what’s never been skied before. 

That is precisely what Lustenberger has made a name for herself doing over the past several years, as she has starred in a number of movies made by TGR and other big ski film producers. Perhaps most famously to Columbia Valley residents, two years ago she and McIntosh became the first people to ski the wicked east face of Mount Nelson. An iconic local landmark, Mount Nelson (which coincidentally is on the Pioneer cover this week) looms over the valley’s western horizon, its imposingly steep east face visible from, well, everywhere.

Christina Lustenberger surveys the peaks outside her tent.
(Photo by Kerwin Giffin/TGR)

Lustenberger told the Pioneer that Mount Nelson will always hold a special place in her heart, but that the Karakoram has its own allure.

“I have wanted to ski in Pakistan for a long time, so planning this expedition was a dream come true. It also came with a lot of challenges,” she explained. “Pakistan is so beautiful. It has captured my imagination and I can’t wait to go back.”

She added that the unknowns of wild places are what draw her to them in the first place.

In the Karakoram segment of “Legend Has It’, Lustenberger, Morrison and McNutt do not shy away from discussing on camera how the rigours of high altitude make the body want to stop and make the mind say ‘turn back.’ They also reflect deeply on how being in such a remote, untrammelled spot has a grounding effect, with stresses of everyday life left far behind. Morrison is particularly meditative. His comments are extra impactful when you consider that in 2022 he lost his long-time life and mountaineering partner Hilaree Nelson, who was swept into a crevasse by an avalanche while the two attempted to ski Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain in Nepal. A decade prior, he lost his first life partner and their two kids in a Cessna plane crash.

When ‘Legend Has It’ screens, Lustenberger’s parents Jane and Peter (who are also known as ‘Lusti’) are guaranteed to be in the audience.

“It is pretty amazing to see your kid in a ski movie,” Jane told the Pioneer. “When I’ve seen some of her other movies, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, I’m watching the big screen and it almost seems like that can’t possibly be my little girl up there. But it is . . . we’re really proud of her and all she does.”

Jane said she sometimes feels a bit anxious when her daughter is off on an expedition “but we’re learning to cope with that. And she’s given us a lot of confidence in her ability to know what she’s capable of, and to know when to turn around.”

The expedition to Pakistan was a good one for parental peace-of-mind, explained Jane. There was an exactly 12-hour time difference, and the team had a satellite phone, so she and Christina talked nearly every day. 

“She kept in better touch from over there than she does when she’s back here in B.C.,” said Jane with a laugh.

The other Columbia Valley big mountain skier in ‘Legend Has It’ — Ian McIntosh — is just as well known in the valley as Lustenberger, with a roll of credits in ski movies equally impressive.

The ‘Legend Has It’ segment featuring McIntosh is in Alaska. There McIntosh and three other big mountain skiers (Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Maggie Voisin and Parkin Costain) shred through seemingly endless ranges of expansive, snow-laden, cliff-dotted peaks.

“When I think of ‘legendary’ I immediately think of locations, and in my world of big mountain freeriding, there’s no more legendary place than Alaska. After a several-year hiatus, I felt compelled to return to Alaska. Time away from this legendary state left me hungry to go back . . . it’s a place where many of my dreams have come true,” said McIntosh. 

Doors for the film open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 7:30 p.m. The screening is supported by Panorama Mountain Resort and doubles as a fundraiser for Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise (KORE) Hub for Outdoor Gear Circularity. Attendees also have a chance to win a heli-ski experience. 

Tickets are $18 for adults, or $14 for youth (age 15 and under) and can be purchased online at: www.tetongravity.com/films/legend-has-it/tour/invermere.