Blizzard of Aahhh’s 30th Anniversary

Blizzard of Aahhh’s. Yes, it’s grammatically incorrect. Greg Stump did that on purpose. He wanted the Aahhh’s to be possessive. Nice try right? 

Blizzard of Aahhh’s was the fifth film in as many years from then 27-year-old ski film maker, Greg Stump. He and cinematic partner Bruce Benedict filmed in the winter of 1987-88. Greg produced and edited the film at Maine Video Systems in Portland, Maine. The film was released October 6,1988 at The Portland Performing Arts Center, Portland, Maine.

Greg Stump was a competitive freestyle skier from 1969-1980. By age 18 he had over 100 finishes in the top three and in 1978 he won the U.S. Junior National Championship at Copper Mountain, Colorado and in 1979 he won the first ever F.I.S. sanctioned international freestyle event, the North American Freestyle Championships in Ottawa, Canada.

Although Stump had made five ski films by 1988, the previous films were considered immature and goofy and relied heavily on mogul and freestyle skiing. Blizzard of Aahhh’s by contrast attacked from the opening bell championing the relatively unknown sport of “extreme” skiing from Telluride, Colorado, Squaw Valley, California and big mountain alpinist mecca, Chamonix, France. The films’ (then ferocious) skiing and attitude attracted the big mountain and racer skiers into Greg’s core audience in record numbers. 

Blizzard of Aahhh’s starred three main skiers. 

Scot Schmidt who had appeared extensively in Warren Miller films beginning with Ski Time in 1983. (Ironically, Ski Time was Greg Stump’s skiing debut for a Warren Miller film as well. Greg had starred in Dick Barrymore’s film Vagabond Skiers in 1979.) 

Glen Plake, had skied in one previous Greg Stump film, Maltese Flamingo in 1986. He severely broke his femur getting swept through an avalanching “hour glass” chute in Kirkwood, California at the end of 1986 and missed the 1986-87 Greg Stump film, The Good, The Rad and the Gnarly. 

Mike Hattrup had been a Stump star since Stump’s second film in 1985, Time Waits for Snowman. Mike was a very powerful technical skier and freestyle mogul jumper. Double helicopters or 720’s was an easy trick for Mike. He was a member of the U.S. Freestyle Team as a mogul skier before Blizzard of Aahhh’s. He was injured and missed the 1997 Stump film The Good, the Rad and the Gnarly. Mike grew up in Seattle, WA. 

All three were, and still are, incredibly gifted skiers. 

The pairing of Schmidt and Plake as the skiing odd-couple was essentially an accident. Greg was very weary of having Plake in the crew and especially at ski areas where marketing departments were comping lodging, food and skiing. Glen’s punk antics, heavy drug and alcohol abuse scared Stump. Only after Stump star Lynne Weiland was severely injured in Chamonix did Plake join the movie. Even then Stump was very reluctant. It was marketing guru Carl Labbe and Bruce Benedict that convinced Greg to relent and bring Glen to Chamonix.

The film featured the music of British rock producer Trevor Horn. With the help of Trevor’s wife and business partner Jill Sinclair Greg was allowed to use well known ZTT music for pennies. The ZTT records decision to “sponsor” Stump significantly increased record sales of ZTT artist in North America and Europe. The music gave the movie a Euro-centric sound and Stump’s narration and his use of interviews with the skiers (like NFL films at the time) gave the film a magical balance between travelogue, what would become reality TV and pure ski escapism.

Most North American audience members had never see extreme skiing or the massive mountains in Chamonix and were shocked by the “extreme” nature of the film. Many ski industry executives complained to Stump that he had gone too far and that there was no next step. They were wrong on both fronts. Ski films would and continue to push the limits of what is possible. Today skiers are doing the most terrifying feats. Extreme became a household word and would be adapted by many advertisers and became the “go to” word marketing word. A funny example was Taco Bell promoting an Extreme Combo.

The film was an instant hit. Not with just Stump’s core audience but the whole world of racer/mountaineer skiers that had avoided Stump’s earlier works.

Another aspect to the films’ success was the sudden availability of VHS machines in every home. For the first time the old Warren Miller business model of only touring as the way to promote a ski film had a big chink in it’s armor. Home video sales. Stump sold over $100,000 in VHS tapes out of his garage in Maine in 1988 from Blizzard of Aahhh’s sales.

To this day, since Blizzard of Aahhh’s neither Schmidt nor Plake have held real jobs. They both have parlayed their fame into becoming paid ski ambassadors for various companies. Before Blizzard of Aahhh’s neither could make a living as a pro “ski movie” skier. Mike Hattrup was immediately hired by K2 sports after Blizzard of Aahhh’s and had a 20-year career there.

Within four months of the films’ release Glen and Scot found themselves on the Today Show being interviewed by Bryant Gumbel. The entire situation skyrocketed as this was the first skiing related news to pierce the mainstream media since Wayne Wong’s freestyle Pepsi commercial in 1974.

Extreme skiing had made it big. The Blizzard of Aahhh’s had made it into ski history.

Most publications that rank ski movies over the years consistently rate Blizzard of Aahhh’s as number one.

The film has impacted thousands of skiers to leave their existing lives to pursue their dreams of ski life in the mountains.

The 30th anniversary edit will feature special new sequences and remastered sound and color. Still, the 16mm film and the archaic Chyron graphics are an antique novelty in today’s digital world. To this day, Stump cringes at the narration and writing.

The film will tour in the fall of 2018 and be available for digital download at in January 2019.

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