Rookies – A Bunch of Amateurs | Film by Charlotte Percle
Rookies is a mix of documentary and traditional ski film about four athletes learning the ropes on the world stage of Freeskiing. Following the trails blazed by three Verbier locals, Elisabeth Gerritzen, Carl Renvall and Yann Rausis, and one mad kiwi, Sam Lee.
Exploring the stress and simultaneous euphoria with being a beginner on the Freeride World Tour, on this journey we learn with the Rookies from veterans of the sport. How do they channel their focus, perform on the day and keep their spot on the Tour? You’ll have to watch to find out. Read more from the film’s director, Charlotte Percle, who shares details about what the directing and shooting process was like across steep terrain with sometimes perilous conditions in her article below.
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ROOKIES | Film by Charlotte Percle
Behind The Scenes | Filming Rookies
It’s 11:30am on the 28th of December, 2016 in Verbier, and I’m standing by the Attelas lift (Verbier is located in the Swiss Alps and recognized as one of the most premier ski resorts in the world). I look up at the Mt. Gele as I wait for the boys and get a shiver of nervousness for the hike ahead (Elisabeth is unable to join us due to a recent shoulder injury). I’m pretty unfit and this will be my first hike since a knee surgery about eight months prior. My bag feels very heavy and I’m wondering why I brought all of my equipment. It’s also windy. It hasn’t snowed since the 11th of November (about five weeks ago) and yet somehow the snow is being blown off the top of the mountain at an alarming rate.
I call Guido, our incredible volunteer drone pilot for the day, and warn him that it may be impossible to get the drone in position if the wind doesn’t die down. Yann and Carl arrive and we set off for the base of the mountain. Our aim is to hike and ski the ‘Bouctin Couloir’ (Ibex Couloir in English), which is particularly defined at the moment due to the lack of snow surrounding it.
The first 100 meters makes it immediately obvious that this is not going to be a breezy climb. There are rocks protruding everywhere that are loose and slip from beneath your feet. Carl takes my tripod on his back to loosen some of the load. I fall quite far behind. Every time I try and get my camera out to film the hike, wind fills my bag with little ball bearings of snow. At this point all I can think is, “What have I gotten myself into!?”
Luck finally gives us a little break as the wind dies down on the south face of the mountain and we clamber over the summit. However, the south face of Mt. Gele is partially snow-less and we start an awkward 100 meter down-climb over steep grass and cliffs, passing all the equipment down to each other.
We brush the mud off our ski pants as we arrive at the entrance of the couloir. It’s about 2:30 p.m. now and the sun is lower in the sky. It’s actually quite calm, warm and beautiful across the valley. The wind is gone and the drone is flying into position. I get my broken tripod out of my bag and set myself up on a large rock overlooking the chute. We made it! All the way up I had been thinking that there was no way we were going to get the shot because of the wind.
This first day of filming sets the tone for the entire season.
Despite all of these mistakes and unforeseen circumstances (along with failed attempts to go out and shoot something epic without snow), the riders keep coming and keep trying. I’m pretty sure everyone (at some point) had lost a little hope in the completion of this project—but it was everyone’s motivation, despite the setbacks, that pulled us all across the finish line in the end.
It feels like everyone sprinted through last season at lightning pace. Yann is studying for his masters degree in Physics. Sam is fully competing on the Qualifiers alongside the Tour circuit to make sure he gets back on tour. Elisabeth is also studying International Relations alongside competing. Due to the fact the film never had a proper budget, I am working every waking moment of the day. Either in the cafe serving coffee, filming, or working as an apprentice for Timeline Missions.
Watching the Rookies approach to the World Tour, and learning from the more experienced athletes has changed my outlook on skiing competitively.
I’m so grateful to have spent this past season with the people I spent it with. They are truly inspiring. I went from a bitter and injured ‘trying-to-be’ athlete, to feeling inspired by skiing again.
Thank you Sam, Yann, Elisabeth and Carl! It’s been fun. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.