Surely of great interest to skiing enthusiasts, yet making zero effort to appeal to anyone else, “Skiing Everest” is a well-lensed yet largely anemic specialty docu. There’s little narrative thrust or psychological insight here, but the highly detailed procedural portrait of two genial high-altitude-skier brothers should resonate with extreme-sports aficionados; others will at least have the eye-catching photography to entertain them through the surprisingly prevalent dull stretches. Pic has skied limited runs since Jan. 10.
Without taking anything away from the incredible commitment twin brothers Steve and Mike Marolt (who co-directed with Les Guthman) and their friends exhibit in skiing the world’s highest mountain, it’s hard for a casual observer to really gauge their accomplishment. These men aren’t climbing anything that hasn’t been climbed before (they do not actually reach the summit); nor are they skiing down what appears to be a particularly steep or difficult route. In fact, the signature act of “Skiing Everest” turns out to be remarkably uncinematic, and takes up very little of the pic’s duration.
Born and bred in Aspen, Colo., the Marolt brothers were effectively raised on the surrounding slopes, eventually venturing off to ski higher, more challenging mountains in Alaska, South America and the Himalayas. Unlike the daredevils who drop from helicopters onto remote peaks (dismissively dubbed “ski porn” in the film), the Marolts combine skiing with mountaineering, first scaling their target slopes, then descending on skis.
As spectacular as all this should be, the overall feel is a bit insular; there are multiple shout-outs to friends and associates who are never mentioned again, and the subjects tend to exclusively use local Aspen peaks as standards for comparison, which will mean nothing to the many skiers who have never been there. The brothers also have a knack for describing death-defying experiences in banal terms; while many climbers, surfers and other adventurers can broach into serious spiritual territory when attempting to explain the inexpressible drive that draws them repeatedly into danger, the Marolts seem to simply find high-altitude skiing an interesting thing to do.
There’s no denying the beauty of the locales the brothers visit on their far-flung expeditions, however, and when combined with snappy editing and very capable technical specs, pic is at least a very vivid and high-caliber travelogue.