In the late 90s a rag-tag group of Canadians changed skiing. J. F. Cusson, J. P. Auclair, Vincent Dorian, and Mike Douglas called themselves the New Canadian Airforce and led a twin-tip ski revolution. They skied backward and grabbed their skis, infusing new energy into an activity perceived by many to be a white-collar recreational sport, like sailing or tennis.
By turning up the tail of the ski, and later changing the shape altogether, the NCAF—along with Shane McConkey, a Steve Jobs–like innovator for ski design and the most influential skier in history—collectively transformed a mode of transportation that’s been around forever.
Half-pipe and slope-style skiing are defined by style and progression. Although it was a bunch of Canadians who birthed the movement, it was predominantly Americans who pushed it in a thousand different directions, through competition, video parts, and magazines. Going down mountains on two sticks was fun again. Skiing had been reborn.
Fast-forward nearly three decades later, to 2014. The sport of freeskiing is preparing to make its debut on the worldwide stage at the Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. Team America is, by far, the strongest country, with dozens of Winter X Games gold medals hailing from the red, white, and blue.
In the last months of 2013, five qualifying events determined who would make up the first-ever US freeskiing team. We took our cameras and entered their world to make FREE, a documentary that takes a look into the lives of four skiers vying for those positions.