Episode 1 - La Niña

It's now a cliché to call Mike Douglas the Godfather of New School skiing, but clichés develop for a reason. Mike D has done it all — making a name for himself as a skier, coach, ski technology developer and now as working a filmmaker. He even pioneered one of freeskiing's seminal tricks, the D Spin. Guess what the D stands for? And all while freeskiing was growing up, Mike was always the adult in the room, helping steer how the sport developed and how it presented itself to the world.  

The fifth season of his websidose series Freeski TV, produced in partnership with Salomon, kicks off today. We sat down with Douglas to talk about the upcoming episodes, what athletes had a breakout season and how life is now that he works behind a desk.

OTS: There appears to be a lot of storytelling in season five. How did you approach the blend of story and ski action this season?

MD: Going into this season we wanted to have a mix of content. We're always trying to improve and tell stories, which I think is the hardest thing to do. Generally in a webisode, telling a decent story in such a short amount of time isn't easy. This year we've got a few that are pretty good, and as a producer, some of the stories I really enjoyed working on. Definitely the story episodes are something that separates us from all the other stuff out there.

OTS: So what should we look forward to this season?

MD: My favorite episode of the season is called "The Freedom Chair," and it's probably the strongest story of the year. It's about Josh Dueck, who is a Paralympics athlete and tells his story. We realized when we got into production that the story was so compelling that a seven minute webisode wasn't going to do it, so we also made a short film that's 15 minutes long and submitted it to film festivals all over the world.

OTS: How about athletes?  Did anyone have a breakout season?

MD: We definitely have a couple of newbies in there this year. One athlete who stands out and was new to filming, even though he really had his breakout year last year in the competitions, is James Woods, an up-and-coming jib star. He's featured beside Bobby Brown in an episode called "Style." In the episode we take a slow-motion look at the way these guys move in the air. Both Jeff Thomas and I worked on it and are very pleased on how it turned out.

OTS: Is this episode going to be a surprise, similar to the stop-motion animation you did last year?

MD: It's one of the more artistic episodes we did this year, and even though there's not really a story, it's more about showing skiing in a different light. I don't want to give away too much, but we basically used high-speed cameras and moved the action to super slow-motion and treated the images in a way that's quite uncommon and that gives it a pretty unique look. It was something we weren't sure was going to work when we set up to do it and in the end we feel pretty good about it.

OTS: How about the Alta episode? What's that all about?

MD: The Alta episode was produced for us by Sweetgrass Productions and is on the mellower side. We get comments from people ranging from teenagers up to their late 60s who are all really passionate about Alta, and they carry a narrative throughout that's backed up with some pretty sweet imagery.

OTS: There are a lot of GoPro edits out there and I noticed you have a GoPro edit slated for the upcoming season.  How did you elevate it past what we're already seeing today?

MD: The idea sparked from an episode we did a couple season ago called "Dueling Helmet Cams," and the edit was really well received. When a trip to Switzerland didn't work out, we started wondering what to do next.

Jeff Thomas, who works with me here at the studio, suggested we take the whole season and think of all the coolest transitions and shots and ideas that we can think of with GoPro cameras and go out and get them. We started with simple ideas and worked all the way through mid-May, when we finished up with Bobby Brown in Mammoth and it turned out pretty cool.

There's thousands of GoPro edits online, but we're hoping that people will see that if you put a bit of thought into it and really put some effort into these things you can make them stand out.

OTS: You used to be a pro skier and now you're in a desk job. How's that been?

MD: Well, the good news is I still can get out there and ski. This season I skied on four of the shows, and I'm also still doing my other pro skier obligations, but I do now spend way more time at a computer and desk.
I'm doing a lot of paperwork, organizing things and shooting, and it sure makes me appreciate the days when I do get out. But at the same time, being a producer and director is still living the dream. I don't feel like I ever go to work because I really like what I do.

So Where's Freeski TV going?

MD: That’s a really good question. Our primary goal is still the same: Inspire people to get out into the mountains each weekend and rip it up. Aside from that we wanted to do two new things this season: 1) to only use original content; 2) to put our content out there in film festivals. So far, things seem to be working out.

- Interviewed by Tim Shisler