If you’ve watched a ski movie in the past 10 years, chances are you’ve found yourself on the edge of your seat watching an incredibly skilled skier slide down an impossibly narrow couloir then stomp a double corked backflip over a 45-foot cliff band. Ski movies can be highly entertaining edits highlighting the best lines of a pro skier’s season, but are they indicative of the true essence of skiing? Pro skier Marcus Caston and videographer Tim Jones, two big names in the industry, got to talking about the high-flying fantasy presented in ski movies, and the fact that these reels often don’t speak to the majority of resort skiers. One thing led to another and before long the pair were on a mission to showcase the real roots of skiing: turning. The result of their collaboration is a highly entertaining, ridiculously comical and refreshing web video series which celebrates the old-school art of arcing turns, skiing bumps, shredding groomers as well as skiing in the rain—something we know a little about here on the Escarpment. Return of the Turn presented Blizzard Tecnica and Freeskier Magazine, applauds good’ol fashioned technical skiing. No huge drops, no flips, no spins, just straight up ripping.
I had the chance to chat with Marcus and Tim earlier this season. “When you go skiing do you huck 100-foot cliffs and stomp cork 900’s?” asks Marcus (I’m pretty sure this is a rhetorical question). “Well, neither do I, and neither do most skiers. For years the ski industry has defined the ‘highest’ level of freeskiing in terms of spins, flips, and big airs. But I don’t relate to any of that, and I’m a skier. The ski movies I grew up watching showcased people skiing steep technical runs, but nowadays it’s just stunts and people flying in the air. I didn’t want to fit into the box of what it meant to be a professional skier. I wanted to create something that embodied what skiing is to me.” “Nobody was celebrating the most core element of skiing, the turn, in the most basic conditions,” adds Tim. “We didn’t think it would catch on much, but here we are still doing it three years later.”
While Marcus grew up in Utah, Tim hails from upstate New York; “I raced at Bristol Mountain near Rochester, which is right near you guys,” says Tim. “I moved to Utah 13 years ago for the bigger mountains but I actually miss east coast skiing sometimes. The small, family owned resorts have a really special place in my heart.” Years of training gates taught Marcus to have a solid foundation which has served him well on steep and technical terrain—but it has also taught him how to ski in undesirable conditions. In episode 4 Marcus donned a pair of 210- centimeter Blizzard Thermo V20s from the mid-1980s and proceeded to absolutely CRUSH a bump run. “Skiing was so much more difficult and skillful on straight skis—I really had no choice but to put my money where my mouth was,” laughs Marcus. “The aspects of skiing I learned to appreciate like the feeling of wind in your face, bending up a ski, and floating through the transition, are feelings every skier can relate to and strive to achieve every time they touch snow.”
Return of the Turn episodes include “Bumps”, “Groomers”, “Firebird” and the aforementioned “Straight Skis”. In episode 7, “Beer League”, Marcus and Tim head to Minnesota, the home of the world’s largest recreational adult racing league. Much like our beloved Escarpment, what the hills of Minnesota lack in vertical feet they make up for in die-hard, spandex-clad skiers who come out each weekend to race head to head. “Skiing groomers is like being in a race car,” says Marcus. “It’s about arcing and going fast. It’s intense.” This might explain why the Escarpment clubs produce so many high level, world-class alpine ski racers.
Even though he doesn’t drop huge cliffs, Marcus is one of the most published skiers on the planet, appearing on covers, galleries, articles and advertisements (often in wearing denim on denim) in virtually every major international ski magazine. He’s a top-tier sponsored athlete for Blizzard, Tecnica, POC and Helly Hansen. To date Marcus has appeared in seven Warren Miller movies, including “Timeless” which premiered in the fall of 2019. “Warren Miller films are for every skier,” says Marcus. “Last season I skied with the Warren Miller crew in Chamonix alongside Canadian racer Erin Mielzynski who grew up at Georgian Peaks. It was Erin’s first time in the big mountains, and she was super nervous, which is totally understandable. Standing at the top, we could tell she was nervous, but once she pushed off, she transformed into the powerful beautiful skiing machine that she is. The skills you can learn on the small icy hills can take you anywhere in the world—I saw it!”
In an industry that is often mesmerized by flips, spins, grabs and hucks, Marcus and Tim are undoubtedly making turning cool again. “There’s so many really, really good skiers out there,” says Tim. “But they see those ski movies and feel removed from the ski world because their local hill doesn’t have cliffs or deep snow. Marcus is truly one of the best skiers in the world and he has a really fun personality, so that helps.” “Freeskier Magazine picked up Return of the Turn and supported us right from the get go,” says Marcus. “They aren’t the first publication you would associate with Return of the Turn. They even put a picture of me skiing moguls on straight skis on the cover of their magazine (yes, those classic 210-centimeter Blizzard Thermo V20s). That was a huge sense of validation that we were doing something different that people respected. Great skiing is about personal expression— that’s what makes it so special; no two people are going to ski the same way. In the end, that’s what I want my legacy to be. I am expanding people’s understanding about what’s possible on skis, doing it in a way they’ve never seen before, and inspiring people to get out and get theirs.”
Eight episodes and three seasons later, Return of the Turn has become a cult classic. “A lot of people seem to really be able to relate to what we’ve created,” says Tim. “The series success is undoubtedly because we flipped the formula of a modern ski movie,” adds Marcus. “Instead of spending tons of money to chase the ‘dream’ of straight-lining steep Alaska lines and smashing BC pillows, we went to our local resorts. Instead of watching somebody ski and feeling like, ‘I could do that if I just had the money and time to fly to Alaska.’ We got you to say, ‘Wow, I totally skied that run last week, but I didn’t ski it like that!’” If you love dropping your hip and opening it up on silky smooth corduroy or getting your bump on, be sure you check out Return of the Turn on YouTube, BlizzardSports.com and Freeskier.com |E|