Snowboard Movies Aren’t Dead: The Triumphant Return of Mike Hatchett

In the age of social media, it’s easy to assume that snowboard movies are in decline. But if you’ve been keeping a finger on the pulse of snowboard cinema, the culture is alive and well, with world-class shorts and full features dropping left and right. Case in point? Teton Gravity Research’s latest film, Flying High Again, directed by snowboard film legend Mike Hatchett, whose return to shred flicks after a decade-long hiatus bodes well for fans of the genre.

Danny Davis making it look easy-peasy amid shooting jaw-dropping clips for Flying High Again.
Tucker Carr

“Everyone was really amped—a lot of cheering from the crowd,” director Mike Hatchett happily summarized a few days into the Flying High Again tour. “People seemed like they’re missing the full-length movies in a theater, instead of just watching short-form stuff.”

Much of that stoke stems from Hatchett’s return to snowboard filmmaking after a decade-long hiatus. The Lake Tahoe-based visionary founded Standard Films, one of snowboarding’s most beloved and influential production houses. For those unfamiliar, Standard’s catalog of films spans from the early, iconic Totally Board (TB) series, which helped bring snowboard filming deeper and deeper into the backcountry in the ’90s, to more contemporary classics of the aughts like Paradox (2005) and Draw The Line (2006).

Rider Jason Robinson checks out a recently captured clip while shooting. Tucker Carr

According to Finnish pipe and slopestyle competitor turned splitboarder, Antti Autti, whose human-powered freeriding earned him significant screen time in Flying High Again, Hatchett’s influence on the snowboard world has been global. “My first film was TB8, and I watched Jussi Oksanen and Kevin Jones parts so many times that the VHS tape ended up destroyed on those sections,” Autti says. “After seeing that film, all I wanted to do was to become a pro rider.”

Nick Russell, a Sierra-based, East Coast-bred professional splitboarder who goes line for line with Autti in Flying High Again, echoes the sentiment: “My generation grew up on Standard, Absinthe and Mack Dawg—those videos molded our perception of what it means to be pro.”

While Hatchett’s legacy is forever etched in snowboard history, prior to Flying High Again he hadn’t made a snowboard film since 2012’s 2112. It was a break from snowboard filming he thought would be permanent—until Teton Gravity Research called him up and asked him to step back into the director’s chairlift last year.

John Jackson laces a line while filming for Flying High Again. Tucker Carr

“It’s been a decade at least, but it’s been great getting back into it,” Hatchett says. “I honestly didn’t really think I’d ever make another snowboard movie. Just getting back out in the backcountry with my camera on a bluebird powder day, seeing the sparkling snow and the blue sky, watching the powder fly and getting to film again, it just reminded me of what my real passion in life is: snowboard filmmaking and being in the backcountry.”

Unsurprisingly for any student of Standard Films, heaps of Flying High Again clips were collected in the Sierra backcountry, which was fortuitously blessed with roof-caving storm totals last season. “It’s probably my favorite place in the world to film. It’s my backyard—I know it so well—and it just shoots really well,” Hatchett says. “The features aren’t as big as some of the Whistler stuff, but the lighting and the way the terrain looks, it’s just amazing. We had such a good winter, all the lines you want to shoot in Tahoe were filled in, and we had a lot of banner film days that had clear skies and good stability.”

Rewind the tape, and Tahoe hasn’t just been a constant fountain of clips for Hatchett—it influenced the crew to explore the backcountry in the first place. At first, Hatchett says, the squad was experimenting, bringing in-bounds riding from Palisades Tahoe to roadside terrain off Donner Summit. “We were just rolling with it on a day-to-day basis, and we really had no plans. It was very exploratory—we just inched our way out there, going a little deeper and exploring a little further every day,” he remembers. “As we got more and more experience and looked around, it was like, ‘Hey, you could ride that bigger line, you could hit that bigger cliff.’”

Elena Hight, another Flying High Again star who has shifted her focus from pipe to pow, reflects on just how influential Standard’s Sierra segments were for aspiring riders in the region. “I used to idolize the riders in those films and being raised in Tahoe,” she says. “They gave me a sense of what was possible in my hometown.” 

Jackson doing what he does best, in front of the camera. Tucker Carr

While Hatchett considers that early backcountry exploration a “slow progression,” Standard quickly snowballed into a mainstay of snowboard cinema, and the riding showcased in those Totally Board movies was nothing short of pioneering. Out-of-bounds escapades like Hatchett’s brother Dave’s first descent of Alaska’s Mendenhall Towers in Totally Board 3, or Dave Downing’s hammer-heavy, splitboard-only part in Totally Board 9, still hold up to this day. In Flying High Again that tradition continues, particularly with opener Bode Merrill setting the tone with his imaginative brand of backcountry magic, and John Jackson’s high-speed, balls-to-the-wall, double-song ender, which just won the International Freesports Film Festival (IF3)’s Best Backcountry Segment award. Jackson’s part caps off with a ghost-pepper-spicy freeride line in the Tahoe backcountry.

“He just turned 40, and in his part, he’s snowboarding like he’s 25 years old,” Hatchett says of Jackson. “I was just blown away working with him this year. It’s a combination of him being a total veteran in the backcountry, knowing what looks good on film, and also just throwing down on the most insane shit.”

Hard to miss, Jackson talks with Mike Hatchett post run. “It has been amazing to work with Hatchett on this film,” fellow film boarder Elena Hight says. “His genuine stoke for snowboarding and snowboard culture is contagious. It is incredible to see his film style be brought back to life, and it’s a dream come true to be apart of it.” Tucker Carr

Bookended between clips from Jackson and Bode Merrill, undersung hero Jason Robinson makes his return to the silver screen after his own hiatus from snowboard filming, up-and-comer Mia Jones trades turns in Tahoe with her father, and Brandon Davis makes his case as one of the world’s best all-terrain vehicles with a proper streets-to-steeps part (also winning Standout Male Snowboarder of the Year and Best Urban Segment from IF3 for his efforts).

The variety of riders, Hatchett says, is part of what takes a snowboard movie to the next level. “Any good snowboard movie or ski movie, you wanna have the groms, and then you wanna have like the hottest, young, up-and-coming kids that are about to be on top. Then you want your veterans, you know?”

Despite his years out of the kitchen, Hatchett cooked up a classic, winning IF3’s overall Snowboard Film of the Year. Turns out his recipe hasn’t changed much. Radical riding, next-level cinematography and bottomless powder seem to do the trick, although, thankfully, the pixel count has undergone serious inflation. Needless to say, Flying High Again left all those in attendance, myself included, chomping at the bit, anxious for winter, eager to ride. And after all—isn’t that the point of snowboard movies in the first place?

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