Talk about good timing (and shrewd marketing): the release of First Descent, a thrilling documentary about the snowboarding phenomenon, exactly coincided with the 2006 Winter Olympics, where some of the very same athletes featured in the film mined gold and glory on the slopes near Turin, Italy. But while Shaun White and Hannah Teeter both won gold medals in the halfpipe as the U.S. dominated the Olympic competition, those two young stars (along with three other snowboarding "legends") are seen in a far different environment in producer-directors Kevin Harrison and Kemp Curley's 111-minute film, tackling some dauntingly long, steep runs in the mountains of Valdez, Alaska, where avalanches, crevasses, and other hazards await as they search for "first descents" (i.e., places no snowboarder has been before) in that pristine, forbidding environment. As advertised, the footage is, well, awesome, as all five riders catch huge air on some of the gnarliest runs in the world; Norwegian Terje Haakonsen's final plunge from a 7,000 foot peak with a 60 degree drop must be seen to be believed. Elsewhere, First Descent chronicles the evolution of the snowboarding phenomenon, from its humble emergence in the 1970s, when the sport was derided by traditional skiers, to its extraordinary popularity in the '90s and beyond, when the X Games and Olympics telecasts brought it into living rooms across America, Europe, and Japan. Profiles of the individual athletes are included as well, but it's the Alaska footage--where, in the words of 'boarder Shawn Farmer, they "pinned it to the wall and threw down"--that's the principal attraction here. Nearly an hour's worth of extra features will add to the appeal of the film, which features narration by former Black Flag-bearer Henry Rollins and music by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. --Sam Graham
Follow five snowboarding icons (Shaun White, Hannah Teter, Terje Haakonsen, Shawn Farmer and Nick Perata) on this epic Alaskan journey as they ride the most challenging and dangerous mountains on the planet. Featuring some of the most jaw-dropping snowboard footage ever caught on film, this incredible motion picture tracks the rebellious, inspiring and sometimes controversial evolution of snowboarding from an underground American movement to a full-fledged global phenomenon.