The Meatheads continue to provide exclusively East Coast skiing footage in the form of a yearly video release. Wanderland debuted in October 2007 and continues the proven one hour video format with lots of bonus features available and sidebars. Previous releases from the Meatheads include Snow Gods, Born From Ice, Epoch, and Schooled.
Several notable absences are immediately noted from Wanderland including powder fiend Joe Morabito and Simon Thompson who were amongst the Meatheads best skiing talent that always delivered memorable scenes. Not only did the overall skiing talent reduce in quality but new Meatheads lack the personal dynamics involved with shooting great lifestyle aspects. Wanderland is an improvement upon last year’s extremely sub-par Snow Gods but fails to live up to past Meatheads releases.
The independent film company’s releases are overly broad in their appeal and would probably be better served by two distinct releases instead of piecing together park, pipe, jib, and rail scenes along side big mountain, powder, and earned turns features. The urban rail and jib scenes are sensational featuring some of the best young talent to be found any where in the United States. This skier can appreciate the dedication to ski when ever and where ever snow can be found. But the park and pipe scenes drag on with uninspiring big air routines that seem out of place on an “East Coast Ski Thriller. The park and pipe skiers lack depth and ability when removed from their unnatural playground.
The Meatheads are loosing touch with the balance between appealing both to skiers that love natural snow and unnatural features. The Meatheads do glade, powder, and big mountain scenes so well, it is sad to see such scenes over shadowed by excessively repetitive park footage. The narrator truly shoots the feature in the foot when noting that an unexpected and rare April storm that was measured in feet rather than inches was making it hard for park skiing. While I was ripping boot to knee deep untracked at Mad River Glen last April, the Meatheads were filming a park scene at Sunday River. That about sums up the problematic ratio of park scenes compared to powder footage.
The film begins with a fun and off beat feature about the Tugg Hill Plateau in New York. This section of New York is hit extremely hard by snow storms but has very little vertical. Two skiers earn their turns for some often sketchy powder terrain footage. These two skiers have my sincere admiration for spending days hiking up short vertical for what looked like some great short powder runs.
Powder segments were primarily driven by Stowe and Jay sequences. The Stowe segments featured especially deep powder footage with good skiing from the Meatheads. Asia Magriby is five months pregnant in the Jay Peak segment and rips big powder lines with style. Unfortunately, there was rather limited footage from this excellent day at Jay Peak and the movie concludes with the viewer, not unlike any other powder day, wanting for more.
Radio Ron, who was featured during a Killington bump feature in last year’s Snow Gods, has a segment all his own. The Meatheads went out to Ohio to film Radio Ron training for the ski season and banging out bumps on a local hill before taking his yearly trip to ski big bumps at Killington in the spring. Radio Ron is an interesting personality and his fitness level is admirable, especially considering his age.
There is a segment from Newfoundland which shows the ultimate pit fall of New England skiing which is planning a trip in advanced. Bad weather derailed this potentially promising feature of the movie. The Meatheads split up into Big Mountain and Park crews that try to make due with less than inspiring conditions. The park crew fails to deliver anything interesting and the Big Mountain crew’s best shots are generally landscape showing the immense and open nature of what the East Coast has to offer those willing to travel and earn turns.
A completely bogus segment from Sunday River features the resort apparently building a Super Park just for the Meatheads. This type of sponsorship or special privledges for free promotional time in a video is why I dislike many larger ski film companies. The same exact feature was shown in Snow Gods last year during which the Meatheads interviewed a groomer operator that was building the park. After a few boring minutes of park rats going big, as previously mentioned, the narrator has the nerve to mention that the epic April blizzard was making things difficult for the park rats. Take a hint: when life gives you powder, go make some powder turns.
The urban jibbing scenes were simply amazing featuring some of the best talent around. Some of these talented young skiers are blurring the lines between skiing and acrobatics. The ski any where mentality of setting up a scene in a downtown park is impressive, cutting edge, and true to the routes of modern skiing despite the unorthodox setting. While I was not impressed nor entertained by the park and pipe segments, these urban scenes were stellar.
In summary, The Meatheads continue to improve production, video, and direction while loosing ski talent, vision, and overall quality of footage. The lack luster segments drag whereas the edge of your seat features are far too short. Especially absent are classic big mountain areas such as Mount Washington spring skiing whereas Stowe continues to be featured in every Meatheads film. While I appreciated seeing several new locations including a crunchy Cannon backcountry segment, I find that multiple film crews with more flexibility in scheduling would probably result in far better segments and scenes. An admirable offering but with more than a half dozen films released, the Meatheads should be progressing instead of regressing.