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Steep

Extreme skiing gets a big-screen documentary.

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It sure looks freakin' awesome -- barreling down the 45-degree face of a remote mountain, through perfect powder snow, before skiing off a cliff and parachuting to safety. This is the new edge of extreme skiing, a daredevil sport largely pioneered in the Alps in the 1970s. Mark Obenhaus' documentary updates the uninitiated on sport's development -- from its roots among Europeans and their ungainly hopping turns through the American yahoos who made it playful to the Alaska-based technicians who finally rendered the gravity-defying activity graceful. While helicopters give wide-shot scenery and in-helmet cameras put you on the stomach-turning slopes, the action grows repetitive (unless you're a huge ski-vid fan). And Steep also leaves a lot of potentially provocative ground uncovered: What kind of cash is needed to go heli-skiing in the back country, anyhow? Is this adventure in the grand tradition, or a new elitism? And, while most of the skiers are happy to ruminate about their spiritual connection to the mountains, no one seems to ask whether it might be a higher calling to leave some parts of pristine nature free of human conquest. Starts Fri., Feb. 15. Harris (AH) [capsule review]

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