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Talking ‘Fire On The Mountain’ with Kimmy Fasani

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the film, Fire On The Mountain, we thought it’d be a good idea to get some input from those involved behind the scenes and in front of the lens for this psychedelic and legendary shoot. We will be talking with each athlete from the film about their experience with making the movie and with the Grateful Dead, and how skiing in a light suit isn’t for the faint of heart.

RELATED: Join Us In Jackson Next Week For Fire On The Mountain

Who better to start with than the legendary Kimmy Fasani, whose snowboarding resume we are sure you are familiar with at this point, including multiple rider of the year awards and endless mag covers. Kimmy is a Mammoth resident with her husband (and the film’s director) Chris Benchetler and their young son Koa in tow, Kimmy was an integral part of the making of this film, and helping the vision come to life.

RELATED: Fire On The Mountain Lodging Package at Continuum Hotel

We caught up with Kimmy between premieres and the official opening of their home mountain of Mammoth and got her to take us on the visual trip of making Fire On The Mountain, from concept to screen. Balancing motherhood and stormy night shoots, and why Ripple is going to be the top lullaby for 2019.

Kimmy ripping a pow turn after dark. Peter Morning photo.

Bronson: Well, let's start maybe tell a little bit about how the movie got started with you and Chris or was it all Chris? How did the concept or catalyst of the project begin?

Kimmy: Yeah, definitely all Chris. I think because Chris has designed ski graphics for all of his skis for the past 10 years, there was a link that kind of got to TGR, to Brian, our friend Brian Francis, and it was the Grateful Dead trying to find a ski brand to do a collaboration with of a ski graphic. And Burton had actually done five years of graphics with the Grateful Dead. So I had connections but only through seeing them with the Burton line. And so when they reached out to Chris and started really feeling out if it was the right option and Chris' love for music, and we have a friend that is like an incredible Deadhead that had really kind of inlaid that music in us over the years. I think Chris saw like this huge opportunity of, well he always has a project that he's working on for how he's going to showcase his season. And when he got the opportunity to do the ski graphic, I think he just decided this would be a really cool segment to kind of share the connection between music and all the sports he loved.

And so it was just very natural. It was such a seamless storyline pitch and everybody kind of bit on. And at first, I mean we had a four-month-old when all of this started, all the conversations were starting. So I was definitely very invested in being a mom and learning how to balance my career and motherhood. So this was most certainly Chris's project and it's been wild to see how much momentum it's gained and where it is now.

Bronson: When did the beginning of the snowball start of making the film? I know when the skis came out, what was that, two years ago?

Kimmy: Yeah. The skis actually launched this past year. So they were in motion for about a year prior because it's like you're drawing them and you're designing them and then the graphic is put into production. And during that whole process is when he pitched this concept of having it be a movie project that he's able to really show how the collaboration is more multifaceted than just a ski graphic on something. It's showcasing him as an athlete, but also so many other connections and yeah, passion.

Athlete/artist Chris Benchetler getting after it on his Bentchetlers. Peter Morning photo.

Bronson: Yeah, it's this ever-evolving thing, for sure. That's awesome. What were some of the technical aspects you guys had to overcome or maybe worked with Chris to help him overcome for doing this? Because I know night skiing, and lighting, where doing everything with perfect conditions during the day is hard enough.

Kimmy: I think that was like we bit off way more than we could chew. This whole project from [its] conception was something that was so unique and such a once in a lifetime opportunity that we wanted to do it right. And Chris had this vision of doing this night segment at Mammoth since he has grown up here and his parents met here in the 70s like he thought what a cool way to really show his home in a unique way that nobody has been able to do before. And then because of Chris's connection with Sweet Grass and his participation in the movie Afterglow, he already had the connection to the crew that did incredible lighting for a movie segment. And because he was part of it, this could be a really awesome opportunity for them to partner again to bring Chris's vision to life this time.

And so we cut no corners and we made it the most standout we could. But in doing so, Chris's vision, and mind you, I'll just say Chris's vision, from the beginning, everything that he envisioned has come to fruition. Every detail. So it really shows you like how much purpose and passion he put into it, and also how much intention. And it all really started with the night segment he wanted to do in the middle of a storm. He wanted it to be stormy and he wanted it to be aggressive and like a psychedelic journey through like the peak of a trip. He wanted people to come on this ride with him as he sees the mountains, but also as this music played to all of us in the mountains and [really] be the story. And so, sure enough, Mammoth jumped on board and Mammoth Mountain is the reason that this project really was able to come to life. Because of their support and their understanding of how massive an opportunity and vision this was really helped lay that groundwork of footage where we were able to capture something that was so unique.

And so I would say some of the challenges that we've faced were being out in the middle of the night and during huge storms, wind cycles, freezing rain, fog, just so much variability. And not only were we doing it at night, but it's like when you're doing it in the middle of a snowstorm because this is on a resort you only have a specific timeframe to really make it happen. You don't have a gnarly window. Like you close it and then it's like every day counts, every minute counts out there. So that was most certainly like the biggest first challenge, was getting through the night segment.

And for me personally as a rider, I was also still breastfeeding Koa, so I would put him down at night and then I had to be home and ready to feed him by 3:30 in the morning. So I had only a small window to be out in the mountains.

And then to top it off, I also broke my wrist in Japan and had that surgery four weeks before this night segment. So I wasn't even clear to snowboard during that night segment. And it was just so complicated like there were so many [aspects] that people just might not ever hear the full depth of. But that's kind of what makes this project so special was like, it looks flawless and it looks unbelievable, but it's because of all the dedication and hard work that everybody put in.

The group warms up by the fire (on the mountain). Peter Morning photo.

Bronson: It's kind of like any really great creative project in a nutshell right there. Everything underneath the surface is what makes it actually good afterward.

Kimmy: Right, right, exactly. And it just makes it that much more rewarding. And then on top of that, when Chris was going to Indonesia, he had this vision with Rob Machado surfing at night with lights and light suits, and that was like a whole nother ballgame was figuring out the light suits. And so they ended up having to go to Indonesia with like 30 bags of gear. And filming in the open water at night with a boat lighting the waves. And that just made it like a completely blinding experience. They really couldn't see down the line.

RELATED: Chris Benchetler is Painting Lines on More Than Just Mountains

Bronson: Yeah, definitely with, you know, film lights and everything's way brighter than standard.

Kimmy: Exactly. And so altogether, like when you look at this project, the behind-the-scenes layers, there's so much depth and so much we were able to make magic happen where we shouldn't have.

Bronson: Yeah. That's also awesome of Mammoth to get on board in kind of the days of corporate mountain culture and insurance liability and all that sort of stuff, that's great that they got behind it.

Kimmy: Yeah. And I think it just really showed both of all of our commitment to each other. You know, we really wanted Mammoth to be highlighted as this hometown mountain that has catered to us and we have been able to work with them so closely. And show others like how much of an experience you can have in the mountains. And sure, everybody's not going to get a night experience like we were able to do at night. But just when you see a mountain willing to work with their athletes so well, it really does show their true colors and Mammoth was stand out.

Mammoth showing its true colors. FOTM photo.

Bronson: So a little bit into Grateful Dead now. How long have you been into the band and the music?

Kimmy: So my mom has an incredible record collection. And while I was growing up, she used to listen to records all the time. And unfortunately she got sick a few years ago and then passed away. But we went through all of her records while she was sick and she was able to tell me a lot of stories about her records. So I became more familiar with the Grateful Dead.

And then we also, like I was saying earlier, we have a friend Conrad Lay who works down in Hollywood and he is a complete Deadhead. And he had been friends with us for 12 years. And every time he's with us, he's like jam banding on the dashboard of his car when he's driving us anywhere. So I can't say that I've been very familiar with the band for a long time, but most certainly over the last few years I've become more devoted and I see as the vision, I see what they created and I see how powerful it is. And when we had Koa, Ripple actually became his lullaby. And any time that he was fussy, Chris would sing him Ripple, or play and Ripple. And now every time we're in the car and we want Koa to nap, we turn on Ripple and he always goes, "Again, again," until he falls asleep. So it's really cool. Like now it's definitely transcended into our family.

Bronson: What do you think that music like the Grateful Dead, you went into it a little bit, but what do you think their music and jam music in general, but Grateful Dead have kind of pioneered that. What do you think their connection and kind of outdoor community and recreating in the outdoors really have in common?

Kimmy: What the Grateful Dead has done, it has created an environment where it doesn't have to be scripted, it doesn't have to be forecasted, it doesn't have to be scheduled. Let's go with every day and [see] how it feels. And that is so how we live our life in the mountains, being professional athletes, it's like you can never predict what the weather is going to do and even if you know that snow's in the forecast, like you have no idea what that's going to do to the canvas that you're about to ride. And I feel like the Grateful Dead definitely approaches their music that way. You know, I'm sure they have a plan of the songs that they're going to play and they might have a setlist now, but initially it was "Let's just go and feel what we feel and play the way we want to play out there and give everybody a unique show and experience." And I feel there's so much cohesion there between action sports and their music that it's really easy to fall in love with it. And I feel like it really resonates with so much of what we all do that it makes it even a deeper connection. So when you listen to it it's like it's more fun because I can feel that energy when you're listening to their music.

Bronson: For sure. Especially if things change like they can if the sun stays out and avalanche conditions change in an hour and you've got to figure out a new plan.

Kimmy: Exactly. It's like everything we do out there, sure, you have an idea, but it usually never goes to a 100% plan.

Rob Machado gets after it after dark. Andrew Shield photo.

Bronson: What was it like working with Rob Machado, [Jeremy], Michelle and some of the rest of the athletes on the team? How did you guys bring them on board?

Kimmy: Yeah. So Chris is actually, Rob got involved with working with Chris for the past two projects prior to this that Chris had done because Chris was super inspired by Rob and ended shaping some of his skis after Rob's surfboards. And so they ended up meeting, and Chris was able to share that connection and then they realized that they kind of have really similar passions and interests. So they've been able to work together over the past three years on these projects. And so Rob has become definitely a very close friend of ours and having him up in the mountains was so special.

I feel like it's so cool to see Chris go surfing with Rob and then Rob come and ride the mountains with us. Because it really shows that there's a deeper love of just board sports in general. And being able to surf the snow and then surf a wave, it's like you see the connection between how Chris skis and Rob surfs. Like you see this kind of bond. So having him part of the project was really incredible.

And then obviously having Jeremy Jones, and Danny Davis, and Michelle be part of it really showed us that there was value in what Chris was recreating because they didn't have any obligation to [join], their sponsors weren't supporting them to be part of it initially. And it was just a sole decision on them wanting to be part of it. And I think that really speaks volumes for their passion for the Grateful Dead and also their love for the mountains and storytelling and the adventures that we took them on. So yeah, I'm so grateful for the whole team that has worked with us through this because it definitely evolved and grew and gained so much more momentum than we could have expected. So their commitment was just huge.

Bronson: Quick fire round, then we'll let you get back to prepping for opening day. If there was a sport you wanted to tackle that you're not good at, what would it be?

Kimmy: Surfing for sure. I get so much heat for not being good at surfing, so I would love to be able to like go to surf camp for like a month and just come back and be able to surf barrels, and I don't know.

Bronson: Favorite concert venue you've been to?

Kimmy: Definitely the Gorge. Oh my gosh, that was incredible. Koa learned to walk at a Grateful Dead concert at the Gorge. That's pretty funny.

Bronson: That's rad. What's your favorite Dead track?

Kimmy: I'm going to say Ripple, just because I love the connection that I have with Koa and that song. And it's also the ender of the movie, so it just kind of brings everything full circle.

Bronson: Yeah. Outside of your home mountain, what's one of your favorite mountains in the world to ride?

Kimmy: I'm going to say Haines, Alaska. It is something that is far beyond any kind of terrain I've ever seen and been able to ride.

Bronson: That's awesome. Favorite candy? I always like this question.

Kimmy: I know. I'm a chocolate chip cookie person. So-

Bronson: That's a good one though.

Kimmy: Let's just say chocolate chip cookies.

Can’t wait to see this film, Kimmy, Chris and team are so talented!

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stash member Bronson Lamb