Teton Gravity Research (TGR) is coming to the Holiday Twin Drive-In in Fort Collins for a one-night-only movie premiere of its 2020 annual ski and snowboard film “Make Believe” on October 8, 2020. The film features some of the world’s most celebrated freeskiers and snowboarders, including two female legends Christina Lusti and Caite Zeliff, in the superior terrain of Japan, Jackson Hole, British Columbia, Colorado, and Montana. TGR is adapting to the circumstances and thriving, creating something new that brings back both nostalgia in the drive-in and stoke for the wintertime. “Make Believe” is directed by Steve Jones, Todd Jones, and Jon Klaczkiewicz.
“Make Believe is whatever your wildest imagination can dream up. It’s an unwavering commitment to that dream in order to make it reality,” said TGR co-founder Steve Jones. “Ultimately, it has been in the works for 25 years. Realizing all-time conditions in almost every location this past season, Make Believe showcases some of the most progressive athletes and riding on the planet. We are pumped to kick off winter with innovative worldwide screenings at locations such as Drive Ins, Outdoor Pop-up Theaters, private screenings, and more.”
Christina “Lusti” Lustenberger
Christina “Lusti” Lustenberger moved to Revelstoke in 2008, in a career transition and exploring the terrain every since. “BC is the Mecca for winter ski guiding. We have three major ranges and many more sub-ranges to explore,” says Lusti. “The mountains are grand, glaciers are huge, and the valleys are still very wild. I couldn’t think of a better place to live.”
Badass barely scratches the surface when it comes to describing Lusti. Christina’s list of achievements is of many. Some brief highlights are Sherpas Cinema, Children of the Columbia, 2018, featured in TGR, Winterland, 2019, ACMG Ski Guide, 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, Canadian National Alpine Ski Team, and First Descent, Black Friar, Adamant Range, a lifetime of devotion and mastery to the sport.
“My biggest accomplishments are some of my first ski descents around BC. These lines and memories are unique and stand out as memorable accomplishments,” says Lusti. “Seeking out unskied lines is what motivates and challenges me. Right before heading to Pemberton, a friend and I skied a first descent in Rogers Pass. It’s a stunning line that links right off the summit into a huge face and couloir. It was a very enjoyable day. Feelings and objectives like this are what I’ll be chasing.”
This year was clearly like no other, but somehow, “we got lucky, I guess as we started filming late February and snuck in the Pemberton segment right before COVID shut down tourism & local mountains,” says Lusti. “I left Pemberton with the intention of going to AK with two other TGR athletes, unfortunately, or fortunately, we canceled the trip. Aside from canceling and ending the season short, I think the Pemberton trip went really well.”
“The crew was awesome, and I feel fortunate to work with such talented boys. It was myself and three other athletes Ian Sam and nick. I like the energy they bring to the day. I’m usually throwing my head back, laughing so hard or cursing my snowmobile and lack of sledding skills,” says Christina. “Once we got to climbing the lines, I felt like I was in my own. I really enjoyed sharing some big lines with the boys, and I’m already looking forward to another filming trip this year. I did, however, have my own accommodation. This was important for me to have my own space to decompress.”
Christina’s morning rituals are coffee, and after that, about 30-45min of looking at the weather, forecasts, infoex, etc. She says the more knowledge you can acquire before heading out will help your objective be more successful. The ski season ended a bit early this year, “Yea spring was weird. I had three really exciting ski trips planned, and they all got shut down. After that, I dove into working on our house, learning new skills, and enjoying the time at home,” says Lusti. “I’m now more motivated and ready to start ski season. Like all my winters, I’m looking forward to exploring more around home. I’m lucky to live in British Columbia; we have lifetimes of mountains to explore. This will be a season of going deeper into the hills.”
She hopes for a film project that shows who she is, to show off her style in the mountains. “I’ve always been part of someone else’s project. I’m really hoping to create my own film. Here’s hoping it’s this year,” believes Christina.
And her advice to someone who admires her, “Be authentic. Not accepting the status quo. I come from a ski racing background, so I think training and progression will always be ingrained in me. It’s also what’s so unique about this sport and spending time in the mountains. One day is never like the last. You have to be physically and mentally engaged. The momentum of learning never stops; we’re always taking it in.”
Twenty-six-year-old free skier Caite Zeliff believed in a dream of being in an adventure film, and specifically a TGR ski film. In December of 2019, she got the call. “I’m in Jackson, Wyoming. So it’s such a gift to have them (TGR) in my backyard. And it’s been a dream of mine to film with them. And one of the reasons I moved to Jackson, so I got called into the office. They basically asked if I wanted to start filming the next day.”
Zeliff woke up that next morning and almost called it off. She felt sick. The very thing she has been trying so hard to do had come to fruition, and it was her time to bring it. Caite stepped into this role and gave it all she had and then some. She got banged up, bruised, black-eyed, broken-nosed. There was a point when she asked herself if she was taking it too far, but reflected on all of her male ski friends who show their wounds like battle scars; Caite checked in with trusted friends, and she just kept pushing herself as far as she could. The time was now to do this thing she had put her whole life into.
“Something that’s actually not told is, I actually broke my leg in March two days before Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed down. I was filming with TGR, and I think this is the biggest lesson of filming with them.
I was really hungry, like incredibly hungry.
Lindsay Dyer is a friend of mine, and she’s definitely super on my side, and also is a woman in a man’s world. She understands that there are times where maybe we say yes, when we should say no.
So every time I showed up bloody or with a black eyes, she was like, ‘just know you can say no.’ And I understood that. So I was taking all this on personally for no other reason other than I wanted it.
And then I got another like face cut and I wrote to Jess McMillan and I was like, am I crazy? Like, am I pushing myself to a place of getting hurt. Like, am I blind? And she goes, Caite, do you want to be an athlete or do you want to be a model?
My dream was coming true. I wanted my segment to be a breakthrough performance for me. I knew that filming was kind of wrapping up in a sense and I really want to ski this line. We had an incredible morning.
I had two of the biggest airs and best lines of the segment filmed earlier. We went into this line and there were just things that were red flags that I ignored. The lighting wasn’t great. The couloir had been baking in the sun and its Southern facing, it had been a warmer day. I felt invincible. It’s funny ’cause I try to think that I’m an incredibly humble person, but when it comes to skiing, I’m in the mode.
There’s one last thing that I always do put my mouth guards in and I couldn’t find my mouth guards…. And now, thinking back on it, that was the Universe giving me one last time to not do this. The drum was in the air. The boys were ready. I had skied this line a bunch. It was much smaller than the two lines I had skied earlier. And I jumped into the couloir and the snow is quite good.
I jumped in the meat of the line. I just straightened out. In the footage, it almost looks like it was easy. And I just stomped, and straight-lined out, thinking that the worst is behind me. It’s a 20-foot mandatory air into a couloir.
I straight-lined out and then I went to take a big sweeping turn, just like cut my speed. And the snow had changed a ton and sun cracks just sucked me up and spit me out into this really aggressive Tomahawk. I heard this really horrible noise and I stopped. I remember just being so upset with myself because I knew that I had gone against my gut. I pulled myself together. We had to get back to the resort two miles away. So I used the adrenaline that I had to get back.”
Zeliff grew up in New Hampshire with a single mom who shared a love of music and supported her in any way imaginable. She inherited athletic gifts from her father who wasn’t in the home. She found skiing through an after school volunteer led program. As soon as she started competing and racing, she was noticed, because it was her gift. Caite got scholarships and it took her places she never imagined. But her free spirit was being called to powder, and the west. The thrill seeker wanted to push boundaries in the sport and live bigger.
Zeliff is just getting started but already achieved 2x Queen of Corbets, 1st, Nendaz Freeride 2* FWQ, 2018, “Timeless,” Warren Miller 2019, “Make Believe,” Teton Gravity Research, 2020, and Grand Teton ski descent 2018.
Caite says, “it’s okay to push it, but also remember to follow your gut when it doesn’t line up, because it is a very dangerous sport. Even when you feel invincible, it’s good to listen.”
The crew was able to film 64 days with Caite before the resorts shut down for COVID.
We all need a little bit of hope and happiness right now, and TGR is certainly delivering. The new trailer for the film can be found on TGR’s website and on Teton Gravity Research TV, the company’s comprehensive new online streaming platform which went live on Apple TV and Google Play on Aug. 10. Teton Gravity Research Premium is available for monthly payments of $4.99 or a one-time annual fee of $49.99. Premium membership includes access to TGR’s vast library of 25 years of award-winning and celebrated TGR films and content, discounted tour tickets at selection locations, discounts on adventure travel and lodging, and exclusive monthly discounts from premium outdoor brands. More benefits are promised as they expand their new network.