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Bristol Pit documentary in the offing: ‘A really cool place and a really cool story’

Seth Gillis, a freelance cinematographer and director from Squamish, B.C., is working on a 10-20 minute short documentary about Bristol Pit and the people who frequent the site. Kaicheng Xin/NNSL photo

A production crew consisting of five members recently embarked on a mission to tell the story of Bristol Pit, Yellowknife’s snowboard park.

Seth Gillis, a freelance cinematographer and director from Squamish, B.C., is working on a 10-20 minute short documentary about the site and the people who frequent it in the winter.

The idea was inspired by his old friend, Liam Upton, who helps run Bristol Pit, along with his mother Stacy Ridley and a group of volunteers. Upton moved to Yellowknife a few years ago and started working at the location.

“I knew that he was working at this tiny ski hill and I started doing a bit of research about it and just thought it had really interesting characters,” said Gillis. “There’s a whole crew of folks who kind of make the pit run and build this really sweet community.”

He wants to tell a story about skiing and snowboarding that’s not typical and that showcases the do-it-yourself culture and the spirit of making the most of what you have. He said the pit has a unique vibe and a loyal fan base, especially among local youth.

“It’s just like a really cool story of something that’s happening here that kind of goes beyond just skiing and snowboarding and the quality of a mountain or snow quality, or whatever,” he said. “They ‘re doing it really well up here. It’s so fun to be here and ski the mountain with all the kids and check it out.”

Gillis and his crew flew in for their initial trip to Yellowknife in January. With already a couple terabytes of footages captured, they plan to return in the spring for another shoot, to tell a more complete story. They hope to finish editing the film by late fall and submit it to various film festivals.

Preparations for the project have been underway since summer 2023, when Gillis started pitching it to potential funders and partners. He said he has been doing a lot of research and interviews with the pit’s staff and patrons, as well as digging into its history.

“The pit has been around since the ‘70s, and there’s a whole crew of older characters who put in the rope tow and the lights and the snowmaking and all that stuff,” he said. “So there’s a lot of history there and a lot of stories to tell.”

The film title has not yet been decided, but Gillis has a few options in mind.

“I think it’s a really cool place and a really cool story, and I’m excited to share it with the world,” he said.

Scott Sterling, hill operations manager with the Ragged Ass Riders Snow Sports Society, said he has been involved with the pit for the past six years, and has been managing it for the past four years. He’ll have a prominent role in the upcoming documentary.

“It makes me feel really good, it makes me feel really excited, you know,” he said. “It’s a really cool thing to showcase that we are making it happen here, in a place that people probably don’t think it is happening,” he said.

Sterling hopes the film will inspire more people to come and check out Bristol Pit and join the snowboarding community. He emphasized that the site is not just a ski hill but a place where people can have fun, make friends and express themselves.

About the Author: Kaicheng Xin

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