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Durango brothers commemorate first ski expedition to cross Colorado

‘It's a story that has been swept under the rug’
Cameron Wyatt (left) and Turner Wyatt (right) are directing and producing “Moving Line” a documentary chronicling the first cross state skiing expedition in Colorado. (Courtesy)

Durango brothers Cameron and Turner Wyatt are directing and producing an independent film titled “Moving Line” to cinematically document the first cross-country skiing expedition to traverse Colorado.

“It’s a story that we’ve learned has kind of been swept under the rug,” said Cameron, who started production on “Moving Line” as a solo project in April 2022.

On the morning of March 19, 1978, Alex Drummond, Peter Vanderwall, John King and Tom Weldon (who dropped out of the expedition early and is not featured in “Moving Line”) left Purgatory Resort for the six-week, 490-mile expedition. The route, which was planned by Drummond who led the trip, traversed mountain ranges including the San Juans, Sawatch and Front range. They followed the Continental Divide and passed through Silverton, Aspen and Rocky Mountain National Park.

The route the skiers created helped inform the design of the Colorado Trail, which was completed 10 years later. (Courtesy of the Wyatt brothers)

Because the trip was the first of its kind, Drummond, along with the other expedition members, documented each mile of the route extensively, earning them a place in the archives of the American Alpine Club and the Colorado Mountain Club.

While “Moving Line” chronicles the route of the expedition, the Wyatt brothers also wanted to highlight the unforeseen blooming of artistic expression that resulted from the trip.

“We are exploring the artistic side of these characters who, after their journey, went on to become successful artists,” Cameron said. “It’s kind of the origin story of their artistic expression.”

Drummond went on to become an author and award-winning poet, and King is world-renowned for his kinetic sculptures. The Wyatt brothers have not been able to interview Vanderwall who has not been in contact with Drummond or King for decades and was previously described as “reclusive.”

The title, “Moving Line,” was first sounded out by Drummond during the expedition.

“We were tracing a continuous pencil line all the way diagonally up Colorado. That idea fascinated me,” he said. “That’s the theme that Cameron and Turner have picked up on.”

Inspiration for the cinematic production of “Moving Line” first arose from the ruins of a presentation Drummond gave in 2018 commemorating the trip’s 40th anniversary.

The presentation consisted of a live narrative accompanied by slides from the expedition. While the performance was successful, the audio was not recorded, encouraging Drummond to commission an “expert” to rerecord it.

“That did not turn out well at all. It was that defective video that then prompted Cameron and Turner to do a ‘good video,’” Drummond said. “They inserted their own creativity into the process. And that’s what’s in the making now.”

“Adam has really handed over the creative branch to us,” Cameron said. “He’s super supportive of this project and our vision.”

Rather than creating a re-enactment of the expedition, the Wyatt brothers want “Moving Line” to be a “historical retelling of the expedition through interviews and photos.”

Before production began, Drummond provided Cameron with hundreds of original photographs and thousands of pages of meticulously recorded ski trip reports. It was up to the Wyatt brothers to sort the material, infuse it with secondary interviews and video clips, and create a cohesive and engaging story line.

Alex Drummond, Peter Vanderwall and John King are seen in 1978 outside Aspen along the historic route. (Courtesy of the Wyatt brothers)

When production began, Cameron was spearheading the project, working out of his camper with equipment and expertise he had accumulated through a successful career as a film editor and videographer.

His journey with videography began in high school when he created video announcements. He then pursued a Bachelor of Arts at CU Boulder in film. Since graduating in 2013, he has worked as a film editor and videographer for Discovery Channel and Food Network, among other production companies.

In January, Turner joined the project after stepping down as CEO of Upcycled Food Association to “pursue more creative projects.”

“When Turner joined, (the film) just blossomed,” Cameron said.

While Turner lacks a history in the film industry, he has extensive experience in starting and running businesses as well as working as a social entrepreneur. His professional background has proved advantageous in helping the brothers fundraise, cultivate partnerships and market the film.

“Working with Cameron is awesome. We’re a great team,” Turner said. “We have very different personalities – Cam is quiet and full of lots of technical skill and I have almost no technical skill and (am) more extroverted.”

“Moving Line” is not the first project the brothers have collaborated on, Turner said. The two have started businesses and worked on film projects, like wedding videos, together in the past.

Over the past decade, the brothers have raised millions of dollars to fund various projects, a streak they plan to maintain with “Moving Line.”

Turner launched a crowdfunding campaign on seedandspark.com with the goal of raising $20,000 before Aug. 4 for production and distribution costs. As of Thursday, the campaign has raised $13,000.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to be stewards to people’s dollars and do something creative with (the Durango) community,” Turner said. “Crowdfunding is kind of a radical way to raise money for a project because we’re not dependent on rich philanthropists to fund this; regular people are doing this.”

Additionally, Turner said the brothers hope to raise about $100,000 from corporate sponsorships, which would fund additional interviews as well as entry fees necessary to submit “Moving Line” to film festivals where they could bolster more attention.

“Film festivals are really expensive to apply to,” Turner said. “Some of them are thousands (of dollars) just to submit an application.”

The Wyatt brothers hope to finish production by the end of the summer, and finish post production by the end of the year. Once the film is ready for viewing, they will focus on distribution.

“We’re shooting for the mountain-based film festivals in Colorado and throughout the West,” Turner said, listing the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, the Crested Butte Film Festival and Geranium Film Festival as potential venues.

The intended audience for “Moving Line” is anyone who has an interest or appreciation for cross-country skiing, or the connections between the natural world and the creative one, Cameron said.

“But first and foremost, it’s for Alex,” he said. “We’re just trying to do it justice for him.”

“I am absolutely delighted that this documentary will be part of the history, will be on record and have an artistic flair,” Drummond said. “I am 100% enthusiastic.”

lveress@duarngoherald.com

The skiers skied 500 miles from Durango to Fort Collins, and were inspired to create art by the line in the snow they drew across the state. (Courtesy of the Wyatt brothers)


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