The Jaded Local
Thirty-five years ago, the most seminal Hollywood ski movie was, um, released on the public, exposing them to the stunt skiing of Tahoe legend Robbie Huntoon, the boozy antics of Squaw Valley misfits, a number of questionable scenes, including a 17-year-old runaway being roofied in a sauna by the entire Austrian freestyle team, and the repeated appearance of a pair of improbably shaped aftermarket breasts. Marketed as a teen comedy, Hot Dog: The Movie promised America’s 13-year-old boys a utopia where Squaw Valley had 10,000 feet of vertical, everyone shredded pow and smoked dope all day, and boobs urgently needed to be free.
Today, it’s looking pretty dated, and I say it’s time for a sequel. But what would a contemporary Hot Dog look like? The original blatantly exploited women as sex objects and built its plot on a sliver of a story about the sport’s sanctioning body selling the soul of pro freestyle skiing to corporate advertisers. A proper sequel would need a new ski genre, updated conflicts and characters, and a broader target demographic.
Maybe we start by inverting everything by changing the gender of the hero, Harkin Banks, a plucky sheep rancher from Idaho with an outside shot to win the overall title at the Freestyle Nationals. Banks could certainly be a woman, but you wouldn’t want to use a model athlete from today as the protagonist because model athletes today, male or female, would spend all their spare time lifting weights, doing PT on their ACL, and Instagramming healthy organic meals—not picking up runaways at gas stations and partying all night.
I mean, maybe Lindsey Vonn could swoop in at the end like a guest star from an ’80s afterschool special to beat the shit out of everyone in the Chinese Downhill and leave the locals with some pithy advice about rehabbing from surgery. But I have a hard time imagining her serenading a teenager with a folk song in a South Lake sex motel.
And how would we adapt the stereotypical ’80s conflict between the ragtag band of misfits and the preppy snobs? Certainly, there are still snobs aplenty, but who would be the loveable misfits? You won’t find too many in Squaw these days—dan O’callahan’s rat pack would be telecommuting from Silicon Valley startups while Kickstartering organic distillery/yoga studios in Truckee.
The only logical band of misfits is the hard-working backbone of every ski town: Immigrants. But the vast majority of Hispanic or Eastern European ski town locals don’t ski or party because they’re busy working three jobs and hiding from ICE. If ski town Mexican-americans acted like O’callahan and Co.—not working, partying, trying to get laid, etc.—the entire resort industry would collapse inside a week.
But at least there’s no shortage of snobs.
The FIS is still awful and retrograde, so the corrupt sanctioning body remains. But modern freestyle skiers who would be going to Nationals are about as likely to be raging before the comp as Lindsey Vonn would be before a DH, or an immigrant after his or her second shift of the day. The original film did illustrate, however sketchily, the end of competitive Freestyle as a free lifestyle.
So who are the bad guys in 2018? Real estate developers? Well, they already won. Giant evil corporations taking over ski areas? Ditto.
The only modern plot conflict I can think of is the battle to save the last vestige of ski town joy that hasn’t been destroyed or sold out: shredding pow in local backcountry stashes. Maybe that’s the protagonist’s fight, to save our good-times high-fivin’, safety-break-takin’, backcountry-powslashin’. Except… skiers might actually be the bad guys in this scenario. Because every time someone posts on the Internet about the cool place they just shredded with the untracked pow, that place gets a little less cool, and a little more tracked. Our addiction to high-tech narcissism is the real enemy: fuck Facebook, Instagram, and all that vampiric garbage. A contemporary Harkin Banks would probably roll into town in a built-out Sprinter van that his parents bought (albeit covered in stickers from “sponsors”), stoked to slay all the coolest local backcountry lines and document them via a POV webisode series about his Rad Lifestyle.
OK, that’s all pretty depressing. Instead, let’s just remake the original Hot Dog simply for the escapism. Update the skiing, get rid of the misogynistic bits, and throw together a mishmash of Shredding and Good Times:
Hot Dog 2: Viva Vonn
Small-town sheep-herder Lindsey Vonn rolls into town for Nationals, meets up with Daniella Callhandro and her ragtag band of Mexican ski bums, slays sick pow in the backcountry (spraying kooks when they stop to Instagram), hooks up with a hot dude in a hot tub, bankrupts FIS by dropping off the tour to ski pow and smoke dope, and then beats, um, Shaun White or some other annoying douche to win the Chinese Downhill, end global warming forever, and bankrupt Vail.
Illustration: Tyler Hartlage