Full Down Jacket: Mammoth’s Boys in Blue
The Sheet visits the glamorous world of Mammoth Mountain ski patrollers in the 1980s
Two weeks ago, The Sheet took readers back to the world of Mammoth Mountain ski patrollers in the 1960s, in honor of Mammoth’s first-ever Ski Patrol Reunion (“Patrollers on the Loose,” April 22). This weekend, patrollers past and present will descend on Mammoth Mountain for a weekend of sharing memories, laughs and hot laps.
In honor of the reunion, The Sheet delved into the glamorous era of blue and orange uniforms, CB sunglasses, Mexican marijuana and montages—the glorious 1980s.
“This was the golden age of MTV,” said Ian Scott, who is organizing the reunion. “The Boys in Blue videos set the precedent” for the videos that patrollers still make for their year-end “Pimp Party,” said Scott, “but not too many have held up to the Boys in Blue.”
The year was 1984, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrollers wore blue Chevron-style jackets emblazoned with orange crosses, hence the moniker.
“There was a long-standing tradition that the Ski Patrol always had an end of the year party where they did skits, and one year they decided, ‘Let’s do a video!’ and they came to me to see if I could help out,” said Cliff Hake, who worked in Mammoth’s video department for about eleven years in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “Our real job was to provide training tapes and to document things… and we were fortunate to have a very advanced video program at the ski area, which is pretty unique in the industry.” That advanced program led to the “Hakeavision” films produced by “3-Wanna-Be Productions.”
By the good grace of Brian O’Connor (Senior Videographer/Producer for Mammoth’s marketing department from ’85-’92), most of them are available to watch on YouTube.
“Whoa, we would prefer those not be on YouTube,” mused Gerard “Oly” Oliveira, who was a patrol rookie in 1984 when the “Boys in Blue” series debuted. Oliveira wrote the “original screenplay” for many of the films. Despite Oliveira’s reservations, he laughed about their content and gave credit to Hake, who was hired by Bob Autry (then-Director of MMSA’s video department). In “The Next Year” (1985), scrolling film credits thank “Bob Autry for Hiring Cliff Hake, Cliff Hake for not leaving MMSA for a real job in Hollywood…[and] Hollywood for not offering Cliff a real job.” Hake still does freelance filmmaking from his home in the Eastern Sierra.
“It was a collaboration basically, the ski patrol guys pretty much did all the work and I just provided the technical support in putting [the movies] together,” said Hake this week. “We made the best of what we had and came up with some pretty cool little films, I think.”
Though he demurs, Hake’s work is incredible, especially given the technology available at the time. In the film “Full Down Jacket” (1988) explosives are launched at rope-cutting skiers as a patroller (the late Walter Rosenthal) marks off a “kill talley.” Rosenthal’s character then suffers a Vietnam-style flashback as The Doors’ “The End” rolls, seamlessly edited by Hake.