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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Idaho ski film inspires, highlights hidden gems of the potato state

When the world shut down in 2020, professional skier Essex Prescott found himself homebound for the first winter in a long time.

Prescott, a Coeur d’Alene native who grew up skiing at Schweitzer, had spent roughly the past decade traveling the world in search of steep lines and fresh powder as a free skier for Nordica. While he always wondered what sort of big mountain skiing was near his hometown, he never had time to fully investigate.

“We just tended to go to a lot of hot spots when we were filming and whatnot,” he said. “Japan and whatnot. It’s the best in the world, but you’re always competing with other people and other film crews.”

That all changed in 2020 as a global pandemic shuttered most travel and left Prescott homebound for the first time in a long time. So he and a group of childhood friends set their sights on backyard objectives. During that 2020 season, they researched and skied a number of lines and filmed their exploits.

The resulting 15-minute film, “Famous Potatoes: An Idaho Ski Film” is a beautifully shot and edited portrait of the big-mountain skiing the North Idaho region has to offer. While the film is intentionally vague about exact locations, everything skied was within 75 miles of downtown Coeur d’Alene, Prescott said.

“There is so much terrain out there,” he said. “It’s almost like, ‘Holy cow, how did I not figure it out sooner?’ And it just keeps getting better.”

Getting to that terrain wasn’t easy, though. The team, which included Blake Bowerman, Stephen Matkin, Kyle Vandever and Cameron Hotchkiss, scouted each location in advance (including one helicopter flight) and had to snowmobile and backcountry ski miles in to reach each peak.

“It takes so much effort to do, which is great,” Prescott said. “It’s as good as it gets.”

A key part of that planning effort was considering snow conditions and avalanche danger. Prescott credited the work forecasters at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center do to provide condition reports. Ticket sales from the film’s November premier in Coeur d’Alene went to the avalanche center, Prescott said.

During the season, IPAC does two forecasts a week broken into three zones.

In many popular backcountry skiing areas, including the Cascade Mountains and Canada, there is a forecast every day.

“They just need more money to get more happening,” Prescott said.

As the region grows, and winter backcountry recreation becomes more popular, Prescott sees that need only increasing.

He hopes his film shows off what the area has to offer, if you’re willing to put the work in.

“You can kind of go as far as you want to go around here,” he said.

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