Fifteen years ago next week, about 40 or so prominent skiers, snowboarders and filmmakers from all over gathered on the rooftop of the Mountain Chalet on a bright, beautiful and crisp fall afternoon.
Aspen Skiing Co. was launching a new film festival, aimed largely at simply fueling the stoke for the upcoming winter season, and had invited a number of ski and snowboard industry folks who were involved with the films.
Outside of the films, SkiCo’s event staffers thought it might be worthwhile to get their guests together to discuss a few topics that were relevant to the snow-sport industry.
“We kind of just threw it out there — we had a full roundtable with athletes and filmmakers — and it was a pretty open discussion of issues that different businesses were facing, and the changing landscape of media,” Deric Gunshor, director of event development for SkiCo, said in an interview this week. “And this was in 2005, so long before any modern iteration of how content is consumed. At that point, the idea that people would stream everything wasn’t even in the minds’ eye at all.”
The inaugural film festival and subsequent conversations were viewed by SkiCo as a success, and thus, “The Meeting” was born.
Now in its 15th year, The Meeting has evolved drastically since that first fall roundtable: What was initially envisioned as a single film premiere is now a bon-a-fide, four-day series of lectures by snow-sport industry leaders, as well as conferences and films.
In the winter of 2004, Matchstick Productions and Oakley partnered with SkiCo to shoot a ski film locally. The following summer, Gunshor recalled: “We were talking with the film producers about coming in and screening it, and all of the sudden it was like, ‘You know what, let’s blow this out and bring in 10 movies and have a whole weekend film festival.’”
“We’ll bring in the athletes and the producers and the sponsors and kind of the industry surrounding the ski and snowboard films and media and get everyone together and show them a different side of Aspen,” he continued.
Gunshor pointed out that many of those folks had only visited Aspen during the Winter X Games, which “didn’t really show them everything Aspen had to offer.”
Today, The Meeting is separated by its two parts: The conference, which is more industry-specific, and the films, which are for locals and anyone who is counting the days until winter.
While there are many conferences that explore specific topics, Gunshor called The Meeting talks, which span Oct. 2-4, a unique platform that’s “focused in and around outdoor and winter sports as it relates to audiences and content and marketing.” Executives from companies like Audi, Smith, and The North Face will partake in and speak at The Meeting 15.
While the conference has grown tenfold over the years, the same cannot be said about the film festival amid a media landscape that is constantly changing.
“Over time, it’s expanded pretty broadly, mostly because that film business is dramatically reduced,” Gunshor said. “If we tried to program a film festival like we used to, we would struggle to find that many films today. They’re just in that long-form content, [and] there’s just not as much being produced.”
This year’s festival, running Oct. 4-5, will screen four films as well as submissions from its annual NEPSA photo and short film contest. (“NEPSA” is “Aspen” spelled backwards).
The festival’s mission, however, remains the same: “To get people excited for winter,” Gunshor said.