words:: Feet Banks photos:: Zachary Moxley
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“I wanted to make something with substance,” says 23-year-old filmmaker Zac Moxley. “I set a goal that in the first three months of 2020 I wanted to do a project for that had meaning.”
Moxley was actually on the beach in Bali when he got an email from the team at Silvertip Heliskiiing inviting him, and his mom, to join them for the first session of the season. “They’d had a tonne of snow and no one else had been up there yet,” Moxley says. “The weather looked cold so I knew there’d be deep blower pow… Once I knew my mom could get the time off, I was on the first flight home.”
“Home” for Moxley is Whistler BC, and “mom” is Stephanie Reesor, best known in the Sea to Sky as “Princess Stephanie” for her flamboyant personality, generous spirit and inclination to make every day as crazy-fun as possible.
“I’m biased because she’s my mom,” Moxley admits, “But I do get a lot of people commenting on how amazing and funny she is. It’s like outgoing, but a much more flowery version of outgoing. She likes to shock people and be the life of the party. I’ve definitely never met another mother like her.”
For Moxley, who was enrolled in ski school at the age of 18 months and skied his whole life, taking his mom, a ski instructor and guide in Whistler, to a heliski lodge would be a literal dream come true.
“Two years ago I gave my mother a dreamcatcher, and I asked her to think of ten dreams her and I could go do together over the next ten years. I told her to run wild with it. The first year we went to our friend Simon’s salmon fishing lodge. And this year, a heli lodge was high on her list.”
Moxley grew up skiing, and started his filmmaking career around age 13, filming his friends on the ski hill then rushing home to complete late-night edits that would show up on newschool ski websites the next day. “Skiing has played a huge role in my life—I don’t know where I’d be without it—but it wasn’t really until I was a teenager that I started to realize the sacrifices she made, as a single mom, so I could grow up skiing.”
“I didn’t realize exactly what he was up to while we were at the lodge, I was just so happy to be there, skiing with my kid.”
Situated in the Cariboo Mountains, and surrounded by the pristine wilderness of two Provincial parks, Silvertip is the most isolated and remote heli lodge in British Columbia. “I got there and immediately knew it was gonna be one of the best weeks of my life,” Moxley says. “That was my first time on skis this year and right away snow was flying up over my head. Deep, blower pow. Every day we had some of the best runs of my life and that’s saying a lot—I grew up skipping school to ski on deep days. To get to ski like that with my mom, and then go back to a lodge where she has all the staff laughing and the food is so incredible, the hot tub, the mist steaming up off the lake… it was her happy place and she brought the energy level up for everyone. That’s what she does.”
And while a chilly cold weather system made for epic powder skiing (See Sidebar), for Moxley, filming a video in -30 posed its own unique challenges. “The drone was having issues, my camera batteries were dying. I would pull my camera out in the middle of a run, get a shot and have everything packed back in the bag in under a minute. We were moving fast, no time to review anything.
I knew I was getting shots but really didn’t know what I had until I got home. But then I formulated a story and began piecing it together and realized I had all these beautiful shots with my mom…its sweet to make something that’s not pure adrenaline or me jumping out of a plane. At the end of the day I’m really happy to have a video that hopefully makes people feel something. This piece has made a few people cry.”
And one of those people was Princess Stephanie herself. “I cried the first 22 times I watched it,” she admits. “I didn’t realize exactly what he was up to while we were at the lodge, I was just so happy to be there, skiing with my kid. We usually ski on Christmas day and maybe one other time a year, so this was the most I’ve skied with him in a while. And that snow and that terrain, the cold weather…it just felt like such an extreme adventure we were on together. Every parent knows how special it is to spend time with your children, and then to go to such an incredible place and make something like this, memories that we can share and revisit for the rest of our lives…there is nothing better.”
“Zach called me a few days ago and said, ‘mom I told you not to share that video yet,’” Reesor says of the preview edit her son sent her. “And I told him, I didn’t share it or send it to anyone, but you know, if someone comes over to the house I might show them on my phone. Then he says, ‘mom, did you really watch the video 128 times?’ Yeah that sounds about right.” —ML