Stop-Motion Trick Skiing Short Is a Mystifying Thrill

Swiss skier, director, animator, and hardcore punk band member Sämi Ortlieb has created a unique kind of stop-motion that’ll stop you dead in your snowy tracks. Ortlieb’s technique, which he refers to as “landscape animation,” combines stop-motion animation with the natural world. As well as some ultra-sick skiing tricks that seem like pure magic thanks to Ortlieb’s unique filmmaking style.

Laughing Squid picked up on Ortlieb’s new landscape animation (above). The stop-motion film, “Maneuvers,” is a follow-up to a 2017 video from the skier/artist/everything-er. In that video, Ortlieb first toyed with his concept of landscape animation. That is, the idea of bringing an environment to life using stop-animation and the environment’s own materials.

A skier leaping off a snowy rock face, in midair, two dozen feet above the snow beneath him.

Sami Ortlieb

In this video, Ortlieb and his fellow expert skiers show off their skills in a surprisingly heartfelt four-minute film. It’s unclear where Ortlieb is exactly—perhaps somewhere in the Swiss Alps?—but it’s a snowy paradise regardless.

Each scene of the film consists of a jump or other obstacle that Ortlieb executes. At around 30 seconds into the short the skiers build their first ramp; rocketing themselves off of it between two trees that “put their branches down” for the skiers. There are also ramps consisting of logs, rocks, and snow blocks, but Ortlieb’s leap off the sheered side of a mountain around two-and-a-half minutes in has to be the most impressive feat in the video. And the most dangerous. Although, conversely, the least stylized with stop-motion. (That’s pretty understandable.)

As for how Ortlieb made the film, it seems he and his crew did it the old-fashioned way. I.e. frame by frame. “It’s definitely the most physically intense type of animation I’ve ever done,” Ortlieb said in a Vimeo blog post. “We would shovel, then run out of frame or run to the camera to take a picture, just to run back to the jump to shovel again for the next animation frame,” the skier extraordinaire added. This reminds us that making something magnificent takes a lot of tedious work. And some really nasty falls that look even more painful one still frame at a time.

Feature image: Sami Ortlieb

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