Pro skier from Lake Tapps making a name in fluid industry, dangerous sport

Craig.hill@thenewstribune.comOctober 28, 2013 

Tyler Ceccanti, 22, from Lake Tapps.

ALEX O'BRIEN — Courtesy photo

Tyler Ceccanti is rising toward the top of a changing industry.

Each winter, the 24-year-old Lake Tapps resident makes his living skiing around trees, hucking off cliffs and ripping dramatic lines through untouched powder while film crews record the action.

When Warren Miller Entertainment, named for the ski film industry’s most famous pioneer, unveils its 64th movie Saturday at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, Ceccanti will be featured in a segment about skiing in Montana.

“Ticket to Ride” is the fourth straight Warren Miller movie in which Ceccanti has earned a role.

Warren Miller might still be the most famous name in the ski film business, although the skiing icon no longer films or narrates the movies that bear his name. But today, the company has more competition than ever.

There are now many production companies, and with high-definition cameras so easily available it sometimes feels as if everybody in the lift line is a filmmaker.

For athletes such as Ceccanti, the changing industry has its pros and cons.

“It’s easier to get your name out there,” he said. “… But it’s a lot harder to make money. There are more production companies, and it’s so easy to search for (good footage online) for free. So it’s harder to get that big break.”

Even with regular work in front of the camera, Ceccanti, like most others in his line of work, has a second job. He works for his father’s construction company.

“It’s good money, I enjoy it, and they give me time off for winter,” he said. “There aren’t many people who can make their entire living off skiing.”

Shortly after “Ticket to Ride” premiered this month in Salt Lake City, we talked with Ceccanti about skiing, racing and safety.

Question: When did you get your big break?

Answer: One moment that was big for me was when I participated in a big mountain competition (at Crystal Mountain) when I was 13 … there wasn’t even a junior division, and I finished fifth. (Ceccanti talked his way into the competition even though it was open only to those 18 or older.) After that, I got invited (to a photo shoot), which was cool because that’s what I wanted to do. So I was eventually able to stop competing and start shooting.

Q: Several Olympic athletes are in “Ticket to Ride.” Could you be happy on the slopes if you had to spend most of your time on the neatly manicured race course the racers train and race on?

A: There are certain times, like when the weather is really crappy, that I enjoy hitting the fresh corduroy (groomed runs). You can lay an edge and go fast. But I’d get bored really quick. There’s nothing better than skiing pow (powder). And I’m looking for cliffs, essentially something where I can scare myself.

Q: What scares you?

A: I’m getting a little bit older, so I’m a little more scared of getting hurt. It would really suck to have a season-ending injury. I’ve had a few where I’ve been sidelined for a week or two. It’s no fun when the snow is good, and you aren’t skiing. But, also, I’ve had some friends who’ve been in avalanches.

Q: You share your “Ticket to Ride” segment with Elyse Saugstad, who survived the 2012 Stevens Pass avalanche (It killed University of Puget Sound graduate Chris Rudolph, Lakewood’s Jim Jack and John Brenan of the Leavenworth area). She credited her avalanche airbag with saving her life. Do you use one?

A: I do have one, and it depends on the avy (avalanche) conditions where we are going. I always use one when I’m snowmobiling. And I use one in wide-open terrain, but sometimes they aren’t the best in the Northwest because you could be skiing in a lot of trees. (Trees can catch the airbag and hold the skier under the snow.)

Q: Do enough skiers and snowboarders take avalanche safety seriously enough?

A: That is a big problem with (backcountry) touring gear being so accessible for everybody. People buy it and make the mistake of thinking it makes them safe when they don’t have the knowledge. Equipment is one part of it. You need to take the right avy courses. You spend the money on the equipment; you ought to know how to use it. And practice. We practice all the time.

TICKET TO RIDE

What: A skiing and snowboarding film by Warren Miller Entertainment.

South Sound screenings:

Tacoma: Pantages Theater, Nov. 2, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., $24.80, tickets.broadwaycenter.org.

Bremerton: Admiral Theatre, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., $21.50, Admiraltheatre.org.

Olympia: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Nov. 15, 8 p.m., and Nov. 16, 6 p.m., $20.50, washingtoncenter.org.

Auburn: Auburn Performing Arts Center, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m., $23.15, eventbrite.com

Note: All prices include online fees. Tickets can also be bought in person at various locations. Visit warremmiller.com for more information.

Freebies: Tickets to all shows include discounted or 2-for-1 lift tickets to five ski areas in inland British Columbia. Tacoma, Bremerton and Auburn shows offer a coupon for a midweek lift ticket at Mt. Bachelor near Bend.

More info: warrenmiller.com.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 Craig.hill@thenewstribune.com Thenewstribune.com/outdoors Theolympian.com/outdoors @AdventureGuys

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