NEAR NEIHART — Riding a chairlift at Showdown Montana typically provides spectacular views of not only King's Hill, but the entire Little Belt mountain range and beyond. In recent weeks, the Payload Chairlift gave riders a sneak peak of a project headed to the big screen - a feature film called "Powder Pup."
The family-friendly film focuses on snowboarding, new friendships, and a talented K9.
“It's actually a movie I’ve been trying to make for over six years,” said director Ari Novak.
The challenge in creating the movie, Novak said, was finding the best time and place to film.
“The only month I felt we could film it where the days would be long enough and the weather is nice enough, is March in Montana," he said.
“We clearly hit the sweet spot,” said Rib Hillis, "Powder Pup" producer and actor.
The movie is about a father and son who move from Southern California to Montana, and the teenage son exchanges surfing for snowboarding.
That’s where the four-legged star of the show comes in.
“Walter is a two-year-old English Bulldog,” said Walter’s owner Marcus Singel.
In the film, Walter plays Bodie, a dog with special skills in snowboarding. Walter may be a relative newcomer to the sport, having only learned to snowboard a couple of months ago. Walter and his older brother George are "Instagram famous" for their skateboarding and snowboarding videos.
"Walter loves to snowboard. I have to hide it in the back of the SUV. I can’t put it anywhere in the house. As soon as he sees it, he goes crazy. All bets are off when he sees the snowboard,” Singel said.
Walter and Singel are from Las Vegas, but filming in Montana is a homecoming of sorts for some members of the cast and crew.
“It’s an amazing place. I consider Montana, I’d say it’s my second home, but it’s really like my first home, I just happen to live in L.A.,” Hillis said.
Hillis has been making movies in Montana for around eight years, and Novak has lived in the state for 12 years.
Actress Maiah Wynne graduated from high school in Missoula.
“I actually moved to Butte after high school," Wynne said. "That’s where I really first started playing music and getting into film, so Montana’s really where my home is.”
Now the cast and crew get to share Big Sky Country, and Montana’s oldest operating ski area, with the rest of the world through the film.
“I know how special the place is, but I think it’s great to get to share it with a lot of people. They’re also featuring Showdown as part of the plot in the script,” said George Gold, Showdown’s digital marketing director.
The film features a fictional event at Showdown called the Powder Fest. It not only showcases Showdown’s terrain park, but also more than 50 people from Central Montana as extras.
“The mountain was tremendously helpful. We put up flyers, they put it on social media telling people we wanted extras. I was fielding hundreds of emails. And I knew today was the big day, we needed the biggest group today,” Hillis said.
You’ll have to wait awhile to see all those extras and Walter’s tricks. Right now, "Powder Pup" is scheduled to premiere in October 2023.
“We may or may not be able to come back up here and have a screening of the movie,” said Hillis.
Until the movie comes out, you can watch Walter snowboard and skateboard on Instagram (@skateboardk9).
You can catch Maiah Wynne showing off her musical talents here in Montana. She’ll be performing at the Livingstone Summerfest in July and in Missoula in September. She also has an album coming out on April 8.