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Film / Aspen Extreme

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Aspen Extreme is a 1993 comedy/drama film written and directed by Patrick Hasburgh.

It's about TJ (Paul Gross) and Dexter (Peter Berg), two friends from Detroit who move to Aspen, Colorado to live out their dreams of becoming professional ski instructors.

Although the film received mixed reviews from critics and managed a mediocre take at the box office, it is almost universally praised for its cinematography and its ski scenes.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: It's heavily implied that Dexter had an abusive father, which is why as a child he latched on to TJ's family.
  • Almighty Janitor: During the ski instructor tryouts, Dexter outperforms everybody else (including TJ). However, because he isn't particularly handsome, he does not get the job (according to the director of the ski school, "Skiing is the easy part" and instructors are expected to "fulfill a fantasy"). After TJ begs the ski school director to give Dexter a chance, Dexter is given a job teaching children how to ski while dressed as Santa Claus.
  • Artistic License – Geography: TJ falls into a crevasse while practicing for the Powder 8. In reality, Colorado has no glaciated terrain.
  • Berserk Button: Franz taunts TJ about Dexter's death near the end of the film. Big mistake.
  • Betty and Veronica: TJ is pursued by two women: Robin, a down-to-earth radio DJ, and Bryce, a millionaire businesswoman who always gets what she wants.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dexter, who just can't seem to catch a break.
  • Cool House: TJ and Dexter take up residence in an old railroad caboose outside of town.
  • Death Seeker: TJ shows signs of this after Dexter's death, the most blatant example being the scene where he skis down a frozen waterfall simply because he can.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: TJ begins drinking heavily after Dexter dies, leading Bryce to comment (rather insensitively) that he's become depressing to be around.
  • Drugs Are Bad: After Dexter and TJ's split, Dexter develops a drug habit that involves him sniffing a white powder. It's unknown whether it's cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth. Although it's unlikely that Dexter is rich enough to support a cocaine habit, as it's traditionally been a rich person's drug due to the cost of importing it from South America.
    • Almost certainly heroin. Dex spends his time laying around watching TV instead of cleaning every inch of the caboose like a tweeker would.
  • Fish out of Water: The film follows two blue-collar buddies from Detroit who move to an exclusive, upper-class resort town.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Robin treating TJ after he suffers a head injury during a skiing accident seems to kick start their relationship.
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: The French restaurant that TJ and Dexter visit comes complete with a snooty waiter.
  • Friends with Benefits: TJ and Bryce's relationship seems to be mostly based on physical attraction rather than actual romantic chemistry (although Bryce does help him with his dream of becoming a writer). Late in the film, Bryce makes it clear that love is not a priority to her and that she views her and TJ's relationship as a temporary thing. This convinces TJ to break things off with her and rekindle his friendship with Robin.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Robin, who is by far the most sympathetic character in the movie.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: TJ and Dexter.
  • High-Class Call Girl: It's heavily implied that Tina is one of these. At Bryce's party she begins flirting with Dexter, mentions that she doesn't have a boyfriend, and even offers to come over to his house just moments after meeting him. Later in the film, TJ (in an accusatory tone) asks Dexter if he knows what Tina does for a living.
  • Hollywood Homely: Lampshaded in-universe. Dexter's lack of movie star good looks are what initially prevent him from being hired as a ski instructor, despite the fact that he's a better skier than the other candidates.
  • Jerk Jock: Franz.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Paul Gross, briefly has a nude side view shot in the European cut of the film. It's removed, naturally, in the US one.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first half of the film feels almost like a 1980s ski comedy, the second half of the film gets a lot darker and melodramatic.
  • Noodle Incident: At the beginning of the film TJ asks Dexter what was the worst day he ever had. Dexter replies "Probably the time I got arrested for stealing all those telephone poles."
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: TJ and Dexter go through one of these in the film's final act.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: TJ and Dexter move halfway across the country to become professional ski instructors.
  • Retro Universe: Although the film was released in 1993, the soundtrack (which is heavy on power ballads and synthesizer rock) and clothing styles give the film a distinctly 1980s feel.
  • Retirony: Near the end of the film, Dexter decides that he's had enough of Aspen and wants to go back to Detroit, but before he leaves he wants to win the Powder 8 competition. He dies shortly after in an accident while practicing for the competition.
  • Rich Bitch: Bryce, who seduces TJ even though she knows that he's involved with Robin. She is played by Finola Hughes, a soap opera actress who has a long history of playing Rich Bitch characters.
  • Spiritual Successor: Some reviews of the film described it as "Top Gun on the ski slopes."
  • Two-Person Pool Party: TJ and Bryce have one early in the film.
  • The Vamp: Bryce.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Robin gives one of these to Dexter after he becomes a drug addict and breaks off his friendship with TJ.