The Locals’ Filmmaker | Jon Bob debuts newest ski flick

Jeremy Benson on Highway Patrol Chutes in February 2017. | Jon Rockwood

It’s an established fact that people are crazy about Tahoe skiing. In search of first tracks, diehards have been known to drive in eight hours of traffic through blinding snowstorms over Donner Summit, survive on ramen for months at a time and live in their friend’s closets just to be sure they won’t have to work on a powder day.

Nov. 1 | 6 & 8 p.m.
Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema | Tahoe City

Notwithstanding these heroics, there still might not be anybody quite as passionate about skiing in and around Tahoe as Jon Rockwood.

“There are so many good skiers here who are under the radar. … I thought it was really easy to film them and make it look good, so it kind of evolved into capturing this cool, organic, local talent.”
–Jon Rockwood

Known to friends and locals simply as Jon Bob, the Virginia native has been self-producing Lake Tahoe-based ski films since 2009. Known for his unbounded energy and quirky sense of humor, Rockwood’s films from the lean snow years of 2012 to 2016 bore such names as “Benefit of the Drought,” “Call of the Mild” and “First Decent: The Average Season.”

This season’s project, JonBob Production’s ninth film in as many years, is entitled “An Atmospheric River Runs Through It.” It chronicles the wettest winter in Tahoe history.

Underneath a northern low pressure system, the Pineapple Express laid its tracks over Tahoe for weeks at a time delivering a record 118 inches of precious H2O throughout the 2016-17 season. The JonBob crew took full advantage of the all-time conditions by filming in locations ranging from the West Shore to the High Sierra, Donner Summit and Sierra Buttes.

John Morrison on the West Shore in January 2017. | Jon Rockwood

“My group of skiers typically finds the the best skiing on any given day,” says Rockwood. “We have our finger on the pulse of where to go. In the drought years, there were so few options it was down to one or two places. What’s cool about a good season is the amount of good snow isn’t scarce so back-country skiers can spread out.”

JonBob films feature some of the best, but unknown, Tahoe skiers.

“There are so many good skiers here who are under the radar,” says Rockwood, “I’m lucky to have this group of incredible friends who are also remarkable skiers. I thought it was really easy to film them and make it look good, so it kind of evolved into capturing this cool, organic, local talent.”

Rockwood’s movies originally began as homemade productions meant to give his East Coast family a lens into his adventures out West.

The JonBob crew handles a deep skin track on a cold blower day along the West Shore. | Jon Rockwood

“Like every experiment, there was a progression,” he says. “The first movie was premiered in a living room. The next one was premiered in a really small bar. The next one premiered in a bigger bar. The next one was causally supported by Alpenglow Sports and shown in their shop.”

Since then, Rockwood has formed a relationship with Steven and Melissa Siig of Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema. This will be his fourth movie premiered at the theater where he is hoping for two sold-out shows.

“It’s a lot of work to put these films together, but I really enjoy doing it,” says Rockwood. “It’s always been about telling the story of the previous season. What started as a simple idea seems to be gaining momentum each year.”

Rockwood uses the JonBob movies as a way to gather all of Tahoe’s back-country skiers under one roof before the coming winter sets in.

“It’s a place to meet a new skier partner or see your friends from the winter,” he says. “It’s a reason to get people together to celebrate the past winter and get ready for the one to come. I love premiering it in front of a friendly home-crowd audience of my supporters. It’s really awesome to see everyone watching it side by side.”

JonBob Productions will be joined at the screenings by Tahoe Backcountry Alliance, which will be providing information about what’s happening for the upcoming season.

Although he has traveled and skied all over, Rockwood believes Tahoe skiing has something special that other places don’t in terms of location, terrain, snow quality and weather.

“I really like the type of snow we have here and the way that it skis,” he says. “I like the terrain and the spacing of the trees. You can typically find powder on north-facing aspects or corn on south-facing slopes. There are certain bigger objectives only a short drive away. No matter what conditions arise, there will always be some remarkable terrain to ski in Tahoe.”

For more information, visit therockwoodmedia.com. For tickets, visit tahoearthauscinema.com.


 

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Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he's not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.