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Two Skiers Set Out to Make a Film About Life and Loss

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Pro skiers Eva Walkner and Jackie Paaso discuss their upcoming film project, “Evolution of Dreams.”

When you are an athlete, your entire identity can feel tied to your sport. Which means when you lose that sport—due to injury or some other circumstance—it can feel like losing a piece of yourself. At least, that’s how professional skiers Jackie Paaso and Eva Walkner felt at one point in their lives.

Their new film, “Evolution of Dreams,” documents the interlinking stories of Jackie and Eva—the losses they suffered, the joys they rediscovered and the ways a sport can shape you. A seven-minute trailer for the film, shown above, just debuted online, with a full-length feature film set to premiere in the fall of 2018.

Through archival footage from their youth, the movie looks back at where these women came from. Jackie, a mogul skier from Massachusetts, won the overall combined title at the Junior World Championships for mogul skiing at age 18. Eva, a ski racer from a small village in Austria, competed in her first World Cup race at 18. They were both incredibly talented but also plagued by injuries. “I had seasons where I couldn’t ski without taking painkillers every day,” Eva says.

Eva Walkner and Jackie Paaso bootpack up a line in their new movie, "Evolution of Dreams." (Photo Credit: Christoph Oberschneider)

After Jackie failed to make the U.S. Ski Team for moguls at age 21 and the financial burden of the sport weighed too heavily on her family, she quit skiing and began dealing with depression. “I was a mogul skier since I was 9 and then all of a sudden, I was not. I felt very lost,” Jackie says. Due to multiple knee injuries, Eva retired from racing at age 22 and swore she’d never ski again. “Twenty years of training, fighting and support from my parents and friends, and then I just had to stop,” Eva says. “I fled the mountains entirely.”

But eventually, both women found their way back to snow-covered peaks. Friends from the East Coast invited Jackie to sleep on their spare futon out in Tahoe, so she moved west and worked an assortment of jobs, like waitressing and landscaping. She later entered her first freeskiing contest at the encouragement of friends. “Freeride definitely renewed my love of skiing,” Jackie says. “It also gave me new challenges that I now recognize I needed in my life to feel satisfied.”

"We wanted to make a movie about skiers who just happened to be women."

Eva, meanwhile, moved to the capital city of Vienna but after three years of avoiding skiing, she found herself longing for the mountains again. So she signed up to work as a ski instructor at a resort in the Austrian Alps. There, she skied her first backcountry line piled with fresh snow. “Suddenly, skiing became fun again,” Eva remembers.

Eva Walkner grew up ski racing in Austria before turning to freeride skiing. (Photo Credit: Christoph Oberschneider)

The two women met in 2010 on the Freeride World Tour, an elite big-mountain ski competition that travels all over Europe and beyond, sending athletes hurtling down steep, rock-strewn faces in front of live television audiences and a panel of judges. At their first event, in Chamonix, France, Jackie’s boot buckle inexplicably fell off as she dropped into the venue and she ended up in the back of the pack; Eva took second place. But as tour rookies, they bonded quickly and became fast and loyal friends.

The pair eventually began talking about working on a film project together. “We wanted to make a movie about skiers who just happened to be women,” Jackie says. Eva says they are on the same page about what a good movie should look like. “Our goal is to make a movie with strong skiing and a good story,” Eva says. The footage was shot over the course of last winter in mountain locales mainly around France and Austria.

Jackie Paaso was a mogul skier from the East Coast who's been competing on the Freeride World Tour since 2010. (Photo Credit: Christoph Oberschneider)

The film’s main message, subtly tucked in between gratuitous powder shots and steep lines shot from a drone, is that dreams and goals can change over time, and it’s how you cope with those changes that matters most. “While it’s important to chase your dreams, it’s also OK if things end up differently than you’d originally hoped,” Jackie says. “Don’t let your failures define you; instead, let them make you stronger.”

Even non-skiers will enjoy the film. “It’s a movie about life. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all have our dreams, wishes and issues,” Eva says. “But in the end, it’s still a ski movie.”

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