Lexi duPont was first introduced to Haines, Alaska, by her parents, who have always been avid heli-skiers. Ten years ago, to celebrate her dad’s 60th birthday, duPont, along with her entire family made the inaugural venture to The Last Frontier. Fast forward and the professional skier has made a career—and now a film, “Shaped by Descent”—out of returning to the Alaskan Panhandle every spring since 2010.
“As soon as we flew in over Haines, looking out at these mountains… I’ve never seen peaks quite like it, shooting straight out of the ocean. That first trip we were blessed with incredible conditions; still to this day it was the deepest snow I’ve ever skied up there,” duPont told FREESKIER over the phone. “I’ve spent the most time up there out of anywhere in my career.”
Over the course of a decade, duPont has fed her obsession into a full-blown addiction; the town’s locals have turned into friends and the heli operators, family. We spoke to duPont prior to her film’s release to get a better understanding of her obsession with Alaska, why pulls her back and what to expect from her new project, “Shaped by Descent,” now available to stream.
So what inspired you to make a movie based entirely in Alaska?
I’ve spent the most time up there out of anywhere in my career.. I was one of the only females committing such a long period of time to one place. [It’s] testimony to the determination of showing up every spring, no matter the conditions.
How has Alaska shaped you beyond skiing—what has this place taught you?
I would not be the person I am today without the lessons I’ve learned up there. It teaches you commitment, dedication and hard work. The biggest one for me was “befriending fear.” It’s kind of like a muscle in our bodies—that we can exercise, approach it in different ways. We are creating a stronger bond and development with personal fears.
It teaches you… it really tightened my relationship with my family—because there’s a level of risk that we take up there. It really teaches you to not take anything for granted. There are so many lessons to trusting [ski] partners; the importance of mentorship.
Do you feel like you’re just still scratching the surface in Alaska?
Completely—just scratching the surface. Look[ing] out there… there’s mountain range after mountain range. And, yes, I put my time into one tiny speck of a mountain range in Southeast Alaska, but it’s so vast and so big.
What are a couple standout lines from the film? Any you would love to ski again?
There are two that immediately stand out. One was called “Sexy Spines,” and a lot of people that have been up to Alaska have heard of it. It’s basically just a curtain wall of perfect spines. I’d skied it before—was when I was younger. It was 2015, with Tatum [Monod], Michelle [Parker] and Tanner Hall was actually with us as well. The four of us each got three laps down Sexy Spines. It was evening; it was 8:00 PM, mango chutney sky, the snow was completely bomber and we had our own helicopter out.
This year, [while] Michelle and I were out there… it was just the two of us. [Usually,] you’re out there and there’s anywhere from five to seven other film crews in the range; this year, everyone stayed home. We were the only helicopter in the entire range and we flew out to this iconic peak called “Caffeine Rich” and both got to ski our dream lines down that. [The helicopter] dropped us off on top and it was just one of those pinnacle lines that you’ll never forget: huge consequence but complete glory.
Take us through your thought process when you’re dropped off at the top of a big line. How do you keep your nerves under control?
There’s actually this pretty cool GoPro footage of me on the top of Caffeine. All of the nerves leading up to that point… you just put that aside and try to take a deep breath. The second most nerve-wracking part is actually going from boots in the snow to boots in the skis—I don’t know what it is, I’m just nervous I’m going to kick [a ski] off the mountain. Then, I just look out. I look at all of the mountains; I’ve done this since when I was a ski racer. I remember being in the [starting] gate in high school and just looking out at the scenery, being so appreciative for that moment. I feel that when we’re recognizing moments of gratitude, fear has a way of dissipating.
What do you hope people take away from this film? What is the overall message that you’re trying to send?
It’s ultimately that we’re not alone out there—mentorship is one of the biggest themes for the film. Mentorship [and] dedication to one place, putting your time in. I want to inspire a whole generation of male and female big-mountain skiers. I want anyone to believe that they can make it [to Alaska]…it’s not just for that token TGR athlete, we all have the chance, we just have to put in the time.