Why new film The Ultimate Run is like watching Danny MacAskill on skis

​The Winter Olympics in Beijing are still three months away and ski lifts in the Alps and the Rockies are only just starting to rumble into life, but as far as the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2021/22 is concerned, Markus Eder has already won skiing. Last week, the ​multilingual ​Italian freeskier with the megawatt smile released his new film The Ultimate Run via his principal sponsor Red Bull, and although it's only ten minutes long it’s already attracting the kind of plaudits usually reserved for Palme d'Or winners at Cannes.

Markus Eder skiing near Zermatt, Switzerland on May 14, 2021 PIC: Red Bull
Markus Eder skiing near Zermatt, Switzerland on May 14, 2021 PIC: Red Bull

​Ski Magazine called it "one for the history books", Freeskier Mag described it as "the pinnacle of ski films" and Aussie website Mountain Watch went with "the most insane ski run ever imagined." Perhaps the most eloquent commentary came from a French skier called Alexandre on Twitter – "Putain, le saut à partir du camion!" – but we'll get to Eder's stylish backflip from a moving vehicle in a minute.

The first thing to understand about The Ultimate Run is that it isn't a single run at all, but footage gleaned from 109 days of skiing, spread over two seasons, which has been artfully spliced together in order to give the impression of one, continuous descent. As director Christoph Thorsen puts it in a making-of documentary also available on the Red Bull site, "My creative vision behind The Ultimate Run was to capture Markus's dream run into one solid piece that flows from one spot to the other."

As with all the best cinema, then, a little suspension of disbelief is called for here: commit to the idea that this might all be a single run, ​filmed​ in a single take, and you're in for a wild old ride.

Eder begins his journey in the steep, intimidating peaks ​of the Monte Rosa, ​high above Zermatt, and the first couple of minutes of the film play out like a fairly conventional – albeit jaw-droppingly extreme – backcountry ski film. Eder gets warmed up with a few super-fast, half-mile-long turns on a slope so steep most mortals would be calling in a rescue chopper, launches a gap jump over a crevasse the width of ​Princes Street and throws himself off a 20-foot bergschrund backwards.

He then skitters over a patch of blue ice the ​length of a couple of football pitches, dodges through a surreal maze of out-sized glacial terrain, glides over a man-eating cliff band as if it isn't there and then fires himself off an enormous ice boulder and out of shot, falling so far and so fast you assume he must be either dead or wearing a parachute.

As I say though, this is really just the warm-up, because it's from this point on that things start to get interesting, creatively-speaking.

After suffering the kind of wipeout that looks like it should have​ put him in hospital for a week, Eder dusts himself down and scoots off into a glacial cave – yup, that’s right, an ice cave running underneath a glacier. He smashes through a few icicles on entry and the ceiling is so low at one point he has to slide flat on his back to avoid being decapitated, but he makes it out the other side in time to ski the terrain park at his local hill, Klausberg, with a few of his buddies, before ducking off-piste and having a bit of fun in the trees, then ping-ponging through the snow-covered architecture of a multi-tiered mining town and hitching a ride in a the back of a waiting lorry.

Markus Eder, exiting his transportation in style PIC: Red Bull

When he spies a promising line by the side of the road he gets the driver to stop and uses the momentum generated by the hastily-applied brakes to catapult himself clear of the vehicle and into an elegant backflip. He lands in a steep, powder-stuffed forest, which in turn leads him to his final destination: Taufers Castle, home of the Tyrolean Lordship from the 13th century and, as it happens,​ the backdrop for Roman Polanski's 1967 spoof horror film, The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Watching Eder​ negotiating the ancient archways and passageways of this imposing schloss​, it's impossible not to think "this is just like watching Danny MacAskill on skis" – and then you realise that that's almost exactly what you are watching.

In 2010, when the Scottish trials bike rider made Way Back Home with filmmaker Dave Sowerby, he was pioneering the concept of stitching together multiple extreme sports action sequences into a coherent narrative journey. In MacAskill's case, the journey was across Scotland, from Edinburgh to Skye, whereas Eder's journey (theoretically, at least) takes him from the top of a mountain to the bottom, but the overarching idea is the same: a human marble run on an enormously ambitious scale.

Also in 2010, in an interview for this newspaper, I spoke to freeride snowboarder Jeremy Jones about his about-to-be-released film Follow Me Down. “To me, [snowboarding]’s not really a sport,” he told me, “it’s a form of expression.” Same goes for what MacAskill does on a bike; same goes for what Eder does here.

Markus Eder exits Taufers Castle, Italy, in the final scene of The Ultimate Run PIC: Red Bull

To watch The Ultimate Run, and the making-of documentary, visit www.redbull.com/gb-en/discover

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Markus Eder during filming for The Ultimate Run in the Klausberg ski resort, Italy PIC: Red Bull
Markus Eder skiing an ice cave in Zermatt, Switzerland PIC: Red Bull