Snowboard Academy (1996)


When I was 12, I was in the Scouts, and to get one of our badges we had to put on a little play. We decided to do our own version of “Bread”, a popular sitcom of the time, and worked on costumes and sets, but the only joke any of us could come up with was to name one of the characters “Ramsbottom”. That play was still funnier than this movie.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m just trying to be clever. This film is so unfunny, it will suck humour from the rest of your life. It’s a combination of elements which, on their own, are just bad, but together make something truly horrifying. Plus, it doesn’t really help that “ice movies” only really have one plot – the loveable losers who work at a ski resort are threatened by some rich developer or tax bill and have to win a ski-tournament to save the place.

Chantecler Resort, in Canada, isn’t doing too well financially. People are less interested in skiing, staff are having to work two different jobs, and a gang of snowboarders is terrorising the place – snowboarding is right out, as far as the resort is concerned (despite this being 1996, by which time snowboarding was enormously popular). The reason that these snowboarders aren’t arrested for their trespassing and criminal damage can only be that one of them is Chris (Corey Haim), the “cool” son of the resort owner Mr Barry (Joe Flaherty, a former “SCTV” cast member). The boring son is Paul, and he’s all about keeping the business afloat and blah blah blah. Mr Barry married evil Mimi ten years ago, then she disappeared immediately after the ceremony; she only came back when she found out he’d inherited a ski resort, and now she’s sleeping her way through the place and plotting her husband’s downfall.


Dropped into this stew of tedium is Jim Varney, best known as “Ernest” in the underwhelming series of films, adverts and so on. He was clearly told to play it broad, so he gives it his “all” – gurning, puns, clumsy physical stuff, actual standup, and general going all out for a laugh. His style of comedy was old before he was born, and every single bit of it falls completely flat, which makes for a really curious experience – like seeing a poor sitcom with the laugh-track removed. He’s joined at the bottom by James Salisko as the bartender, who’s also the co-writer, so therefore has no excuse at all.

The boss decides to give snowboarding at the resort a try, and business picks up, but the two brothers feud, which leaves the stage set for a snowboard vs. ski competition! I feel like one particular scene of this battle deserves breaking down a little. Paul hires a bunch of ringers for the skiiers, including a few Olympic champions, and the first race is between one of them and one of the guys who’s been training on snowboards for about a week. It’s a giant slalom, and up to the three-quarters point the novice snowboarder is beating the Olympic skier, until he gets knocked out by a giant snowball (wacky!)


Now, skis are faster than snowboards. Olympic skiiers tend to be an enormous amount faster than your average novice, so factoring both of those in…and then there’s the fact that literally no-one seems to care that a masked assailant is trying to murder people with giant snowballs. If there’s no consequences to your actions, then nothing matters, not even the stuff you’re trying to get the audience to care about. It’s awful. It’s just so awful.

“Hey Mark,” I hear you say. “It can’t be that bad, surely. Can you provide me with, say, a screenshot that illustrates that rubbishness?” Well, I’m annoyed that you’d doubt me, and yes. The big important letter from the bank, that drives the plot, is seen very briefly and thanks to the wonder of the internet you can now read it all.


The way they frame the snowboarders-vs-skiers battle is, from the boarders, “skiing is bourgeois”. The idea that snowboarding is the peoples’ sport is actually a little offensive, coming out of the mouths of layabouts in their early 20s spending their parents’ money on expensive brand name gear and expensive snowboards, who are able to get to a mountain resort and pay the fees. Snow sports are not for the likes of you or I.

I wonder if this was intended as a kids film, as there’s Jim Varney, whose shtick could not possibly appeal to adults, no swearing, no nudity and a cartoony vibe from time to time. But even kids deserve better than this lazy, flat, terminally boring garbage. Corey Haim (RIP) looks high the entire movie, and almost certainly was; and they spell Brigitte Nielsen’s name wrong in the beginning and end credits. It’s such a horrible misfire, but is so bad so much that it’s almost worth seeing. Almost. Do you want an incredulous look on your face for 90 minutes? Then this could be for you.

Rating: thumbs down