'Ski Patrol' at 30: Slobs vs. Snobs in the Snow | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

‘Ski Patrol’ at 30: Slobs vs. Snobs in the Snow

It may have been released in January of 1990 – 30 years ago last month – but the comedy Ski Patrol had both feet firmly planted in the ’80s. 

It’s got a slobs vs. snobs premise, which so recalls Caddyshack that multiple characters do Rodney Dangerfield impressions. The music is heavy on the saxophones and synthesizers, which in one scene resembles the Seinfeld theme; another action sequence is a straight lift from John Williams. 

The villain is an evil real estate developer, while the blond, mulleted henchmen are straight out of Cobra Kai. The humor is heavily dependent on physical gags, including characters repeatedly getting hit in the nuts. The characters need to make a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time, and do so thanks to a dance contest. And when we see a hot dog stand in the shape of a giant hot dog, you just know it’s going down the hill before long. 

It’s got a slobs vs. snobs premise, which so recalls Caddyshack that multiple characters do Rodney Dangerfield impressions.

While considerably dated in many ways, Ski Patrol, which I watched on VHS repeatedly as a kid, still delivers big laughs today. Even if what I laughed at at age 12 was the nutshots and swear words. 

Ski Patrol, directed by Rich Corrall, is set at a ski resort somewhere in the mountains, which Pops (My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston) has owned for 40 years. Jerry (Roger Rose) is the “head honcho” of the hard-partying ski patrol, although Murray (Leslie Jordan) is the nominal leader. 

The Ski School are the patrol’s enemies, and the plot is set in motion when an evil real estate developer (Martin Mull) enlists them in a campaign of sabotage against the resort and the ski patrol, in order to get them kicked off the mountain, so he can build there himself. As in most other movies of the era, it’s up to the scrappy underdogs to beat back the evil plan and save the mountain. 

The film’s key players – Rose, romantic lead Yvette Nipar, and sidekick T.K. Carter – aren’t exactly household names, but the supporting cast is full of familiar faces. Mull, of course, is a comedy legend, while Walston is a significant figure in the history of classic sitcoms. A very young Paul Feig, who went on to co-create Freaks and Geeks and direct Bridesmaids among other films, played nerdy wannabe ski patroller Stanley. A pre-fame George Lopez is in the film as Eddie Martinez, as is Seinfeld‘s Kenny Bania, Steve Hytner. 

There’s stuff that very much doesn’t hold up. The character of the insane snowboarder Suicide, who appears to be suicidal and have Dissociative Identity Disorder, isn’t so funny today, and neither is the running gag in which an Asian family keeps taking pictures of everything with little cameras. A prank in which the ski patrollers conspire to trick the diminutive Murray that he’s getting taller is more cruel than funny. 

But, dated as it is, Ski Patrol remains a screamingly funny movie, 30 years on. 

Ski Patrol is streaming on Vudu now. 

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