Cool B.C. company you (probably) haven’t heard of: Sherpas Cinema flies all over the place

The team behind the production of FlyOver Canada has the pedal to the metal.

The Real Wild West is the newest film from the FlyOver Canada series, put together by Whistler-based Sherpas Cinema

The team behind the production of FlyOver Canada has the pedal to the metal

When Dave Mossop, Eric Crosland and Malcolm Sangster were in high school in Calgary, the mountain-loving teens lost four of their peers and friends in an avalanche.

“We were all 17 years old,” Mossop recalls. “It was something that bonded us as friends, changed our lives and changed our awareness of the mountains and how precious living every day to the fullest is.”

Instead of scaring Mossop and his crew away from the wilderness, the incident compelled them to embrace it. A couple years later, in 2002 (after a failed attempt to find stardom as a rock band), the trio moved to Whistler and started Sherpas Cinema, a full-service production studio. Their first film was about avalanche education.

“It ended up being this oddly positive thing where a group of us became lifelong friends,” Mossop says. “Instead of getting scared away from the mountains, we wanted to learn more and really engage in avalanche education.” 

Over the years, Sherpas steadily developed a reputation for making award-winning ski films, including 2011’s All.I.Can, which documents big-mountain skiing around the world.

Eventually, the aerial shots in that movie and others grabbed the attention of the folks at Soaring Attractions and the Aquilini Group (the FlyOver rights have since been sold to the parent company of Denver-based Pursuit Collection), who were looking to make a film called FlyOver Canada.

Shown at custom-made theatres like the one at Vancouver’s Canada Place, FlyOver Canada take viewers from coast to coast with a variety of effects that make it feel like you’re gliding across the nation. Sherpas has since helped execute a similar feat with, among other places, Alaska, Iceland and the American West, which opened at FlyOver theatres this month.

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Mossop is still surprised at the impact the films have had on his career and his company. “It seemed like a small project—it was only a seven-minute film,” he says of FlyOver Canada. “But it took me a while to understand that it was huge for me and my career and my endeavour to be an artist that really can capture people’s imaginations.”

Though the typical FlyOver film is anywhere from seven to 10 minutes long, Mossop says each one takes about a year and a half to complete. So yeah, he and his eight full-time staff are keeping busy. As Mossop says, the “FlyOver train keeps rolling.” He’s working on a version for the Canadian Rockies, and there’s a FlyOver Canada 2 coming, too, complete with a brand-new FlyOver theatre in Toronto’s CN Tower.

Sherpas hasn’t given up on the independent stuff, either. Its latest, La Liste: Everything or Nothing, about skier Jérémie Heitz, premieres at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival this weekend. 

“All of this stuff is really just about living our dreams, because life can be really short,” Mossop says.