MARQUETTE - Aaron Peterson had no idea what he was getting himself into, but that's in a good way.
The photographer-videographer is working non-stop to finalize "Cold Rolled," a 20-minute documentary about the evolution of winter biking in Marquette.
"Cold Rolled" focuses on the Noquemanon Trails Network development of special snow grooming equipment and techniques in order to launch the NTN Snow Bike Route which is a 15-mile winter singletrack trail for fatbikes featuring flowy terrain, bermed turns and fast descents.
Ryan LaBar of Marquette takes a moment to savor the unique landscape of the Lake Superior shore ice off Presque Isle Park during a winter ride on the ice. The large low-pressure tires of fatbikes make riding this type of terrain possible. (Photo by Kristian Saile/Clear & Cold Cinema)
The NTN's SBR is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere.
The documentary is sponsored by TravelMarquetteMichigan.com and Salsa Cycles and premieres tonight at the NTN's annual Snowball, its biggest fundraising event of the year.
It will then become available online starting Saturday.
"I thought riding bikes in the winter was a fun thing," Peterson said. "I was new to the sport and I was new to video so in January and February 2013, I put my toes into the water of filmmaking and went out with some friends to film them riding their bikes in winter.
"What I filmed sat all summer," he said. "What I thought I would do is a three- to five-minute web video."
But then Peterson started to interview people involved in snow biking and discovered some fascinating details of the sport's history.
"I talked to Mike Brunet from the NTN about the Snow Bike Route that had been developed, a winter bike trail in the south hills by the (Marquette Mountain) ski hill. It mimics mountain bike trails because it's banked, it's bermed and it has turns. It's narrow, so you can keep your speed. Others snowbike on trails designed for cross country skiing, but this is something we haven't seen anything like it anywhere else.
"The more he talked, the more I knew I had a story here," said Peterson, who has made a career as a photojournalist.
Woven into "Cold Rolled" is background from Brunet, about how his days in BMX influenced the SBR's development, and from well-known cycling people in Marquette like Andy Gregg and Greg Potvin, who have always ridden in winter. Also interviewed was Dave Ollila of Marquette, who through his company Viosport developed helmet cameras.
"None of these guys wanted to stop what they were doing for winter," Peterson said. "They would stomp out a run with snowshoes and ride their bikes on that. They'd ice tracks at night. And all of a sudden, I knew it was an even bigger story than I thought."
Peterson's interview subjects provided him with old VHS tapes and old photos of the winter bike riding.
"The stuff I was seeing was blowing my mind," Peterson said. "There's Mike riding and he builds a bonfire then he's jumping his bike over the fire. There are people riding down Third Street on studded tires. This was all from back when there was no YouTube to post it on. But what I was seeing was the same level of awesome in Marquette at the same time it was happening in California in completely different conditions."
Working with two talented budding filmmakers was an important part of the documentary, he said.
"Ryan Stephens, 20, is an NMU student and employee at Down Wind Sports. I met him through his prize-winning entry in the NMUTube video contest last year. He's a very talented young guy and a lifelong cyclist and one of the few people I trust to use my equipment when I'm directing a shot.
"And Dan Englund, 26, of Iron Mountain, films with an RC helicopter he developed and turned into a business called Aerial Vantage Productions. Dan is our 'MacGyver' who fixes anything, climbs trees to get better angles and is a real workhorse and a handy guy. His heli footage and time lapse photography adds some real 'wow' factor to the film."
Peterson and Co. filmed in the early months of 2013 along the Lake Superior shore and along the Dead River.
"It dawned on me there was a film here. I didn't want to do it but my wife was looking over my shoulder and she said I should do it," he said. 'And since my wife is almost always right, I knew I had to."
The NTN Snowball takes place from 7 to 11 p.m. today at Peter White Public Library in Marquette. Tickets are $60 per person and $100 per couple and can be purchased at the door. The event features food from Tu Kaluthia, silent/live auction items and music.
For those who cannot make it tonight, the documentary will be shown in weekly four-minute installments on the Clear & Cold Cinema's Vimeo page starting Saturday. Visit vimeo.com/clearcoldcinema/coldrolled.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.