For the Alba family, making ski movies is about more than finding an epic line.
Names: Ray (50), Alicia (47), Sandro (14), Nevada (9) OCCUPATIONS: Ray works for a tech firm that specializes in online learning, Alicia is a stay-at-home mom and Sandro and Nevada are students. CLAIM TO FAME: Founding Alba Adventures LIVE IN: New York, N.Y.
For some parents, Go-Pros and social media can make family time hard to come by. For Ray and Alicia Alba, it’s become the glue that keeps their family of four skiing together all winter.
For the last five years, the Albas have been documenting their ski adventures in a web series called Alba Adventures. “Our videos aren’t about skiers doing extreme lines in the backcountry, but about spending time together as a family,” says Alicia. Since 2011, the Albas have made more than 58 videos over seven ski seasons. They’ve learned to improve their films by crowdsourcing feedback, and some of their videos have earned upwards of 5,000 views on YouTube.
Their reasons for filming aren’t to showcase big air or to hashtag for free gear. As young parents, the Albas were avid skiers when their first son, Rocky, showed signs of disabilities. Ray and Alicia did everything in their power to help him lead an adventurous life. They took him on their ski trips and even crafted an adaptive ski-sled for him. “We had to recalibrate our lives,” said Ray.
In 2007, at the age of nine, Rocky passed away. “It was really hard, especially being first-time parents,” said Ray. After Rocky died, Ray found solace in the few videos he had shot of his oldest son and young family. He was struck by the power of those videos and was grateful they existed. “It just kind of felt like after that point, I wanted to record as much of our lives together as I could as a memory for our children so that after we passed away they could share it with their families and friends.”
In the winter of 2010, the Albas decided to get back into skiing. With a new baby and a six-year-old, they drove hours every weekend to ski in Vermont, the Catskills or the Adirondacks. That first year, they picked a different ski area every weekend. “We were searching for a home mountain,” says Ray.
Skiing proved cathartic and connected them with other families. They started recording small clips of each other and editing them with the free software on their home computer.
The films feature the Alba kids smiling and making their way down steep slopes at Killington, moguls at Pico and Jay Peak, interviewing people on chairlift rides and in later episodes, ducking into the woods. There are a lot of lifestyle shots, and plenty of unglamorous days of scrappy skiing in poor conditions with a lot of smiles, like one day at Pico in 2016 when it appears to be sleeting. The Albas appear unfazed.
According to Ray, “Nothing is staged. That would be against the spirit of what we are trying to do,” he says. One episode even documents their getting stuck in New York traffic and being forced to turn around en route to Pico on a powder day. As their kids have gotten older, they’ve started to storyboard as a family. Nevada, now nine, has her own miniseries, “Nevada’s Chairlift Snacks.”
In the end, it was the Vermont resorts, that captured their imaginations. “You cross that Vermont border and there’s a decompression that seems to happen,” says Ray, who has averaged between 40 and 60 days of skiing here annually since 2011, despite traveling for work 85 to 200 days out of the year.
The first season the Albas rented in Woodstock, then, in Plymouth. Next, they stayed in a little house near Ludlow’s Lake Rescue. Last season, they rented a place in Killington.
“All the Vermont towns we’ve stayed in have something different to provide. We’re considering Rutland, Middletown Springs or Wallingford for this year, but if budgets provide, we would love to get back to Woodstock,” says Ray. The family picked Pico as their home mountain in 2015 because they liked the atmosphere and community. “It’s like Mad River but closer,” says Ray. “At Pico, everybody gets to know your name and you can let your kids do a run on their own.”
Alicia hopes their videos will inspire other families to rally for a drive up to the mountains to spend time together, regardless of their skiing ability. Neither Alicia nor Ray have formal training in photography or videography and Alba Adventures is purely a hobby. “When we get emails from other families saying they were inspired to get outside together because of our video, that feels really good,” Ray says. They’re aiming for 60 days or more this season and Ray says Rocky will be with them for every turn.