It is a well-known fact that everyone knows each other in the nordic community. If you haven’t met another skier or coach first-hand, you likely already know something about them. But what happens when the person cheering you on from the sidelines becomes more than just a friendly acquaintance?
That’s exactly what former Middlebury College skier Stella Holt set out explore in her film, Fred.
Fred Fayette, a volunteer assistant coach to the University of Vermont ski team and former racer, had been on Holt’s radar throughout her college career as “the cheerful guy that gives everyone splits on the course.” However, it wasn’t until she heard the many stories of Fayette circulating the eastern collegiate circuit, that she realized there was more to the lighthearted assistant than she could have imagined.
“It wasn’t until I scratched the surface of the incredibly rich life Fred leads that I realized he would be a compelling subject for a documentary project,” Holt wrote in an email. “I was drawn to Fred as the subject of my thesis as his story gave me the opportunity to produce work that intertwined my experience on the Middlebury Ski Team with my passion for filmmaking.”
As the production of the film progressed, Holt realized a 15-minute documentary solely focused on the assistant wouldn’t do Fayette justice. Following advice from her instructors, she shifted the project to include a personal touch. Planning to coincide the end of her racing career with her graduation from Middlebury, Holt was conflicted about leaving a sport that had defined much of her life. She was able to overcome her apprehensions by combining her experience with the story of Fayette.
“In doing so, making the film quickly became a means of digesting my own anxieties about leaving the competitive side of skiing behind,” Holt said.
The 13-minute documentary delves into Fayette’s entrance into cross country competition at UVM, his research boat – the Neptune, meeting his wife, and the importance of a team. For Holt, the film serves as a way to communicate her love of the nordic community through the narrative of Fayette.
“His understanding of skiing and of the way in which we move in and out of various spheres in our lives was particularly helpful and relevant for me in anticipation of graduation from Middlebury,” Holt added. “While I have always known that I will stay connected to skiing in some way, Fred was essential in helping me articulate what is most important to me about the sport and my own experiences.”
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.