“The Gang Hits The Slopes,” a recent episode of FXX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, is mostly an homage to the party-hearty ski comedies of the 1990s, even going so far as to score a prominent guest role from actor Dean Cameron, star of those T&A-heavy VHS classics Ski School and Ski School 2. But its gruesome ending, a climactic skiing competition between Dennis and Charlie, is actually drawn from real life. Thinking that they’re racing for the fate of an entire mountain, the two men invest themselves heavily into a supposedly all-or-nothing downhill race, even though Dennis is an accomplished and experienced skier, while Charlie is a clumsy novice. All seems to be going great for typically overconfident Dennis until he can’t resist showing off a little and manages to loudly shatter both ankles in a pointless display of skill. He’s so determined to win that he painfully drags his mangled body across the finish line, all while screaming about how his ankles are broken. This incident, however, is no screenwriter’s invention; it is drawn from an actual incident involving professional skier Tanner Hall, as documented in ESPN’s coverage of the X Games. The dialogue in the Sunny episode is ported over almost word-for-word from reality.
When asked about how this gruesome real-life incident found its way into the script, writers John and Dave Chernin cheerfully responded:
As avid skiers, we’ve been familiar with the Tanner Hall clip for years. When we set out to write “The Gang Hits the Slopes” we knew we had to find a way to pay tribute to one of the sport’s all time greats. As far as we’re concerned, Tanner Hall at Chad’s Gap is the single greatest video on YouTube. It’s got it all—action, danger, hope, tragedy, humor… It’s incredibly sad, yet somehow hilarious. The comedic timing of him screaming that his ankles are broken, followed by his friends relaying the message across the mountain is superb. We could never improve on that, so we just kinda stole it. The fact that he is still able to wiggle his toes, let alone win gold medals in skiing, is a miracle of modern science and a celebration of the human spirit. Tanner Hall, we tip our caps, you goddamn legend you. Now please hook up some free ski stuff. Keep shredding and God bless.
Hall, for his part, is flattered to have been referenced in this fashion, as evidenced by this message on his Twitter account.