You don’t have to love skiing to enjoy the sports documentary “The Edge of Never” (7 p.m., Showtime). Shot in high definition, “Edge” looks at the rarified subculture of extreme skiing. These athletes climb the steepest and most remote mountains in the world in order to descend through harrowing weather and ever-shifting glacial terrain. Along the way, they dodge rock slides and crevices. They trigger avalanches and — all too often — die.
The film focuses on the legend of skier Trevor Petersen, killed in 1996 in Chamonix, France, the world epicenter of the sport. Nine years later, his baby-faced son Kye, 15, attempts to ski in his father’s footsteps, aided by Trevor’s friends and mentors, including Anselme Baud, considered the godfather of the alpine world.
Just months before Baud helps Kye on the mountain that took his father’s life, Baud loses his own son in an avalanche. We’re introduced to engaging skiers, giants in their field, only to learn that they would die months after the film completed. And before “Never” even ends, one of its principal stars has to be helicoptered to safety, his life literally hanging in the balance.
Along the way, we meet Kye’s mother and grandmother, each proud of Trevor’s legacy, but they share mixed feelings about his young son’s quest. Is it a step toward manhood or a reckless, indulgent act of self-destruction egged on by the presence of a film crew?
Even the director, a former skier, isn’t entirely sure. And this anguished perspective, as well as brash and original characters and the austere and gorgeous scenery, make “The Edge of Never” compelling viewing from start to finish.
• Talent, including Wyclef Jean, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Ludacris and Mary J. Blige, assemble for “SOS Saving Ourselves — Help for Haiti” (7 p.m., BET, MTV and VH1).
• People remember that John Wayne won his only Oscar for the 1969 Western “True Grit” (7 p.m., TCM), but few recall that Dennis Hopper was in the film, too. The “Easy Rider” star and director also appeared with Wayne in “The Sons of Katie Elder” (1965), and the two men, icons of very different generations, are reported to have struck up a friendship.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Four NFL vets appear in football experiments on a Super Bowl-themed episode of “Sports Science” (6 p.m., ESPN).
• Ned’s haunting requires a Ouija intervention on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).
• A murdered campaign worker is found with a word carved into his chest on “Law & Order” (7 p.m., NBC).
• A tycoon worries that his ailing son is paying for his success on “House” (7 p.m., Fox).
• “Now” (7:30 p.m., PBS, check local listings) examines changing attitudes within the Democratic Party on the abortion issue.
• A face in the crowd calls out to Allison on “Medium” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Chef Ramsay inspires jaded chefs on “Kitchen Nightmares” (8 p.m., Fox).
• A new take on the umbrella has the experts talking on “Shark Tank” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Kim Cattrall appears on “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” (8 p.m., BBC America).
• Hot rocks go missing during a posh awards ceremony on “Numb3rs” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Zoe’s past complicates life for Graystone on “Caprica” (9 p.m., Syfy).