On Saturday, Feb. 22, eight films selected from the Banff Mountain Film Festival will show at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge to a sold-out audience. The films feature a variety of topics and span the globe in their reach, from the faraway Ulvetanna Peak in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, to the icy northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Breckenridge is one stop among 285 communities in 30 countries on the festival’s world tour schedule.
A good cause
This will be the fifth year that Banff films are shown in Breckenridge. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. The BOEC has been a part of the Summit County nonprofit scene for more than three decades. A 501(c)3 organization, its mission is to provide educational, instructive and enjoyable experiences to people with disabilities and special needs. Situated on 39 acres near Breckenridge, the BOEC facility includes a lodge, climbing wall and high ropes course.
One of the organization’s major programs is the Adaptive Ski and Ride School, where specially trained instructors assist people with disabilities and special needs with learning to ski and snowboard. As a host chapter of Disabled Sports USA, the BOEC has helped put on The Hartford Ski Spectacular at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge — a winter sports festival for people with disabilities, pulling in more than 800 participants annually. The BOEC also hosts wilderness programs in summer and winter, professional team-building retreats and an internship program.
The Banff festival raised more than $24,000 for the BOEC last year. The event has been popular, ever since the beginning.
“It’s sold out since the first year,” said Marci Sloan, development director at the BOEC.
This year is no different, with tickets selling out a full day before the event. A very few tickets may still be on hand when the box office opens at 3 p.m., Sloan said, but it’s not a guarantee.
Choosing the films
When choosing which films to show from the Banff Mountain Film Festival (which shows every year in Banff, a town in Alberta, Canada), the BOEC committee takes into consideration a variety of factors. The films are mostly family friendly, Sloan said, with perhaps only the occasional coarse language. They also have interesting story lines and high adventure content.
“The mission of the BOEC is to really celebrate the outdoors,” said Sloan, and they try to choose films that fit that profile. “We always pick that film with somebody with a special need accomplishing something,” she added.
This year’s line up, for example, includes the film “Sensory Overload” about a blind kayaker.
Film producer Alex Lowther believes his film, “Spice Girl,” fits well with the BOEC mission. The film features rock climber Hazel Findlay, a young woman who thrives in the challenges of a male-dominated sport.
“Hazel’s a pretty inspirational figure,” Lowther said. “She makes the amazing things that she does really easy and pretty everyday. … The fact that she can go about these pretty incredible things in such a nonchalant way I think it really cool and inspirational.”
Bringing adventure to the screen
The first film to be shown on Saturday is short, only six minutes long. “The Burn” is a product of Salomon Freeski TV, a recurring web series by Switchback Entertainment. Founder Mike Douglas, who also wears the hats of producer, director and editor, is a long-time skier and former World Cup competitor.
“The Burn” is visually impactful and focuses on skiers making tracks through areas where forest fires have burned through. The idea came about from colleague Jeff Thomas.
“We’ve been skiing around BC (British Columbia) and the West for a long time,” Douglas said, “and burn forests are one of our favorite places just to be. It’s a pretty special place to ski when you get to.”
The episode features a pair of skiers blasting through powder to a dynamic musical score and occasional voiceover. Visual effects make it look like the forest is still smoldering under the influence of a forest fire, when in actuality the fire burnt out five years ago.
“The main idea was to create this stunning visual, but if you watch our show, we always try to add a storyline or a deeper meaning or something to separate it from the legions of ski porn that exist everywhere up there,” Douglas said. “The cycle of a forest fire is a pretty interesting thing, and I think for all the people that live in the mountains that’s a very real thing that we deal with, and it’s not entirely negative. We always get freaked out about forest fires, but they’ve been happening forever and they are part of the natural cycle that helps keep the diseases down and replenish the nutrients in the soils and the forests, so we thought we would make it slightly educational, as well.”
In addition to the web episodes, Douglas is at work on a feature film about a friend of his who survived a wilderness ordeal. Titled “Snow Man,” Douglas hopes the film will be ready for the festival circuit next year.