Winter Wildlands film festival in Breckenridge showcases backcountry fun |

Winter Wildlands film festival in Breckenridge showcases backcountry fun

Smiles abound at Backcountry Babes' Dec 11-13 AIARE level 1 course in Breckenridge. Backcountry Babes is hosting the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival this weekend.
Special to the Weekender |

Mountains fill the screen in the preview of the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival. Endless powder shots roll out, featuring skiers and snowboarders on steep mountain slopes above the clouds and within the trees, doing what skiers and boarders love best.

This weekend, the festival is coming to Summit, hosted by Backcountry Babes for the 11th year. Founded in 1996 by Breckenridge resident and champion telemark skier Leslie Ross, Backcountry Babes aims to introduce women to backcountry adventure, from biking to skiing. Safety and skills clinics, as well as backcountry trips, are offered throughout the year.

“It’s been awesome,” said co-owner Emily Hargraves, of Backcountry Babes’ 2015 year.

She and her friend Michelle Trame took over ownership just over a year ago and haven’t looked back since. One of the highlights of the past year, Hargraves said, was a trip to British Columbia involving seven days of backcountry fun with former owner Jenna Boisvert.

“Everyone’s been really enthusiastic about Backcountry Babes continuing,” Hargraves said. “The support of everyone has been awesome.”


The Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national nonprofit organization based in Boise, Idaho, dedicated to promoting and preserving winter wildlands and human-powered snowsports. After premiering in Boise, the films see hundreds of showings around the U.S. and the world. Each show funds local nonprofits and organizations with like-minded ventures such as avalanche awareness, outdoor programs and youth education.

Nine short films make up the festival this year, each with a focus on winter sports and the love of the backcountry.

A name that regular adventure film festivalgoers might recognize is Sweetgrass Productions, which has produced films such as “Afterglow” — in which skiers wrapped in LED light suits make their way through deep powder down a mountain — and “Valhalla.”

This festival features a short called “Japan by Van” which Sweetgrass produced for Patagonia, in which a group of skiers takes a week to test out Japan’s deep snow.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing that,” said Hargraves, who hopes to plan a Backcountry Babes trip to Japan in the future. “But usually there’s a handful of films that are really high production and by more professional people, and (then) there’s also homegrown people who just love getting into the backcountry who make really great films. It’s a cool collection; different styles of filmmaking.”

“I Love Splitboarding,” for instance, comes from the company Right On Brother, who describe their film as an “ode to splitboarding.”

“Shifting Ice” is a documentary on a group of women sailing from the coast of Iceland over to the western coast of Greenland, skiing along the way. It also has an environmental component on the shifting nature of the area’s glaciers.

“We’re talking remote, we’re talking exploration, we’re talking, like, real adventure here,” one of the skiers says in the trailer voiceover.

Other films in the festival take a look at ice climbers in Montana, a weekend warrior trip to Mexico and similar backcountry adventures.


The film festival will take place on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. as well as on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. in Breckenridge. The films will be the same both nights, so anyone who wasn’t able to attend on Saturday can still get their backcountry film fix on Sunday. Both showings will start with a silent auction, with donated items for backcountry lovers.

Proceeds from ticket sales as well as the silent auctions will go toward the Backcountry Babes scholarship program, which donates the cost of avalanche education clinics to women who cannot afford to attend the outdoor educational workshops on their own.

“There are a lot of people who work in the ski industry, who are passionate about skiing and really get out there and want to take a class, but the classes are just expensive,” said Hargraves.

Potential applicants can apply for the scholarship online, and must write an essay about their experiences in the mountains, why they love what they do and how they connect with the community. “We’ve been giving scholarships often to people … who are active and engaged in their community and love getting out in the backcountry and want to share that with other people, and who want to bolster their education,” she said.

Tickets can be bought online at for $12 or at the door either night for $15. She said that just about anyone will enjoy the festival, from experienced backcountry trekkers to those just starting to think about the possibility. She, Trame and several of their instructors will also be available to chat at the festival.

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