The weather gods welcomed night two of this years Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour with a prodigious pile of fresh powder. As moviegoers fought their way to the Boulder Theater, a storm that was forecast to drop three inches of snow decided to go for a foot. Not that it mattered, it was still standing room only.

As Brady Robinson the Executive Director of the Access Fund (the official host of this stop of the tour) took the stage to kick off the night, a buzz was in the air. Maybe it was the prospect of fresh tracks in the morning, or anticipation for the nine films slated for the evening, but the crowd was pumped. After a few cursory comments he surrendered the stage to the movies all had been anticipating–they were not disappointed.

The first film got your blood pumping, but of course any film featuring Danny MacAskill the preeminent trials cyclist in the world will. Set on the Isle of Mann of the Scottish coast it features MacAskill riding his bike up an insane ridge in the Cuillin Mountains, and then back down. The seven-and-half minute movie will leave you wondering how anyone could actually pull of tricks like he does. The Ridge has over 30 million you tube views, you should join the club.

Mending the Line might of been one of the most touching films I have ever seen at Banff. It follows 90-year old World War Two veteran Frank Moore as he returns to Europe to fly fish and revisit battle grounds he fought on 70-years earlier. Along with him for the trip is his wife Jeanne and son Frank Jr. It is part love letter to his wife and part love letter to his passion for fly fishing–and the part it had in helping him recover from the psychological wounds of war. He is a wise man and you will be a better person for watching his story. It was the winner of the Peoples Choice Award this year.

When 23-year old kayaker Sam Grafton drops into Tumwater Canyon outside of Leavenworth, Washington to brave the class V rapids you are amazed by the waters fury. During the almost six-minute film you see him get tossed about like a toy, fight through huge troughs, and narrowly avoid a huge tree baring down on him. The movie Tumwater Solitude reminds you why people seek out challenges, and the focus they can require. Excellent flick.

 

When Colorado climber Jeremy Collins mentor Jonny Copp died in 2009 in an avalanche on Mt Edgar in China, he had already dreamed up the idea for the trip that eventually became the film Drawn. But the death transformed the project; he would travel to four distinct regions of the world, to summit four unique climbs, and scatter Copp’s ashes. As Collins worked his way from peak to peak he had another child, coped with normal family issues, dealt with setbacks, and ultimately saw the world. The movie heavily incorporates animated sequences that Collins drew himself, creating an almost surreal feeling. Excellent story about dealing with loss and growing as a human.

Happy Winter seemed a fitting film to be showing considering all of the fresh snow falling outside. The film by Bjarne Salén and Andreas Fransson is a song to the beauty of winter and skiing incredibly steep lines. From the opening shot of what seems to be a small snow slide washing over Fransson’s hand as he clings on the side of a mountain you know this is going to be good. As these two men set up for an insane run down a wicked tight couloir you appreciate the mountains like they do.

The epic adventure that Alastair Humpreys and Leon McKarron undertake it the film Into the Empty Quarter is not for the faint of heart. They walk 1,000 miles across the Arabian Desert pulling a home made cart behind them. Over the six weeks they trudge across the desolate landscape they find them selves being pushed to the limits of endurance. The most fascinating discovery they make on the journey is the open hearts they encounter at almost every single junction. It is a welcome film that sheds a positive light on a region of the world more synonymous with violence on CNN than for the beautiful people who inhabit it.

As part of the National Parks Service celebration of it’s 100th anniversary they are releasing a series of films showcasing other sides of our parks. Love in the Tetons is the first one.  It shows the transformational effect time in the wilderness can have upon people. Juan Martinez was a tough inner city kid from Los Angeles when he first visited Grand Teton National Park fifteen-years-ago. As part of a program to expose at risk kids to the wilderness the visit transformed him, and led him to dedicate his life to helping other kids have the same experience as him.. The movie tells his story and highlights his wedding to Vanessa Torres a ranger at the park.

Sufferfest 2:Desert Alpine, AKA 34 Pieces of Choss and 5 Horrendous Life Experiences is the latest adventure from climbers Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold. Picking up on the heels of last years Sufferfest, it follows the two as they bike across Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah for eighteen-days. In the process they climb 45 desert towers in mixed conditions–some days sunny, some days apocalyptic– The banter between the two is quite humorous and the climbing is spectacular–as if anything with Honnold isn’t. I will be holding my breath that there is another one coming soon. It was the winner of the Peoples Choice Award at Radical Reels.

Lastly the night ended with an amazing ski film short. Afterglow- Lightsuit Segment was three-minutes of pure bliss. Featuring skiers Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, Daron Rahlves, and Chris Benchetler as they ski at night in Alyeska Ski Area wearing LED lightsuits. Each outfit had over 7,000 lights and it is magical.

As always Banff is the perfect cure for those mid-winter blues. Make sure you catch the rest of the shows as it tours the state. Aspen March 3-4, Colorado Springs Feb 28, Crested Butte March 6-7, Denver February 26-27, and Durango March 14. For more info click here.