The Banff World Tour has become an annual rite of winter along the front-range as it transports viewers away from the drab days of winter to exotic locals across the world. This year it will touch down on all seven continents, 46 countries, and 41 states; that’s an impressive amount of airline miles. Now in its 39th year the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival attracts some of the best short and long adventure films from across the globe. But these are not just ski/climbing porn—there are inspirational stories, amazing feats of endurance, and whimsical tales woven into its fabric—the perfect remedy for a record setting snowy February.

 

Last night was opening night of it’s two-nights sold out residence at the Boulder Theater, and it was a doozy. From acro-gliding, to a monk saving unwanted children, to two Brits getting in over their heads in the Indian Ocean it was three-hours of fun. Here is a breakdown of the films shown and where you can find them if you could not make it last night.

 

The evening got started with an edge of your seat thrill ride documenting acro-gliding (incredibly complex moves on a high performance parachute) in Greece, Chamonix, and the Col du Galibier, France. Filmmaker Jean-Baptiste Chandelier’s film Touch makes you dizzy as you hold your breath in anticipation for the next set of moves these high-flying daredevils will partake in. Do your self a favor and watch it, it’s 4:45 minutes you won’t soon forget.

 

Fourteen-year-old climbing sensation Kai Lightner and his mother Connie were the subjects of Colorado filmmaker George Knowles intimate short 14.c ; it explored the love and support the single-mother offers to her amazing son. While Kai is a phenomenal climber—he is the reigning World Youth Climbing Champion and seven-time US Champ—what he and his mother have overcome on his road to champion is inspiring. The movie is a testament to barriers love can overcome.

 

Delta Dawn chronicles the first time in decades that the Colorado River actually reached the Pacific Ocean. Not one drop of the river has reached the alluvial delta it once occupied since the early 1990’s. A one-time only agreement between the Mexican and American governments resulted in a surge of water being released for eight-weeks to help rehabilitate the parched riverbed. Director Pete McBride (Colorado resident) and a cast of others decided to paddle it. The footage is stunning as you see the dead landscape suddenly become flush with life. The film won Best Short at Banff this year.

What happens when a Buddhist monk who has studied under the Dali Lama decides to leave the United States and return to Himalayas to save neglected children? Magic thats what.  Lobsang Phuntsok was a spiritual teacher in the States but now his is a surrogate father to 84 children, raising them in a loving environment many had never known. The film crew spent close to four-months living at the remote hilltop community Jhamtse Gatsal documenting his works. Tashi & The Monk is the result of their efforts and it won Best Mountain Culture Film at Banff this year.

No festival would be complete without a film featuring Alex Honnold–he has become the ultimate gate crasher, the person always hanging around. Luckily for this film he brings along Hazel Findlay as he heads to South Africa to conquer some epic walls. The banter between the two is like a dirtbag version of the Odd Couple, pretty hilarious. African Fusion is climbing porn amongst the Serengeti.

Knowledge is something you earn one day at a time, one experience at a time. Never is that more evident than in the opening shots of Sculpted In Time: The Wise. As the camera slowly pans over the face of Eddie Hunter, an eighty-eight year old local ski legend of the Banff Valley, you can see life etched into his features. The film shows Hunter and his family tearing up the hills, overlapped with some of the accumulated knowledge he has gained. My favorite quote was “I am in my piano years, why piano? There are 88 keys on a piano some black and some white that all work together in harmony. I hope I have had some harmony in my life.” Wise words from a wise man.

My favorite film of the night was the chronicle of the first unsupported human powered crossing of the Indian Ocean, And Then We Swam. This is not your usual epic adventure film with lofty goals, months of training, and lengthy logistics. Actually it is the retelling of a Quixotic adventure that almost ended tragically. Brits James Adair and Ben Stenning had never rowed a boat before they set out to cross the ocean, they just said “screw it” and decided to give it a try. For the next 116 days they rowed across 3,500 miles before their boat was swamped and they had to swim the last three-miles to shore. It’s an amazing story filled with usual British resolve and humor. It won Best Exploration and Adventure Film this year.

The night ended with a shout out to the snow gods with the film Sun Dog. Filmed at Refugio Frey in the mountains overlooking Bariloche, Argentina it is a delightful romp through five-and-a-half minutes of skiing joy. The story centers around Santiago Guzman and his dog Conga as they shed lines and spend the day playing in the snow. Fun movie that will leave you longing for a dog a cool as Conga.

The neat thing about each Banff stop is the organizers get to pick the film’s they want to show. Every night is different. 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.