Seven sensational ski movies screened to a packed audience at the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s annual Snow Show. A pretty ambitious program spanning almost three hours delivered the season’s first big dose of white powder with steep downhill descents, inspiring stories of courage, a nod to environmental protection and a romance that alpine passion made possible.
With content for skiers and snowboarders alike the selection of films this year was a good assortment of farce, fantasy and fun that promises to coax even the most sedentary spud off the coach. Highlighted with breathtaking summit shots from exotic locales around the world this year’s ode to snow is an artful expression of athletic action the makes even the most bitterly cold winter months hot with excitement.
Leading in with a short by Daniel Bergstrom and Fred Wergeland called “Enjoyable State of Being” the snow show set the theme with a definitive statement. Top freestyle skiers that include Henrik Windstedt, Rachael Burks, Dave Treadway, Jon Larsson, and Christopher Frankum take an 11-minute ride through deep drifts and icy bowls to illustrate the moments in life that drive the desire to find that next spectacular ride.
Immediately following pace with the evening producer Malcolm Sangster and director Dave Mossop brought a feature length flick to give viewers even more. All.I.Can is a sweeping film of epic proportions laid out in acts to reveal the full spectrum of the world-wide skiing experience. A bit long at 75 minutes you certainly get your money’s worth. Incredible cinematography with just the right amount of special effects creates imagery that paints a clear picture of the ski-lifestyle. Not big on storytelling the film is reluctant to dish details on its theme of climate change mitigation. Though the producers offer up experts to let you know carbon emissions are bad, they really don’t tell what you can do about it. The central message though is “we’re all hypocrites”. Just keep skiing.
It’s that passion for snow sports that brought together free-skiers Molly Baker and Zach Giffin. A Downhill Affair directed by Sam Giffin, Zach’s brother, and Ryan Fesnosn-Hood, is the best kind of adventure love story. With none of the saccharine Valentine’s Day hearts and followers of a Meg Ryan movie the filmmakers use skiing to backdrop two people in basic conflict trying to reconcile their love for each other with their professional desires to pursue their sports. Zach and Molly wrestle with pushing the envelope and performing to the best of their abilities. Sometimes with different priorities and ambitions they risk having to sacrifice their relationship.
“That one thing, skiing, that literally brought us together,” Molly says in the film, “could be the one thing that’s torn us apart.”
The power of skiing to change people’s lives is most clear in the film by Mike Douglas, “The Freedom Chair.” After a devastating cash in 2004 left Josh Dureck paralyzed he pulled it together with grit, determination and the support of his community to become a champion downhill sit-ski racer. Taking on the most challenging backcountry ski terrain through the film Dureck demonstrates that from tragedy and come triumph. And despite the adverse circumstances of life obstacles can be overcome to fulfill your dreams.
Though with plenty of gratuitous action this year’s selections in the Banff Mountain Film Festival Snow Show once again defies the idea of ski porn. Athletes continue to press the boundaries of what’s possible to create accessible experiences that audiences can relate to. Heli-ski vacations to Switzerland are certainly beyond budgets of most, but many will come away from these films inspired. And for the price of lift ticket at the nearest ski hill they’ll chase their aspirations to see themselves carving turns and taking jumps like the pros they’ve seen in films. ~ JEM
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