Backcountry Film Festival showcases power of outdoors

Geoffrey Leach

A week after the BANFF Film Festival, the less-popular Backcountry Film Festival played in Maxey Auditorium on Feb. 3.

Students and community members alike enjoyed nine short films about backcountry skiing and snowboarding that ranged from personal journeys to adventures that were edited to be like a videogame.

Two of the films portrayed dogs running aside skiers, sliding down the mountains and enjoying the backcountry. “Backcountry Baker” featured Baker, a Labrador Retriever who excitedly followed his owner down the mountain.

Not only did man’s best friends partake on these adventurous expeditions, but best friends also went along for the ride. “The Powder Pilgrimage” chronicled the expedition of two friends across the Northwest to arrive at Valdez, Alaska. “From the Road” also took place in Valdez, but it recounts the  filmaker’s story of breaking his neck upon returning to the peak of the mountain.

This marks a theme of adversity that played throughout the festival, but most prominently in “Out on a Limb.” In the film, Vasu, a one legged skier, proves his disability fails to limit him in the backcountry and continues to pursue everything without limitation.

The festival takes a weirder turn with “IRS Traverse.” Edited to appear like a retro video game,  the skiers collected coins as if they were in a Super Mario game. Complete with dialogue and sound effects stripped from Mario, this film definitely stands out from the rest.

Often the videos offered dizzying views of incredibly steep slopes that provoked feelings of anxiety even within the audience. “Higher” included probably the most dangerous mountain as it told the story of Jeremy Jones’s trip to Grand Teton. At the steepest parts, Jeremy Jones and his crew had to rappel down from great heights to make it down the mountain safely.

The festival highlights the near fanatical nature of these skiers and snowboarders. It even proves that summer cannot deter the most dedicated enthusiasts. In “95 to Infinity,” two of these enthusiasts remained dedicated to skiing each month for 95 consecutive months.

The well known hit video “Afterglow” also made an appearance in which skiers wore suits that were covered with colored LED lights and carved down the fresh powered mountain through the night to create stunning visual effects against darkness of nature.

With high popularity, the Outdoor Program will most likely try to continue bringing festivals like BANFF and the Backcountry Film Festival.