Wow, what a weekend. We opted for the traditional style of enjoying a mountain film fest, wherein you burn the rope at both ends doing adventure sports during the day, then sitting through flicks ’till you faint from exhaustion.
|The show was sold out every day of the event, capacity of about 600 people.|
After being there for most films, the beauty of what 5Point organizer Julie Kennedy and her crew had put together hit me like the powder face shots we’d been getting just that morning. By sticking with a strong mission statement that emphasizes values such as balance, humility and respect, they screened a mix of films that with a few small exceptions went beyond the plotless hucking flick we get bombarded with from nearly every corner. More, a scarcity of what I’d call “guilt films” about environmental or cultural badness was a welcome quality, as was a minimum of enviro preaching.
Instead, we were stunned by big-screen presentations of adventure films with a human side. Examples:
— King Lines (Chris Sharma’s amazing blend of rock climbing creativity and skill.)
— A Dozen More Turns (Honest look at how bad decision making comes so easy.)
— The Endless Knot (Sweet look at how Conrad Anker and Jennifer Lowe have dealt with the death of Jennifer’s husband, famed climber Alex Lowe.) Trailer.
— Flying Downhill (What makes Bode Miller tick — he talks.)
— Ski the Fourteeners (In depth look at Chris Davenport’s project.)
Beyond all other world-class eruptions of creativity, denouement of the festival was to finally see Ben Galland’s film about ski mountaineer Chris Davenport’s project. (“Dav” skied all Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in an incredibly short time — which ended up being within a 12 month window.)
Galland’s flick is controversial in that during production the issue of a Forest Service film permit came up (they didn’t have one) and the USFS denied giving the flick an after-the-fact nod. While we of course vilified the USFS for such a slap to our small, low impact sport, one had to admit that the USFS was within the law and there are indeed good reasons they have a permit system for commercial filming.
On the other hand, there are grey areas in the USFS permit system. For example, what is the meaning of “commercial?” More, what is the meaning of “film” as opposed to shooting stills which can be strung together into animations (as is indeed done quite frequently)? And is it fair to apply a permit process designed for big old-fashioned film production to the elegant and low-impact way this sort of film is done? In the end, by showing the Davenport film at a non-profit film fest, stripping it of blatant sponsorship plugs and keeping lots of humanity along with a dose of environmental awareness, “Ski the Fourteeners” is now the non-commercial and environmentally sensitive flick that hopefully fits in the vague mold the USFS wants. Meanwhile, is it any good?
Having a cameo in the flick and being the first guy to ski all the 14ers makes me biased, but such bias could go anywhere. I could like the movie, or hate it. Knowing Dav and the folks working on the film, I always figured the former would be the case; that they’d put together something that honored the mountains and other alpinists, and showed the human side of what we do out there. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, “Ski The Fourteeners” is hands down one of the best ski mountaineering films you’ll ever see, and ranks high in the greater genre of alpinism films in general.
Why? It’s all in the recipe, and what you’re bold enough to pile on the serving spoon. In Dave and Galland’s case, they were not afraid to at least skim the surface of spirituality. As Dav shares in the flick, he’s got some mystical stuff going that gets stirred up when he’s on those summits. And Galland even includes a quick bit of myself being interviewed about the part that spirituality can play in mountaineering, along with words from religious scholar Edwin Bernbaum.
Not to worry, however, as Galland doesn’t go so far as to make atheists uncomfortable — the woo woo stuff is just a teaser. Going farther, the humble ethos of “Ski the Fourteeners” emphasizes how important mountain camaraderie is to the sport, and tries to show how Davenport balances family life with being a professional skier who’s admittedly doing some risky stuff out there.
Risk vs reward is a hard subject to cover, but since Davenport is willing to share his thoughts that’s one area where Galland could have perhaps done more with the film. But you can’t let the talking overwhelm the scenics and action — “Ski the Fourteeners” dances on the edge of that sword so I shouldn’t whine about wanting more verbiage. To that end, the film does have exceptional action and scenics that could carry it as an art film even without the documentarian side. Colorado’s mountains have their own unique look and feel due to being heavily eroded and often made with technicolor stone. Enhance that look with snow, and WOW!
More, doing this sort of human powered skiing in the nearly deserted winter wilds of Colorado easily gives this film a unique feel compared to the helicopter assisted huck cratered and sometimes even urban footage of most ski movies. (Dav saw only a handful of other people out there during his months of mountaineering). In all, an amazing mix that is compelling — perhaps even addictive.
WildSnow three thumbs up, and the best flick of the festival as far as I’m concerned.
|And what were we doing to stay true to the mountain flimfest lifestyle? Well, backcountry skiing every day — including Mother’s Day. That’s her with son, on Mount Sopris yesterday. Happy Mother’s Day!|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.