Pow Primer: 6 Films and Festivals to Kickstart NorCal Ski Season 2015-2016

If these films don't get you fired up for ski season 2015-2016, we're not sure what will.
If these films don't get you fired up for ski season 2015-2016, we're not sure what will. Teton Gravity Research
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With several Tahoe resorts already open a month ahead of schedule, and others set to fire up their chairlifts for the first time this weekend, NorCal ski season 2015-2016 is already off to a promising start, much to the delight of skiers and boarders across California. Bay Area snow sports enthusiasts are giddy with anticipation over what could shape up to be an epic winter season in the Sierra Nevada.

Following one of the worst seasons ever recorded (snowpack in the Sierra was recorded at 5 percent of normal in April 2015), forecasters are calling for a record-setting El Niño to dump some much-needed precipitation in the mountains this winter—hopefully in the form of powder. While you wait for the so-called “Godzilla” El Niño to fill in your favorite runs at Squaw Valley, Mammoth, or wherever you prefer to shred (and here's our primer on skiing in Northern California in the meantime), catch these mountain movies to get stoked for what could be a season to remember.

1. Chasing Shadows


A perennial classic, the 66th-annual snowsports film from Warren Miller Entertainment promises 90 minutes of the world’s best ski and snowboard athletes chasing turns across the globe. This year’s film features such names as JT Holmes, Seth Wescott, Caroline Gleich, Steven Nyman, and others as they carve bold lines in familiar and unfamiliar places—Chamonix, the Chugach, the Wasatch, and the Himalaya. Seeing the annual Warren Miller film is a ritual that kicks off the season for many winter athletes. In the words of Miller himself, “Winter starts now.”

If you didn't already catch the showings at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater last week, Chasing Shadows screens at San Francisco’s Castro Theater on Thursday, November 12.

2. Degrees North

Swiss production house Timeline Missions teams with Red Bull Media House to bring you the third installment of their extreme freeriding series, Degrees North . The film goes above and beyond your average snowsports movie, featuring world freeriding champion Xavier de le Rue as well as Sam Anthamatten and Ralph Backstrom as they pioneer new and completely insane ways to drop in on previously unreachable lines in Svalbard and Alaska. Riders and filmmakers use motorized paragliders and drones to ride and film terrain never before seen on the big screen.


Degrees North screens at the Great American Music Hall on Monday, December 14.

3. Paradise Waits

Before you get too excited for this one: Teton Gravity Research’s annual showing at the Palace of Fine Arts theater in San Francisco already happened. If you weren’t among the stoked skiers and boarders who packed the theater in October to watch the TGR crew search for movie-worthy conditions during a tough season, you can screen Paradise Waits in the comfort of your own home, with your beverage of choice, and yell as loudly as you want on every single one of Sage Cattabriga-Alosa’s drops. The seamless production and relentless soundtrack will keep you on edge as you watch the team reap the rewards of their efforts when the clouds lift to reveal perfect conditions in Alaska. Watch Angel Collinson—winner of this year’s best female freeride performance—lay down one of the best lines that the sport has ever seen.


If you missed this year’s screening, TGR releases a film each year. And if the crowd response at Paradise Waits was any indication, there is a chance that TGR might come back to the Bay Area this winter with the Sammy C Project, Sammy Carlson’s no-holds-barred “freestyle onslaught.”

3 More Must See Adventure Film Festivals  

If snow sports aren’t your thing—or if you are waiting for more of the prophesied pow to materialize before you commit—an exciting lineup of film festivals in and around San Francisco provide fodder for your other adventure fantasies.

4. Telluride Mountainfilm Festival

The Mountainfilm world tour brings you favorites from the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, a documentary film festival that unites athletes, change-makers, and artists in celebration of the “indomitable spirit.” There’s no way you can walk out of this one without feeling completely inspired by the human stories and scenery captured in these 16 short films.


This year’s Mountainfilmscreening in Santa Cruz skews more toward cycling, surfing, paddling, and stories of human resilience than snow sports. The 16 short films including Denali, Rinchpoche Speaks, and_ [_The Coast](https://www.mountainfilm.org/media/the-coast) promise to inspire awe with beautiful footage, feats of strength, and moving storylines. Mountainfilm comes to the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz on Friday, November 13.

5. Reel Rock 10

If you're the type who prefers your rock to be bare and vertical rather than snow-covered and near vertical, Reel Rock 10 won’t disappoint. Reel Rock goes big for its 10th year, celebrating the mind-bending accomplishments of Alex Honnold, Daniel Woods, and of course, a first look of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s historic ascent of the Dawn Wall.


If you missed the film_  at the Castro Theater in September, you have another chance—head to Sports Basement in the Presidio for a showing of Reel Rock 10 on Thursday, November 12._ Local brews will be provided by Drake’s Brewing. All proceeds go the American Safe Climbing Association.

6. Save the Waves Film Festival

Along with skiers and boarders, local surfers are celebrating the arrival of El Ni ñ o and the strong swells it could bring to the California coast this fall and winter. Join the Save the Waves Coalition and a long list of local sponsors in celebrating all things surf at the annual Save the Waves Film Festival in the Mission. This year’s festival features 16 films that pay homage to legendary waves, celebrate inspiring athletes, and call on us to conserve the coastlines we love.


Save the Waves comes to San Francisco’s Victoria Theater on Friday, November 20th. Don’t miss this evening of live music, local food and drink, and some of the year’s best surf films. There may be snow on the mountains only part of the year, but the surf is always up, after all.

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