Backcountry Film Festival Highlights 10 Years of Powder Playgrounds

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Slicing through fresh powder, reveling in crisp mountain air, and spending time with good friends are some of the things that entice backcountry enthusiasts to head outdoors each winter. This year's Backcountry Film Festival will celebrate the exploits of those who embrace the season of snow.

For the past 10 years, the Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA), headquartered in Boise, Idaho, has hosted the Backcountry Film Festival in winter-loving communities throughout the world. WWA is a national nonprofit that works to preserve winter wildland areas and does this by promoting human-powered backcountry snow sports. The festival raises funds for WWA and other organizations that support advocacy, snow safety, outdoor education, and snow schools.

After each year's Boise premiere, the festival travels to over 100 locations around the world. The tour travels across the U.S. (with stops everywhere from Alaska to Maine), then heads up to British Columbia, and even to communities in the southern hemisphere, including showings in Australia and Chile. Each year, 20,000 festival-goers view the films, raising over $110,000 for winter wildlands protection.

This year, Wyoming's showcase will be held during the first two weeks of the year. From January 2-14, the film will make stops in Jackson, Buffalo, Sheridan, and Lander. The Wyoming Wilderness Association, a statewide organization dedicated to “protecting Wyoming's wild public lands,” will be hosting the show this year. Driggs, Idaho, just over Teton Pass, has a January 23 showing scheduled, which is hosted by Teton County Trails and Pathways. For ticket information, see WWA's website.

Backcountry Film Festival

The same films will be shown at all locations, and the 2014-2015 lineup features nine different films ranging from a 3 ½ to 21 minutes long. They run the gamut from lighthearted to inspirational. Backcountry Baker tells the tale of a Labrador retriever named Baker (and his human owner) on their skiing adventures through the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.

From the Road is 21 minutes of big mountain skiing in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. But the twist to this story is that former professional ski guide Eric Henderson broke his neck on the featured Meteorite Peak in 2009. He is returning to give hiking and skiing the peak, which is used only accessed by helicopter, another try in this film by Fischer Creative.

Adaptive skier Vasu Sojitra, who lost a leg to a blood infection as an infant, is the subject of T-Bar Film's Out on a Limb. This short showcases his backcountry turns and how he uses custom-made gear, including poles adapted with snowshoe baskets, to hike in and access big terrain.

The festival is capped off with Teton Gravity Research's Higher, the latest in the Jeremy Jones series that features Jones riding some of the world's most epic mountains. National Geographic named Jones an “Adventurer of the Year” in 2013, and President Obama named him a “Champion of Change” in 2013 in recognition of his work with Protect Our Winters, an environmental advocacy group. This film shows Jones traveling the world in search of powder, from Tahoe to the Himalayas.

Shelley Pursell, festival coordinator for the Winter Wildlands Alliance, believes that the event serves an important purpose, not only in raising money for a worthy cause, but also to celebrate the experience of being outdoors in the winter. “The Backcountry Film Festival celebrates the winter human-powered experience and acts as a fun and important event as it raises funds and awareness for Winter Wildlands and our like-minded partners,” she said. “All funds stay local to support winter recreation, avalanche awareness, and winter travel planning efforts.”

WWA Back Country Film Festival trailer 2014 from Winter Wildlands Alliance on Vimeo.

Interested in entering a film in next year's competition? Anyone can enter a 3-30 minute film, and the top few are selected to tell their stories of non-motorized backcountry recreation. Filmmakers have plenty of time to prepare and make a film this winter to enter in the competition for next year. Films are due into Winter Wildlands Alliance by September 15 for consideration. For more information, check out WWA's website.

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