Two nights of on-screen adventure from the Banff Mountain Film Festival |

Two nights of on-screen adventure from the Banff Mountain Film Festival

"Builder," a documentary about creative mountain bike trail builders, is among the 16 selections from the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour playing at the Wheeler Opera House this week.
Julien Grimard/Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Feb. 23 & 24, 7 p.m.

How much: $15-$25

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office;

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour returns to Aspen this week with 16 short films spread across two nights of programs at the Wheeler Opera House.

The vaunted film festival in Banff, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, annually tours a selection of its adventure and environmental films around the world. Susan Jackson of the Ute Mountaineer selects films from the Banff tour for the annual showcase at the Wheeler with an eye toward Aspen’s adventurous tastes.

“I’m always looking for the ones where you’ll sit in your chair and go, ‘Oh my God!’” she said. “We are all skiers in the valley; we all have adventures. We have great mountaineers in town, and we have to impress them. When we make our selections, that’s what I’m thinking about.”

Jackson’s favorites in this year’s lineup include “Builder,” about 15 of mountain biking’s most creative trail-builders.

“You see them building them and how they approach it,” Jackson said. “That’s a nifty little film.”

Many of the films are short versions of features, like Ian McCluskey’s acclaimed “Voyagers Without a Trace,” the full version of which screened in the Wheeler’s Monday Docs series earlier this month. The documentary follows a Parisian trio that, in the summer of 1938, attempted a first kayak descent down the Green and Colorado rivers. Their footage, on 16-millimeter color film, constitutes the first color adventure film.

“This year we also have environmental films in the mix: ‘The Last Dragons,’ about salamanders; and there’s paragliding, climbing, ice climbing, skiing in Alaska.”

In the 19 years that the Ute has been hosting a local selection of Banff movie, the adventure film market has boomed, along with other valley showcases like the 5 Point Film Festival, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and MountainSummit.

GoPros and the advent of digital cameras and personal computer-editing software have bred more — and more diverse — adventure movies than ever, with some of the best making it to Banff and onto its tour.

“Now that you can pick up a camera, you can go out and do it yourself and edit on your laptop. Everyone is doing it,” Jackson said. “But the really good ones that know what they’re doing rise to the top.”

Whether films are made by seasoned filmmakers and professional crews or creative adventurers just toting cameras along, Jackson looks for awe-inspiring and surprising selections for Aspen’s discerning audiences: “We all want to have our socks blown off and say, ‘How did they do that?’”

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