Mountainfilm in Aspen opens with short environmental and adventure documentaries |

Mountainfilm in Aspen opens with short environmental and adventure documentaries

Billy Barr from a scene in "The End of Snow," which screens today at Mountainfilm in Aspen's lunchtime screening at the Cooking School of Aspen.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Mountainfilm in Aspen, presented by the Wheeler Opera House and Telluride Mountainfilm

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Through Sunday, Aug. 27

How much: $25/single tickets; $60/Pick 3 Pass; $140/Festival Pass.

Tickets: Wheeler box office;

More info: Full festival lineup online at; Today’s festival events include a Lunch Film Series presentation of short environmental films at the Aspen Cooking School at 12:30 p.m. and ‘An Evening of Adventure’ that includes seven shorts at the Wheeler at 7 p.m.

Mountainfilm in Aspen, a five-day film festival, opens today with an afternoon of short environmental documentaries and an evening of adventure.

The annual festival, co-presented by Telluride Mountainfilm and the Wheeler Opera House, brings some of the best titles from Telluride’s outdoors-themed film fest to Aspen.

Screenings begin today at 12:30 p.m. with the launch of a new Mountainfilm lunch series at the Cooking School of Aspen. Themed “The New Normal,” today’s hourlong presentation features three short climate change documentaries: “The Seed Vault,” about the Global Seed Vault near the North Pole; “Adaptation Bangledesh,” about cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrére; and “The End of Snow,” which looks at the future of a world without snow.

Boulder-based ecologist Jane Zelikova serves as a tour guide of melting snowscapes in “The End of Snow,” a fast-paced, 20-minute documentary directed by Morgan Heim.

“Snowpack, this thing we consider a given in the West, is disappearing,” Zelikova says early in the film. “Ski resorts are closing down, reservoirs are drying up, wildfire seasons are getting worse.”

Aspenites know all too well the existential threat that a warming climate poses to ski town life. But rather than detail the doomsday scenarios to come, Zelikova focuses her tour on people who are working on solutions and searching for answers.

The film follows Zelikova to a high alpine lake, where paleohydrologist Bryan Shuman is collecting mud and analyzing the 10,000 years’ worth of environmental data in it. The sediment functions as a time capsule, allowing Shuman to extrapolate what the high country looked like when the Earth’s climate was one degree warmer than it is now. The data shows a mountain west 6,000 years ago without creeks and streams flowing from its shallower lakes. He sees us heading back to that reality.

“We could fully expect that to be the future,” he says. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of the world as we know it.”

Zelikova also spends time with Billy Barr, a hermit who has lived in a cabin in the wilderness outside Crested Butte for more than four decades, meticulously chronicling daily snowpack levels. His data has become a treasure trove for climate scientists.

And she heads to Wyoming to drive cattle with Freddie Botur, a cowboy figuring out how to steward his cows’ grazing terrain and keep his livelihood as snowmelt decreases.

Today’s primetime presentation is dubbed “An Evening of Adventure” and includes seven short outdoor adventure films. Among them is “John Shocklee: A Fairy Tale,” about a Silverton ski bum and Grand Canyon river guide; “Doing It Scared,” about Paul Pritchard’s return to climbing after a head injury; and “A Field Guide to Losing Your Friends,” about Tyler Dunning’s healing adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park following the death of a friend in a terrorist attack.

Mountainfilm’s screenings will include filmmakers as well as film subjects. Organizers this year shortened the festival’s name. It was previously known as MountainSummit: Mountainfilm in Aspen.

Additional highlights include the feature-length documentary “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story,” about the “bionic chef” who cooks with a prosthetic arm (Thursday, 7 p.m. at the Wheeler; Garcia will also cook for a community dinner Sunday at the Cooking School of Aspen); “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” following the legendary climber for more than 10 years (Friday, 5:30 p.m. at the Wheeler); and “Blood Road,” about a mountain biker’s trek to the site where her father’s plane crashed on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War (Saturday, 5:30 p.m.).

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