Every fall, adventurers migrate to Banff, Alberta. They come not only for the fabulous scenery outside, but for the climbing, kayaking, flying and first ascents inside the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture.
The 22nd annual Banff Festival of Mountain Films runs Nov. 7-9 and is the largest and most prestigious event of its kind in the world. So while the leaves shine golden outside, the audience of 6,000 treks to the festival for the continuous film and video screenings, international guest speakers, adventure trade fair, mountain craft sale, climbing wall and seminars.
But that’s not all that’s happening in the Canadian Rockies this fall. Now in its fourth year, the Annual Banff Mountain Book Festival runs Nov. 5-9, also at the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture.
And just one year old is the Banff International Mountain Photography Competition. Amateur and professional photographers submitted 2,000 images seeking prizes for best photo on mountain adventure, mountain landscape, mountain culture, mountain flora and fauna and mountain environment. Winning photos are on display during the film and book festivals.
Ticket holders can sit in on films, lectures and seminars from an assortment of big-name explorers, writers, photographers and cinematographers.
Special guest speakers at the Book Festival include British mountaineer and author Doug Scott, who will lecture on his experiences of climbing the “Seven Summits,” the highest peak on each continent.
Climbing legend and founder of Patagonia clothing Yvon Chouinard is expected to inspire audiences with a 40-year retrospective of his climbing life, including many first ascents, such as the North American Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
Photographer Chris Noble will join Chouinard and share excerpts from his upcoming book on the nature of adventure in a modern world.
Film entries compete in six categories: Grand Prize, Best Film on Climbing, Best Film on Mountain Sports, Best Film on Mountain Environment, Best Film on Mountain Culture and the Bill Roberts Award for Young Filmmakers.
The audience determines the winner of the People’s Choice Award.
Book entries compete in categories for Grand Prize, Mountain Literature, Mountain Exposition, Mountain Image and Adventure Travel.
While all this adventuring goes on inside, plenty of outside activities are still available for hikers, bikers and, depending on weather, Nordic skiers.
Elk ramble down the streets of Banff Townsite and few tourists are on hand to snap photos. Sudden fall squalls over the Sawback mountain range can throw snow at visitors any time of year, so visitors should be prepared with coats and hats.
Of the 1.6 million acres within Banff National Park, only a small portion receives human footprints. Grizzly and black bear, mountain goat, elk and mule deer roam the 900 miles of trails and craggy terrain in Banff’s back country.
Obviously, the road to Banff has not always been the well-maintained two-hour jaunt from Calgary International Airport (or eight-hour drive from Spokane). In the summer of 1882, the Stoney Indians first took Canadian Pacific Railway surveyor Tom Wilson to Lake Louise. By 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway drove the last spike into its line linking eastern and western Canada. Turn-of-the-century adventurers set the pace for today’s ultra-sport filmmakers, writers and photographers.
Inside the Banff Centre, plenty of the artists will be around to shake hands. Some have been coming to Banff since 1976, when the first film fest attracted about 250 people to view 10 films. Now some 40 films entertain audiences over the thee days.
Once the festivals close, the Best of Banff films go on tour. Screening dates and locations are not yet available, but the films generally tour Canada and the U.S. November through March.
Ticket Information: Tickets go on sale the first week of July, and all-inclusive special-rate passes sell out the first month. But individual tickets to film festival events are still available, and range from $20 (Canadian) for evening presentations to $35 for all-day access to films.
Book festival tickets vary from $10 for a “Literary Lunchbreak” with author Jon Krakauer, to $22 for two evening seminars. A three-day book festival pass is $55.
For more information, visit the festivals’ Web site at banffcentre.ab.ca/CMC/ or call (800) 298-1229.
For lodging information, contact Banff/Lake Louise Central Reservations (800) 661-1676; Canadian Pacific Lodges (800)441-1414; or Alberta Tourism (800) 661-8888.
Exchange rate: The exchange rate varies, but currently is so favorable that the $20 Canadian bill - which features a detailed sketch of the view from the Chateau on famed Lake Louise - costs just $14 U.S. dollars.