Banff films bring extreme outdoor pursuits to Spokane’s big screen

The movie “Cold” follows three climbers as they learn why 16 previous expeditions had failed to climb a big Pakistan peak during winter.
The movie “Cold” follows three climbers as they learn why 16 previous expeditions had failed to climb a big Pakistan peak during winter.

Adventure, humor, awareness and awe, plus a   good dose of pucker factor, are coming to   Spokane next weekend in a road show of top outdoor adventure films.

The cream of the crop from the 31st annual Banff Mountain Film Festival will be traveling from Alberta to The Bing Crosby Theater Friday through Sunday.

The shows will take the audience to extremes, from ascending to one of the coldest places on earth to rappelling into the hottest place – to take a sample of molten lava from the bowels of a volcano.

The films feature all sorts of outdoor pursuits, including climbing, wildlife, pedaling and paddling.

And there’s always a good dose of human interest in flicks such as “Ski Bums Never Die” (switchbackentertainment.com), the whimsical look at formerly young Canadian powderholics from Nelson’s Whitewater Ski Area who eventually got jobs, had careers – and then became ski bums again into their 70s.

Of more than 300 films from numerous countries entered in the 2011 competition, judges winnowed them to about 50, which were publicly screened in Banff in the competition for $50,000 in prizes.

About 15 will be shown in Spokane over the course of three days on the Banff festival’s World Tour.

The final selections from available films won’t be made until Friday, just hours before the World Tour kicks off the first of a three-night run in Spokane.

But staffers from Mountain Gear, which sponsors the World Tour’s Spokane stop, traveled to see the films in Banff. And they have some favorites in the pack.

“We have to show ‘Cold,’ ” said show coordinator Phil Bridgers. “It’s the festival grand prize winner and it’s 19 minutes of amazing raw video filmed by three climbers without a film crew.”

“Cold” ( forgemotionpictures.com) revolves around the hand-held camera of Cory Richard, who learned during the expedition why no other American had climbed an 8,000-meter peak during winter.

The film captures the pain, fear and doubt of high-stakes extreme mountaineering, complete with a harrowing descent that amplifies the trio’s isolation and exposure.

“I’ve seen this film three times and I look forward to seeing it again,” Bridgers said, noting that Richards introduced the film to the audience in Banff and gave insights.

“He told us that after the three of them survived an avalanche, he got really upset with his teammates. He put away his camera, made sure they were all roped up and told them he was going to take charge and lead them out of danger. Then he walked about 50 feet and fell into a crevasse. That humbled him pretty fast.”

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is famous for fostering films chronicling the passions and obsessions – tragedies as well as victories – of mountaineers, endurance and extreme athletes, and environmental and cultural efforts around the world.

Cutting edge? You bet. Leo Houlding won acclaim last year for “The Asgard Project,” a film about his ambitious expedition to Baffin Island to make the first free ascent of one of the most difficult and remote big walls in the world.

“This year he got up on stage to show the summons he’d just received (a year later) to appear in court in Calgary because the film showed paragliding off the summit,” Bridgers said.

“That’s illegal in Canada. The crowd roared with laughter.”

A timely environmental issue is tackled this year by “Spoil,” a documentary ( epfilms.tv) that deals with a controversial proposed oil pipeline across British Columbia and through the range of the rare white grizzlies known as the spirit bears.

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