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Banff Mountain Film Festival tour coming to Spokane’s Bing Crosby Theater

Chilling doses of icy adventure are among features the Banff Mountain Film Festival is delivering to Spokane next weekend.

The 42nd annual festival concluded last weekend in Alberta and the World Tour is on the road to show about 30 films to audiences around the world. The Big Crosby Theater is one of the tour’s first stops.

“ ‘Frozen Road’ – about a British guy riding his bike around the world, is one of those where the main character comes to a point, in this case the arctic, and starts thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” Phil Bridgers said.

The Mountain Gear host for the festival films coming to Spokane was in Banff previewing films last weekend. He said he marveled at climbing, skiing and mountain biking films as well as off-beat shorts such as a film featuring a 90-year-old ice skater and one that profiles a mountain biker who gets hooked on cold water therapy. She eventually sets a record for swimming 50 meters deep into an ice-capped lake.

The World Tour is sold out for Friday and Saturday nights at The Bing, but some tickets may still be available for Sunday.

A different lineup will be shown each night, featuring a range of exhilarating and provocative films that explore life in the mountains, on the waters and in the skies. They highlight remote cultures and intense expeditions into exotic landscapes.

And, of course, there’s always some adrenaline-charged action that makes you hope your kids aren’t doing that.

“Unlike so many things in life where promises are big and the product is disappointing, the Banff Mountain Film Festival continues to deliver incredible films year after year,” said Michael Boge of Mountain Fever, tour host for the World Tour stops in North Idaho later this winter. “This year is no exception.”

The trend continues of women taking larger empowering roles in the festival films, he said.

“And of course, there’s some total craziness,” he said. He cited a handful of mind bogglers including “2.5 Million” chronicling the quest of a man out to log that many vertical feet of uphill skiing in a single year.

Both Boge and Bridgers were impressed by the personality highlighted in “The Last Honey Hunter.” Filmed in Nepal, the film crew follows Mauli Dhan Rai, 58, who climbs bamboo ropes hundreds of feet above the ground to obtain the hallucinogenic honey in vertical cliffs above.

“His drive to do this came from a dream when he was 16 years old,” Boge said. “His profession helps feed the village he lives in. The story is powerful.”

The Banff Centre staff in Banff pares down nearly 400 films to around 50 that make the cut for judging at the festival.

The People’s Choice award at Banff this year went to “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.” Coincidentally, it screened in Banff the day after the 94-year-old climber died.

“This is rare year in which the People’ Choice film won’t be on the World Tour,” Bridgers said. “It’s touring the country on its own.”

Sale of home-made cookies at The Bing during the Banff films has become an important fundraiser for Spokane Nordic, the club that maintains the cross-country ski trails and other nordic programs at Mount Spokane State Park.

“Killer good films will be screened Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Bridgers said. “We never know exactly what will be licensed to show until the last minute, but these creative filmmakers are always coming up with good stuff.”