Steamboat Mountain Film Festival showcases adventure ski films | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Mountain Film Festival showcases adventure ski films

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — What is it that fuels a desire to wake up before dawn in pursuit of a pristine snow oasis?

Is it the untracked powder? The solitude? Or curiosity to see just how far limits can be tested?

Nuances of the outdoors await around every bend, and this weekend, audiences will have a chance to see for themselves a few locations and human-powered experiences geared to evoke winter stoke and awe.

Steamboat Mountain Film Festival will present two ski films at 7 p.m. Friday at the Chief Theater.

The first film, "2.5 Million," follows the story of Aaron Rice as he set out to ski 2.5 million human-powered vertical feet in the backcountry and set a new world record.

The second film is Powder Magazine's  "Monumental: Skiing Our National Parks," which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

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"The focus is on place and people, which comes through especially strong in both films," said Michael Martin, project manager of Michael Martin Productions and producer of the Steamboat Mountain Film Festival. "As opposed to the major production companies, which typically focus on athletes, these films put the place first (“Monumental”) and the human experience ("2.5 Million") at the forefront.

"Often, you watch a ski movie, and a skier outruns an avalanche, but there’s not follow up, no story or details behind it," Martin continued. "Both of these films highlight those elements in a thoroughly entertaining manner."

Another chance to see those pristine snowy environs will be at the 13th annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival, which will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Chief Theater as a fundraiser for Yampatika and Friends of the Routt Backcountry.

"2.5 Million"

Aaron Rice’s motto was simple, "Eat. Skin uphill 2.5 million vertical feet. Ski. Sleep. Repeat."

A seemingly farfetched feat, Rice was inspired in 2010 when he was in college at the University of Vermont and followed along as Greg Hill skied 2 million feet in a calendar year .

"My friends and I joked that if we quit our jobs and got someone to pay for all of our gear, we could probably ski that much," said Rice. "Five years later, I decided to put that to the test."

The answer to why? For the love of skiing, of course.

"I love skiing, and I really love good skiing," said Rice. "I just wanted to ski as much as I possibly could in a year and doing so in the backcountry would make my turns as good as possible. This just happened to also be a record. That being said I learned so much along the way and have found so many other reasons that probably would have been a better reason to go for such a goal."

2.5 Million from WILDER on Vimeo.

More than just a skiing pursuit, the adventure included 332 days of climbing, averaging 7,200 feet or more per day, in four states and three countries. His maximum was climbing 14,600 feet in an 11-hour day.

"Some days it was the skiing that kept me going. Other days it was my friends. Other days it was only the goal itself," said Rice. "Overtraining syndrome was a much bigger deal than I expected. Pushing through that was very tough. On the flip side, the mental aspect was also very difficult. Staying motivated in the spring when the snow was beginning to melt was very hard."

"With the huge rise in our community of skiers/snowboarders climbing the ski area before dawn and after work, it is an inspiration," Martin said. "I have been in Steamboat for over 20 years, and it used to be rare to see one or two people skinning up the resort. Nowadays, there are herds of people climbing it every day. Aaron’s accomplishment pushes the boundary of what’s possible and just how far one can go if they put their mind to it."

Tyler Wilkinson-Ray, who filmed, directed and edited “2.5 Million” said the film motivates people to explore personal boundaries and set ambitious goals.

"There's only so many truly authentic stories that happen in skiing every year, and I knew this would be one of them," said Wilkinson-Ray. "When he set out to do this record, he told people he wasn’t doing for the publicity but because he wanted to challenge himself and also just ski as much as he could.

"He really was just doing it for himself, and perhaps that is the only way to do a task like ‘2.5 Million,’" added Wilkinson-Ray.

Skier stats:

  • Maximum day: 14,436 feet in 11 hours
  • Maximum week: 72,957 feet
  • Maximum month: 303,423 feet
  • Average day: 6,867 feet and seven to 10 hours
  • Average week: 48,200 feet
  • Average month: 209,000 feet

"Monumental"

“Monumental,” which marks Powder magazine's first major movie, is told through the lens of KGB Productions and REI Co-Op with skiers Andy Mahre, Lynsey Dyer, Griffin Post, Colter Hinchliffe, Kalen Thorien, Greg Hill, Max Hammer and Connery Lundin.

The film takes viewers to Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park and Olympic National Park.

"In the summer, you have to practically parallel park to find a parking spot in Yosemite," said John Stifter, executive producer of Powder Productions. "But in winter, no one is there. You have a handful of the most beautiful places on our planet to yourselves. The silence was so peaceful."

With the goal of storytelling in mind, Stifter said the film features not only skiing in sacred places but unearthing the history of the national parks.

Whether it's summer or winter, Stifter said the film is meant to inspire audiences to appreciate, preserve and protect these natural resources from development for future generations. 

"It’s a great opportunity to showcase what people can do with national parks," Martin said. "A majority of National Park visitors simply drive their RVs around a park but rarely get out and experience the park itself. There’s so much debate right now in the political arena, but if more people actually got out and experienced the parks, they could see how valuable they are to us and future generations."

13th annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival

From the biggest ski day or the highest ice climb, this year's Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Films will showcase locations and stories brimming with winter adventure.

"The Backcountry Film Festival is renowned for its collaboration with filmmakers from all corners of the globe," said Kellie Gorman, program director with Yampatika, which is sponsoring the festival. "It's a celebration of the human-powered experience and a gathering place for the background snow sports community. The festival provides a fresh lineup of films committed to awaken everyone to the power of powder as well as provide inspiration and education to the community to help protect and care for our winter landscapes."

Yampatika and Friends of the Routt Backcountry are co-sponsoring the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival as a fundraiser to support Yampatika's environmental education programs and the Friends of the Routt Backcountry’s advocacy efforts to protect backcountry areas.

"I think people who live in Steamboat full time, part time or are just visitors will find ways to connect with these films for the artistic perspective, adventure component, and I truly hope they will connect to the beauty and awe of the natural world and leave feeling inspired to get outside and explore," said Gorman.

This year's program includes the following films:

  • "The Space Within," by DPS Skis Cinematic
  • "Ruth Gorge," by Noah Howell
  • "Below 0," by Itai Hagage
  • "The End of Snow," by Jane Zelikova and Morgan Heim
  • "Follow Through," by Anya Miller and Becca Cahall
  • "Genesis," by Ben Sturgulewski and Dan Pizza
  • "Idaho 12ver Project," by Mark Ortiz
  • "Adventure Not War," by Max Lowe 

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

If you go:

What: Steamboat Film Festival presents “Monumental” and “2.5 Million”

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: $10

If you go:

What: 13th annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: $20 or $10 for students as a fundraiser for Yampatika and Friends of the Routt Backcountry

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