Steamboat plays host to weekend of outdoor adventure films |

Steamboat plays host to weekend of outdoor adventure films

Jeremy Jones in the John Muir Wilderness in the Teton Gravity Research film “Ode to Muir.” (Photo courtesy of Nick Kallsz)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This weekend, a cascade of outdoor adventure films that have been touring the country will make a stop at the Chief Theater in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Teton Gravity Research’s “Ode to Muir” and “Andy Irons: Kissed by God” will screen on Friday, Feb. 15, and Yampatika and Friends of the Routt Backcountry will present the 14th annual Backcountry Film Festival, compiled by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, on Saturday, Feb. 16.

‘Ode to Muir’

Teton Gravity Research’s newest film, “Ode to Muir,” has been applauded as a snowboard film unlike any other. Professional snowboarder and environmental activist Jeremy Jones and two-time Olympian Elena Hight set off on a 40-mile, nine-day, human-powered snowboard and winter camping expedition in California’s John Muir Wilderness — not to prove their radness but to bring awareness, emotion and action to a cause they most care about.

With “Ode to Muir,” Jones continues to build a movement against climate change, an issue he’s been involved with for decades, most notably as the founder of the nonprofit Protect Our Winters.

To help, Jones enlisted the words of John Muir, author, philosopher and advocate of land conservation, born in 1838.

If you go

What: TGR’s “Ode to Muir” and “Andy Irons: Kissed by God”
When: Doors/bar at 6:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15
Where: The Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: $15

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home — that wildness is a necessity,” a voiceover of Muir says.

“The way to achieve our climate goals is to get non-voters to vote,” Jones said to Outside Online.

The film has toured everywhere snowboard film audiences are typically found but also in political battleground states, with the aim of putting the film in front of people who might not vote otherwise.

Jones’ logic: “It’s hard to be a climate denier if you’re a fisherman, hunter, kayaker or skier.”

“You can’t get back pure wilderness,” Jones says in the film. “Once it’s affected, it’s gone.”

Jones, who’s been involved with more than 30 films, has said “Ode to Muir” is the most important film he’s ever made.

‘Andy Irons: Kissed by God’

Hawaii’s Andy Irons gained international recognition as a legendary three-time world champion surfer with a rags-to-riches backstory and a famously funny, energetic and unpredictable personality. He seemed to have everything, living life to the fullest. He was called “the people’s champion.”

But what few people knew is that Irons was dealing with bipolar disorder and an opioid addiction. After Irons’ death at 32 — due to a heart attack associated with drug ingestion — his family and friends created a documentary, a compilation of interviews with loved ones and footage of Irons’ life. They aim to portray Irons’ true essence to both honor his memory and to help break down stigmas of mental health challenges and the national emergency of opioid addiction.

“The focus of the festival is outdoor adventure movies, with a human element tying them together,” said Michael Martin, producer of the event.

The two-film event is part of the Steamboat Film Festival and is a benefit for its host, the Chief Theater. Friday’s event marks the fifth year of the benefit.

“I like the trueness and the rawness of these films,” Martin said. “In this day and age, with social media and the way many of these movies are made, it’s easy to get caught up in the high-production, glossy version of things. These films feature larger-than-life characters who you always see performing at the highest level, but now, you’re seeing them breaking down and crying.

“You don’t always know what’s going on behind closed doors,” Martin said. “It’s good to ask how other people are doing and check in with one another because you don’t always know, and that’s easy to hide.”

From the short film “Abandoned.” (Photo by Lio DelPiccolo/Winter Wildlands Alliance)

14th annual Backcountry Film Festival

People are invited back to the Chief on Saturday for the Backcountry Film Festival, which is hosted by Yampatika and Friends of Routt Backcountry and compiled by the Winter Wildlands Alliance.

“These are the top 10 films out of many that have been looked at by the WWA,” said Joe Haines, executive director of Yampatika, Steamboat Springs’ environmental education nonprofit. “They’re all celebrating the human-powered experience, which is what we’re doing with Yampatika’s programs, whether that’s taking people on Rabbit Ears or up to Uranium Mine. It’s a great connection.”

Friends of the Routt Backcountry, a chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club and of the WWA, was created in 1998 in response for the need for a local, nonmotorized voice in conversations about winter recreation issues on the Routt National Forest.

If you go

What: Backcountry Film Festival
When: Doors/bar open at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: $20 or $10 for student tickets

The festival set of films begins with none other than TGR’s “Ode to Muir” for those who miss Friday night’s screening or want to see it twice.

Also showcased will be a film documenting a quest to ski the 11 highest peaks in the American West during one road trip; a ski exploration through Colorado’s abandoned ski resorts; a first-generation Mexican-American woman discovering a love of mountaineering and snow camping; a surfer getting into the waves of icy Lake Superior, Michigan, in the dead of winter; a university professor tiring of monotony and going to great lengths to find a mysterious frozen waterfall in China; a look into the lives of social change makers in the Sierras; and more.

“The movies themselves are so diverse,” Haines said. “There’s something that’s going to appeal to everyone — whether you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, or whether you appreciate the challenges that people overcome to do some of this stuff.”

And like a backcountry ski tour or a quick lunch break snowshoe trek along the river, “The films aren’t about the destination; they’re about the journey,” Haines said. “That’s what makes them really special.”

The film festival premiered in Boise, Idaho, in November. It will tour more than 100 locations across the world and is expected to raise more than $180,000 for local mountain communities.

Yampatika and Friends of the Routt Backcountry will each have informational tables at the event, and proceeds from the festival will benefit the two nonprofits.

“For us, this is as much a friend-raiser as a fundraiser,” Haines said.

For Yampatika, the money will mostly go to support its school-based programs, serving kindergarten through high school students, in a variety of programs.

Friends of the Routt Backcountry will use the funds to pay for lunch coupons for the organization’s winter trailhead ambassadors preforming recreational monitoring within the National Forest.

“During the (latest government) shutdown, the ambassadors were the eyes and ears of the Routt National Forest,” said the organization’s director Leslie Lovejoy. “They were the ones seeing the vandalism in bathrooms and snowmobilers coming into the nonmotorized areas. They’re a great team of workers, and the lunch coupons are their thank-yous.”

Funds raised at the film fest will also support the organization’s next event: the Wooden Ski Rendezvous on March 2, complete with ski races, costumes, a potluck dinner and a pine tarring clinic.

The festival’s local title sponsor is “Essentrics with Susan,” an exercise aiming to rebalance the body and strengthen muscles for fewer injuries and faster recovery.

Door prizes fitting with the night’s theme of the human-powered experience will also be available.

“It’s going to be a great weekend,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief Theater.

To reach Julia Ben-Asher, call 970-871-4229 or email or follow her on Twitter @JuliaBenAsher.

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