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Pre-season Snow Flies on Screen

Backcountry Film Festival satisfies snowlust


Fall weather is such a tease. Although the Treasure Valley got its first sprinkling of snow over the weekend, expectations of an early ski slope opening are about as wise as planning a picnic. So what's an anticipatory powder-head to do? Slide on over to the Backcountry Film Festival, where big air pleasure meets proactive production.

Now in its fifth year, the Backcountry Film Festival is both a celebration of winter recreation and a creative fundraiser for conservation efforts. The showcase is produced by the Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance, which works to preserve backcountry lands for non-motorized snow enthusiasts.

"I see a lot of sit-down dinners out there as fundraisers," says Whitney Rearick, advocacy director for the WWA. "Those are great, this is something just a little bit different. It gets you that early-year jones, satisfies that urge and gets you in the mood for winter."

This year's BCFF has six short films on the docket, from the freeheel fantasy Winter Dreaming, which pictures the fleeting fun of skiing the Australian Alps, to Red Lady, a documentary about an embattled proposed mining site in Colorado.

"Ours is a film festival with a conscience," says Rearick. "We love to feature shots of dudes hucking big air, but we also have two films that highlight environmental problems facing our communities."

Following its inaugural screening here in Boise, the festival will be presented by other grass-roots organizations. Last year's festival visited 28 locations, and that number has grown this year, ranging from Talkeetna, Alaska, down to McMurdo, Antarctica. Proceeds from these showings go directly toward the local groups who present the festival.

"We're a local film festival with international films supporting national causes," says Rearick. "This festival that people are seeing here will be shown elsewhere to raise funds in those local areas. It does create a community."

Although preserving the great white wastes and woods is WWA's primary concern, the BCFF keeps the showcase balanced between passionate proaction and powder-carving prowess.

"It's more about having fun," says Rearick, herself an avid snow cutter. "I want people to realize that you don't have to be this hard body with $4,000 worth of gear to get out there and enjoy."

Also in this year's lineup is Gentemstick, BCFF's Best of Festival winner about a Japanese snowsurfer--a type of no-binding boardsport--who draws analogies between calligraphy strokes and hillside carving. Generations, by extreme sports producers Teton Gravity Research, is an examination of the demonstrable impact of global warming on the future of snowsports, while Flakes, a piece by the globe-trotting ski bums at Powderwhore, is an unabashed gawk-fest capturing some of the world's top telemark skiers in action. Rounding out the festival will be Fast Grass and Dirty Corn, a four-minute short about a group of Vermont skiers who refused to let patchy snowfall and half-thawed conditions halt their winter fun.

While none of this year's entries qualify for the Best Local Film award--no Idaho films quite fit the BCFF's narrow niche--Rearick hopes next year's selections will include some Treasure Valley submissions.

"You couldn't get your homemade jacket into REI. Here, that door is wide open," she says. "I'm really trying to encourage people to grab your video cameras and take some footage of the fun you're having in the backcountry. Shoot, whatever. Backcountry sledding. As long as it's fun, makes you smile, tells a story or shows something pretty."

See this week's Citizen on Page 11 for an interview with WWA executive director Mark Menlove.