Snow, as a noun, is simply "precipitation in the form of ice crystals, mainly of intricately branched, hexagonal form and often agglomerated into snowflakes, formed directly from the freezing of the water vapor in the air" (dictionary.com).
For city dwellers, it is also the slushy gray stuff that piles up in gutters, makes driving perilous and forces people to shovel their sidewalks to avoid lawsuits from clumsy neighbors in slippery-soled shoes.
For those who enjoy winter outdoor activities—and for poets—snow is a beauteous, bewitching blanket that covers rolling hills, drops in huge, wet clumps from the limbs of giant oak trees and gives evidence to the whereabouts of wild animals, their paths etched in an otherwise blank, white slate.
It's a view of winter that the Winter Wildlands Alliance, whose mission is to protect delicate wintertime ecosystems, will share through the fourth annual Backcountry Film Festival. It's part of an effort to blur the line between form and function, depicting outdoor enthusiasts enjoying snow activities while promoting the importance of protection and conservation.
Proceeds from the event support public lands and youth education programs, as well as national policy work advocating for the responsible stewardship of pristine wildlands.
Festival producer Jeff Cole, who has a background in film production, worked with a panel that included Mark Menlove, Lou Peterson and Charlie Woodruff to winnow down the 20 or so submissions to the five films that were of the highest quality and best represented the alliance's mission and this year's theme, "Human-Powered Snow Sports."
"We choose films most closely aligned with our mission and have a message about protection and a conservation-minded attitude toward all ecosystems," Cole said. "We had some amazing films submitt[ed] this year, and I was really stoked because all of them had this human-powered message."
Films include Fast Grass and Dirty Corn by Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson, which is about hardcore skiers determined to make the most out of spring skiing in the greening hills of Vermont where the biggest obstacle is a patch of grass.
Award-winning Hand Cut is director Nick Waggoner's first effort. Hand Cut takes a look at the parallels between ski towns' roots in mining and huge winter recreation centers. Stunning cinematography and an equally engaging soundtrack make this a must-see for not only snow enthusiasts but documentary lovers as well.
In My Own Two Feet, extreme is taken to a whole new elevation when a group of adventurous snowboarders hike as high and as far as they can, schussing through some amazing powder and camping in some pretty gnarly spots. And they do it all on foot.
In The Pact, one telemarker must re-learn to turn after a devastating accident leaves him with one leg amputated above the knee.
And in Ride It Out, Boise snowkiters Darrel Thomas and J. Clive Jordan show that this wind-powered sport (which they practice around Fairfield), though dangerous to humans, is almost entirely earth-friendly. Thomas and Jordan will be on hand Friday night to introduce their film.
Whether the advent of winter causes anticipation or apathy, these films offer beautiful imagery, an array of information and a glimpse of human beings willing to go to any length for a sweet ride.