For the 15th year in a row, The Backcountry Film Festival opened in Boise before embarking on its 125-city journey across the U.S. The films are a mix of “ski porn,” showing big mountain lines, stories of indigenous people trying to protect what’s sacred and even artists venturing into the backcountry to paint. At the heart of all of the films, however, is human-powered adventure.
“It’s doing good and it’s bringing people together and celebrating everything in the backcountry,” said Winter Wildlands Alliance Festival and Membership Manager Melinda Quick.
Quick was not only the coordinator of the event, but the emcee, as well. She introduced the films before the screening and encouraged the audience to interact, hoot and holler, and get excited for the winter. The festival was a two-hour affair, comprised of 10 short films that showcase outdoor adventures. The themes of the films vary, from "Colter," a movie showing a group of friends retracing the steps of legendary mountaineer John Colter, to "A Climb for Equality," which follows professional skier Caroline Gleich as she overcomes a torn ACL to climb Mt. Everest, noting that only 11% of those who do so are women.
Outdoor recreation spaces are, at least publicly, are often dominated by white men. However, Quick said she wanted to showcase the feats of women and people of color in these spaces. More often than not, the spaces people recreate on are historically indigenous lands, which was shown in "Khutrao," a short documentary that follows Mapuche mountaineers who have lived in the mountains of what is now Argentina and Chile for thousands of years.
“Ever since I started, I’ve done [the festival] two seasons now, I’ve been really focused on equity and diversity,” she said.
The films don’t necessarily have a criteria to meet in terms of quality. Even documentaries shot on a phone would be accepted if they tell compelling stories of human-powered outdoor innovation. Going forward, Quick wants to see more diversity and more youth in the films.
Youth are, in a way, at the heart of the mission. Part of the film festival is promoting Snowschool, the education component of the Winter Wildlands Alliance. Snowschool gets kids out into the backcountry on snowshoes to learn about winter hydrology. It started years ago on Bogus Basin, and now has spread to more than 70 locations across the Mountain West.
While in its 15th year, this was the first year the festival had two showings: an early and a late showing. Quick said this opened the festival to more Boiseans. In the past it's always sold out, but offering two showings allowed the movies to reach a wider audience, even if the crowds didn't sell out.