Banff Mountain Film Fest gives Boulder an adrenaline rush

Where else in Boulder can you watch dozens of skiers hit the slopes in the buff? Actually, don’t answer that. We are talking about Boulder after all.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 3.41.34 PMThe Banff Mountain Film Festival touched down in the city Tuesday and Wednesday night as part of the festival’s world tour, closing out with Vahalla, a three-minute compilation of nude skiers and snowboarders.

Roughly 850 people packed the Boulder Theater for a chance to witness some extreme — emphasis on extreme — sports captured on film. From blind whitewater kayaking, to ski jumping, to long distance paddleboarding, the tour was like an adrenaline rush for the eyes.

Documentaries by Colorado filmmakers were aired alongside standouts from the festival, which included Ready to Fly, winner of Best Feature Length Mountain Film, and North of the Sun, winner of the Grand Prize.

Both Allison Otto and Cedar Wright were in house to showcase their films and answer questions from the audience.

Otto’s Keeper of the Mountains tells the story of Elizabeth Hawley, a 90-year-old record-keeper who has been tracking Himalayan expeditions since the 1960s.

The biggest challenge Otto faced while filming Hawley in Kathmandu? Keeping up. With 9 a.m. start times and four to five climber consultations a day, Otto explained Hawley didn’t leave a lot of free time for interviews.

Cedar Wright’s journey in Sufferfest, however, could only be described as “legitimately heinous.”

In the film, climbing superstars and novice cyclists Wright and Alex Honnold attempt to link all of California’s 14ers by bicycle. The result? A 22-day tour de pain.

“I’m kind of getting a little traumatized right now,” an exhausted Wright declares in the film.

Despite the blistering thighs and swollen ankles, the pair’s sense of humor throughout the journey made the film an audience favorite.

Organized and hosted by The Access Fund, 2014 marked the second time the tour stopped in Boulder. The tour will be showing again in Denver tonight and tomorrow evening with some variation in the line-up.

The Definitive Ranking of the Top Five Films of BMFF

1. Keeper of the Mountains

More of a character study than anything else, Hawley proved a worthy subject with her innocent sense of humor and dedication to her craft. Her prim denial of an affair with Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t hurt either.

2. Sufferfest

This 18-minute video diary captured a lot of pain, and a lot of excitement. But, as Wright says, you wouldn’t have joy without suffering.

3. North of the Sun

Ever wondered what an Arctic version of Castaway would look like? Look no further than Inge Wegge’s North of the Sun, which documents two Norwegian youths as they spend the winter sleeping, and surfing, on a frozen beach.

4. The Questions We Ask

This short film follows Canadian Bruce Kirkby as he crosses the Pacific from Vancouver to Victoria on a stand-up paddleboard. Why not take the ferry? Watch the film and find out for yourself.


A visual poem filled with stunning imagery and natural beauty, I AM RED follows the life, and death, of the Colorado River, the United States’ most endangered river.

Pain and Suffering in the Sierras: Q & A with Cedar Wright

What do you get when you combine biking 700 miles with climbing more than 100,000 vertical feet? A whole new level of pain and suffering, according to famed free soloers Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold.

As part of their latest adventure documentary, Sufferfest, Wright and Honnold traveled around California by bicycle, climbing the state’s 14ers — 15 mountains with elevations over 14,000-feet.

The film, which began as eight short episodes chronicling their painful journey, is touring with the Banff Mountain Film Festival and will be stopping in Boulder on February 25 and February 26.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 4.20.17 PM

Photo Credit: Corey Richards

Recently, The Boulder Stand spoke to Wright about his film, and what’s next for “sufferfest.”

BS: Who coined the term “sufferfest”?

CW: It’s an old term. I think cyclists have been using that term for a long time. [For the film] I was kind of like, ‘Oh, we’re calling it the Sufferfest,’ just jokingly. I genuinely thought it was just going to be a fun little mission, and it turned out that it was more of a premonition than I originally realized.

BS: How did the idea for Sufferfest come about?

CW: Alex (Honnold) and I were down in Chile, and he was kind of on this environmental kick. We just started talking about consumption, alternative energy and even about our own mass carbon footprint with all the flying that we do. We thought it would be really cool to have a low-impact adventure closer to home.

BS: From the initial planning stage, how long did it take to put together?

CW: That was in the spring the year before, and we started talking about how it would be cool to do a bike tour. Then we were throwing around ideas for the tour, and I was like, ‘Well, maybe we should do the Cascades.’ We were going to do the Cascades, but then realized right at the last minute that it was going to be rainy in the Cascades at that time of year, so it was a bad choice.

Then we said, ‘What about California?’ But Alex didn’t want to do California, since [he’d] already been all over the place. I suggested we do the 14ers. He was like, ‘That’s a genius idea,’ and I was like, “Of course it is, it’s my idea.’ Nah, I’m just joking.

So we started looking into it, and then we realized that, as far as we could tell, no one had ever tried it or done it before, which was added incentive. With our tight schedules we figured out a little window of time — we basically had three weeks to make it work — and went for it. We barely pulled it off in the nick of time; we literally had one more day before we had to stop the journey no matter what and then we climbed the last peak. It was a pretty amazing, for sure.

BS: In one of the episodes, you refer to it as the worst trip ever. Would you actually say it was the worst trip ever?

CW: I would say it was the worst, best trip ever in the end. It’s one of those things where, while we’re doing it, we’re just suffering and having a legitimately miserable time, but then when we finished, we had this tremendous sense of accomplishment. It was to the point where I was like, ‘I will never, ever do a bike tour again,’ and, ironically, we’re doing Sufferfest 2 this spring.

We’re going to be riding around Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona —the four corners— and climbing desert towers. We’re kind of using the profile and attention we got from the last Sufferfest to do something we had been talking about before, which is the whole solar alternative energy focus. We’re working with a non-profit to do a big solar project on the Navajo reservation. I think that’s going to be a really fun project that we can raise a bunch of money for while we’re out there.

BS: What was the hardest part about documenting the trip for you? Did you have a film crew with you at all, or was it just the two of you?

CW: It was largely just me with a small camera, and then I had friend who showed up for a couple parts of the journey to do some interviews, and got a bit of stuff of us biking. The hardest part is that the best time to pull out the camera is when you least want to. It’s when you’re all beat up, when you’re tired, when things are going wrong, but that’s when the story is happening. So, the toughest part was just pulling out the camera when the shit hit the fan. For every time I do, there’s a time that I didn’t. But I think I pulled it out enough to capture some of the suffering and misery.

BS: If you had to say what was the worst moment of the trip, and the best moment of the trip, what would you choose?

CW: The worst moment? It’s hard, there were a lot of competing moments, but definitely White Mountain was horrible. We thought it was going to be an easy day and it ended up taking us almost 17 or 18 hours in total. Epic. And we got really worked on that one. That’s when my ankle started to really hurt. The other really bad moment was when we climbed the wrong peak. It was a big, disappointing moment because we were so tired already, and then it was like, “We have to do more exercise?!” Epic. Totally epic.

BS: Best moment?

CW: Probably finishing. We had come so far, worked so hard and pushed through so much pain and suffering it was just this tremendous moment. Standing on the top of Langley, having climbed a pretty demanding route to get up there, just felt amazing. Another really cool moment was climbing on Mount Russell, because it was such good rock climbing. That’s really some of the best climbing we did on the trip. None of the great moments happened on the bike really.

BS: So you preferred climbing to biking?

CW: In the end, I like the combination, I really do. It just kind of boils everything down to where you’re really immersed in what you’re doing. Everything was simplified and it just makes everything way more challenging. As much as the challenges make you suffer and put pain into your world, it also gives you that full-fledged experience in the sense of being immersed in the adventure.

BS: Any final thoughts or comments?

CW: We’ll be taking off on Sufferfest 2 mid-March, I hope that people tune in and follow along. I’m honored and humbled that people seem to enjoy and be entertained by the film, and I hope I inspire people to have an adventure close to home, because having a big adventure doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a plane and going halfway around the world.

Cedar Wright will be presenting his film, Sufferfest, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the Boulder Theater on February 26. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter, @cedarwright.

Climate Change Casualty: What the ski industry stands to lose

As the precipitation season wound to a close in April 2013, the Dillon Reservoir in the heart of Summit County was still only at 65 percent capacity. It did not recover until the heavy rains and flooding of September 2013.  (Photo/Christi Turner)

As the precipitation season wound to a close in April 2013, the Dillon Reservoir in the heart of Summit County was still only at 65 percent capacity. It did not recover until the heavy rains and flooding of September 2013. (Photo/Christi Turner)

By Kendall Brunette

Some people call them podunk.  Some call them money pits in a one-horse town.  Whatever you call them, small, rural ski resorts across the country are struggling.

Stuart Thompson has worked in the ski business since the 1960s.  He’s held every job from ski patrol to avalanche control.  Most recently, Thompson ran White Pine Ski Area in the rural town of Pinedale, Wyo. – a mere dot on the map.

The U.S. Forest Service gave Thompson a permit to build what is now White Pine in 1988.  It took 10 years to develop the resort to the point of selling tickets.  In his slow Wyoming accent, Thompson described the tumultuous years he ran the resort.  Facing drought, reduced snowfall, a small customer population and limited reputation, Thompson struggled to keep the resort in business.

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