Backcountry Film Festival: The adventures of a lifetime all in one night

Everybody knows Bozeman is a ski town. Coming from a place where the sport was not as prevalent, I have loved being surrounded by the culture and stoke that living here provides. Because of the huge community of outdoor enthusiasts who like to get together and have fun, Bozeman is the perfect stop for the Backcountry Film Festival, which was in town on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture.

The Backcountry Film Festival, put on by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, is a collection of thought-provoking films that feature backcountry or other human powered recreation, with an emphasis on environmental awareness and conservation. They are all winter-oriented, intending to both educate and excite viewers about the season. The festival premiers in Boise, Idaho and then travels to more than 100 towns worldwide, reaching over 20,000 outdoor enthusiasts.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance was formed in 2000 based on the idea that skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and anyone else who enjoys outdoor adventures needed a voice regarding issues that impact the winter backcountry. They have a national presence by working with Forest Service, National Park Service and elected officials to support policies that allow this recreation to continue. The alliance supports a number of snowsports groups throughout the country to help with issues that might affect their local backcountry areas, and give back through their SnowSchool which helps get over 30,000 kids outside in the winter every year.

The first annual Backcountry Film Festival was organized in 2005. When a local organization such as the Montana Backcountry Alliance and the Montana Wilderness Association decides to host the festival, the money it costs to screen the films goes to the Winder Wildlands Alliance to support their work. All other proceeds from ticket sales go to the local hosting organization. More than that though, the festival helps spread the word about backcountry recreation and build excitement for the coming season.

One of the featured films, “Shifting Ice,” was filmed and produced by Kt Miller, who was born and raised in Bozeman. It told the story of five women and their expedition sailing from Iceland to Greenland through ice, wind and storms to ski towering peaks on the west coast of Greenland. The purpose of their journey was to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues and promote female snow sports adventures while having a crazy adventure with friends.

“It’s not a matter of what’s possible, it’s just how,” said Kt Miller, who was at the showing to answer questions. She encouraged everyone to dream big and her excitement was contagious. On their trip, they limited their environmental footprint by sailing and climbing instead of flying and using snowmobiles to get to their lines. She said that every little thing you can do to make a difference helps. “I like to think of it as circles of influence. If you can’t change yourself, how will you be able to change everything else?”

The festival will more than likely be back again next year as Bozeman is an ideal audience. Keep an eye out for updates on when the 2016-2017 tour will be passing through, and visit winterwildlands.org to learn more about the organization and what you can do to contribute to the important work they are doing.

By Isabel Loos