Now that snow has fallen on Homer and Beluga Lake has frozen hard enough to possibly support a Subaru, it might actually feel like winter. Whether sloppy wet or bitter cold, mid-January brings a reliable sign of the season: the annual Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour Festival.
This year’s festival is the 17th for 2017. As before, the schedule includes so many awesome films of adventure, the environment and culture the tour gets spread over two nights, at 7 p.m. today and Saturday in the Mariner Theatre. Tickets are $10 each night, with proceeds benefitting Community Recreation programs.
Mountainfilm has its roots as an adventure film festival, but over the years has expanded to include short films — none is more than 25 minutes — about the environment, social issues and travel. Even the adventure films can take a new angle. While you might see adrenaline-junky films like “Angel Annihilates Alaska,” about skier Angel Collinson shredding steep mountain spines, a surfing film like “Strongwater” has all the drama of big waves — but it’s filmed on the Missoula, Mont., river. A staple of Mountainfilm takes a sport like mountain biking to new frontiers, as seen in “Iceland: Proven Here” and “The Trail to Kazbegi.”
Mixed in with intense skiing or surfing films, two films show how the outdoors doesn’t have to be about speed. In “Ace and the Desert Dog,” photographer Ace Kvale and his blue heeler, Ghengis, take a 60-day backpacking trip in the Utah desert to celebrate his 60th birthday — slowly, and visiting with friends along the way. “Mile 19” tells the story of a Vietnam veteran marathon runner who has run or walked every Los Angeles marathon since its start in 1986. “It’s not about how long you’re out there. It’s about completing the race,” he says in the film. “You gotta grind it out, because life ain’t nothing but a grind.”
That’s another genre of Mountainfilm: the personality profile. Other films look at people overcoming adversity, like 90-year-old figure skater Yvonne Dowlen, who survived a car crash and a major stroke to keep carving ice.
In another Alaska film, “The Super Salmon,” filmmaker Ryan Peterson tells the story of Talkeetna activist Mike Wood and Super Salmon, a determined king salmon that swam more than 300 miles upstream to the headwaters of the Susitna River and a place salmon don’t usually swim.