Badass Banff: Outdoor film festival still focuses on honoring the storytelling behind the film

By on February 7, 2018

Twenty-five years ago a representative from the Banff Mountain Film Festival approached Phil Leeds, owner of Skinny Skis, and his business partner, at a trade show. The festival, held each fall in Banff, Canada, was at the time one of the only events of its kind, featuring and honoring stories about the outdoors, Leeds said. The promoters were looking for communities to host a traveling event that would feature some of the festival’s best and award-winning films.

The festival now tours across North America. The films are seen in hundreds of communities.

Technology has dramatically changed the look of the film in the festival, Leeds said. Digitization in filmmaking and photography allows for incredibly sharp images.  The sound is crisper. Technology has even impacted the types of stories that can be told and shown, by creating more portable equipment that allows filmmakers into areas they couldn’t reach hauling gear before, Leeds said.

“Every year it is more and more fantastic,” he said.

But what hasn’t changed is the storytelling, he said. Banff Mountain Film Festival remains one of the preeminent mountain film festivals in the world. It features stories that spread across the outdoor genre, from action, high-adrenaline movies to films exploring mountain culture, to documentaries on important conservation issues, Leeds said.

Skinny Skis is bringing the festival back for its 25th year in Jackson this week. It starts at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Jackson Hole High School Auditorium. Tickets are $12, or $20 if you want to go to both nights. Each evening features different films. The event almost always sells out in advance, Leeds said. You can buy tickets at Skinny Skis, Hungry Jacks or Valley Bookstore. You can purchase tickets at the door if any are available. Teton County students and teachers can buy tickets for $10.

Each evening offers about two hours of films and an intermission where the Jackson Hole High School Mountaineering Club will sell refreshments as a fundraiser.

Each year Leeds works with festival staff to create a screening lineup that will resonate with Jackson viewers.

On Thursday night, adventurers Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer will introduce a film in which they are featured, Into Twin Galaxies – A Greenland Epic is an award-winning film about “an insane kayaking mission in Greenland,” where three National Geographic “Adventurers of the Year,” tow white water kayaks to the Greenland Ice Cap to reach the most northern river ever paddled.

As always, both evening will feature a breadth of films, Leeds said.

An edited version of Planet Earth II — Mountain Ibex, dives into the world of one of the few animals that survive in the world’s highest mountain ranges.  My Irnik is about a father who falls in love with the northern way of life and works to pass on the native traditions and cultures to his son as he learns them himself. Ben Page learns traveling across the Canadian Arctic isn’t as romantic as a Jack London novel in “The Frozen Road.”

Killian follows famed mountain runner Killian Jornet as he attempts to ski and run the seven summits of Romsdalen in a single day. Freediver Johanna Nordblad dives under the ice to find a calming environment that helps her heal in the film Johanna. Chris Sharma takes it to another level while deep-water soloing on the island of Mallorca in Above the Sea.

“There’s a lot of adrenaline films people will enjoy, whether its mountain biking or skiing and it will open people’s eyes to other mountain cultures and conservation issues,” Leeds said. “People come to the festival for different reasons, but they come away from it having been exposed to some things they had never thought about.” PJH

For the full lineup visit

Banff Mountain Film Festival will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Jackson Hole High School Auditorium. The ticket price is $12 or $20 for both nights. Tickets are available at Skinny Skis, Hungry Jacks or Valley Bookstore




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