This Year’s Banff Lineup

A plethora of thrills and chills


What is it, exactly, that inspires a person to jump from the tallest peak in the Americas, harnessed only to a thin piece of fabric? Adrenaline plays a role, and many adventure sport athletes could probably check "thrill-seeking behavior" off on a psychological evaluation, but it's more than that. Risking life and limb to witness firsthand the majesty of a mountain range from an aerial view only a handful of humans on Earth have seen, or volunteering to kayak a river that likely travels underground through decidedly lethal pathways, or playing a musical instrument while suspended thousands of feet above the ground – these are actions requiring not only athleticism and courage, but conviction. It's the belief that nature provides the ultimate backdrop for a robust life, and that full immersion is imperative.

"This festival provides a passport to the world beyond Texas. The films curated bring viewers face-to-face with dramatic scenery, epic adventure, and daredevil sports. That's the power of the arts. They give the opportunity to experience something new, something unexpected, something transformed. They inspire and encourage us to take action and to get out of our comfort zone," explains Whole Earth Provision Co. founder/owner Jack Jones. Proceeds from the Austin tour stop benefit Texas state parks.

Billed as a showcase of the world's best mountain films, the Banff Mountain Film Fest lineup features 18 films this year, screening over two nights – World Tour and Radical Reels – at the beloved Paramount Theatre. Topics range from falconry to Iranian skiing, but all fall under the overarching theme of mountain sports and unanimous adoration of outdoor adventure.

Sure to be a crowd favorite, the 25-minute tour edit of "Dog Power" highlights the incredible athleticism of human's best friend. Described as "living, breathing, moving art," the dogs run at high speeds for miles on sometimes treacherous terrain, but it's the scenes of meaningful relationships between sled-dog and musher that really tug the heartstrings. In a five-minute doc, "Devotion: Libby Peter," the world-class climber offers poignant reflections on the correlation between motherhood and climbing. She says, "I want [my daughters] to discover who they are, what makes them feel truly alive, and be true to that. Anything else will feel inferior, pointless even."

Several of the films serve as timely reminders that we're really just guests on this planet. In "The Super Salmon," named for a Susitna River-dwelling fish fitted with an electronic tracking device, the passion of folks like Mike Wood, president of the Susitna River Coalition, is a powerful testament to the intensity of maintaining healthy relationships between government and nature. "We owe it to the river," he says.

One of the most riveting films in the lineup, "Locked In" follows a team of extreme kayakers hellbent on completing (er, surviving) a 13-day descent deep within Papua New Guinea's rain forest. Ominous music dials up the suspense and lovely shots of the white-capped, rushing river set the stage for what could be the most exhilarating (or deadly) ride of a lifetime. "The Fledglings" offers some comic relief when a professional climbing duo jumps headfirst into paragliding: "The sky will slap you down like you've never been slapped before." Newly addicted to "sky crack," these sky ninjas show the beauty of being a beginner again. Mountain bikers take on the Caucasus Mountains in "The Trail to Kazbegi," and summarily describe so many of these films' walkaway moral: "Some suffering, some pain, a fair amount of laughs, and a lot of hard work. That's what it always takes, right?"

The Banff Mountain Film Festival runs Feb. 26-27, at the Paramount Theatre. All proceeds benefit Texas state parks. For more info, see

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