Oh February, it’s rainy and grey. At this time of year outdoorsy people are doing one of two things: hoping that the rain that’s falling in the city is falling as snow in the mountains, or wistfully making summer hiking plans for when all this rain stops. But there’s one more thing you should be doing in February. It’s something I’ve been doing for the last 12 years or so and something I look forward to all year: Going to see rad outdoor films at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF to its friends). And of course VIMFF 2017 is no exception.
I go to VIMFF pretty much every February. (More often than not, my husband and I do a date night at a VIMFF show for Valentine’s Day.) Seeing the outdoor community at a VIMFF show is one of the highlights of my winter. It’s like a Hollywood premiere, with a dirt bag twist: Everyone gets dressed up in their nicest flannel shirt and toque, they put on their best Gore-Tex jacket and head to the theatre. You are bound to see at least 5 people you know in the lobby. (But you might not recognize them in their city clothes.)
The festival has gotten bigger and better over the years and this year’s festival is spread over 9 nights. Just for fun, here is a side by side comparison of the promo poster from 2004 (the first year I can remember attending) and this year’s poster.
VIMFF’s Director Alan Formanek sums up what you can expect at 2017’s festival well:
We are excited to be celebrating 20 years of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival this year! With 32 shows, 32 speakers, 98 films and 5 venues, there is something for every outdoor adventurer. We have some awesome initiatives going such as the MEC Adventure Grant, Arc’teryx Filmmaker Grant, 2017 VIMFF Photo Competition, and more. It truly is an exciting 9 days of mountain films and presentations. We invite the entire community to come check it out!
Or you can get all the stoke you need in 30 seconds:
It’s not physically possible to go to all of the shows (unless you can time travel!) since many of the nights feature more than one show playing in different venues simultaneously. You can buy tickets through the VIMFF website and there are discounts if you buy tickets for more than one show. If you are having trouble choosing, here are my top picks for shows you should not miss.
Family Show, Monday February 13th at The Centennial Theatre
This year there is a dedicated Family Show at VIMFF 2017. It’s a night set aside a special night for films that will appeal to all ages. I’ve actually already seen a few of the films that will be screened and I definitely recommend them. The first is Ace and the Desert Dog. It’s a great short film about an epic backpacking trip told from the hilarious perspective of a dog. If you want to get a taste of the film before you go, Genghis Khan, the movie’s canine star, has his own blog called the Desert Dawg Adventure Blog. The producer of the film, Brendan Leonard is also one of my favourite outdoor writers. You should also check out his hilarious (and often insightful) blog, Semi-Rad.
I have a couple of other picks for films at the Family Show. The first is Young Guns, about two teenage rock climbers who have accomplished more at a young age than most of us can ever dream of. I also recommend The Super Salmon, about one super awesome salmon who defied the expectations of both scientists and politicians, and inspired the local community to action.
Mind vs. Mountain Show, Monday February 13th at The Cinematheque
Sir Edmund Hillary once said “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”. Outdoor sports are often about testing the limits of our own fitness and skills and of testing the boundaries of nature, but the one piece that often gets forgotten is the mental aspect. This year’s Mind vs. Mountain Show at VIMFF 2017 aims to put the spotlight on how escaping to the outdoors to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically and can combat mental health issues. Scientists have recently proven what outdoorsy people have known all along: that nature is good for you.
The traditional format of extreme sports films has often been to show extreme athletes accomplishing amazing feats, often with a pumped up soundtrack and perhaps some blooper footage of crashes thrown in to prove that the athletes are indeed human and fallible. I’m excited to see that the films at this year’s Mind vs. Mountain Show plan to show the complete opposite of that: the vulnerability, emotions and mental fortitude that is actually behind great adventures. I’m particularly interested in Tommy Day’s film At What Price? that promises to go behind the curtain to show what it really takes to produce social media images of adventures.
MEC Canadian Adventure Show, Wednesday February 15th at The RIO Theatre
Sometimes it can seem like you have to go halfway around the world before your trip can be considered an adventure. The films in this year’s MEC Canadian Adventure Show prove that there is plenty of adventure to be had right here in our own backyard.
One film from the MEC Canadian Adventure Show at VIMFF 2017 that I’m stoked to see is 40 Winters about an attempt to set the record for the fastest known winter traverse of all 11 peaks of Mount Rundle, an iconic peak in the Canadian Rockies. The recent popularity of Fastest Known Times (also known as FKTs) can make a regular hike or scramble into an adventure when it becomes a race against the clock. If you are interested in local Vancouver-area FKTs, you can read the full list on Outdoor Vancouver. (And you might notice that Adam Campbell, one of the stars of 40 Winters, once held the FKT for Black Tusk!)
Sherpa Show, Thursday February 16th, The Centennial Theatre
If you asked most outdoorsy folks, they would agree that they would love to visit the Himalaya and Mount Everest, even if they don’t ever intend to climb the mountain. Many of us are fascinated by the idea of the tallest mountain in the world and the culture of the Sherpa people who live there. I admit I am no exception. Last year, I travelled to the Annapurna region of Nepal and fell in love with the scenery and the local people. I definitely want to visit Nepal again, specifically to trek in the Sherpa region to Everest Base Camp.
So of course I’m stoked for the Sherpa Show at this year’s VIMFF. The main attraction is the feature film, Sherpa. It explores the events of the 2014 climbing season on Everest from the Sherpa perspective, including an avalanche which killed 16 Sherpas. The film features cinematography from Renan Ozturk, one of the stars of the great climbing film Meru.
Hiking the PCT Show, Thursday February 16th, The Cinematheque
Like many hikers, I’ve dreamed of hiking at least a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) since I first heard about it. VIMFF 2017’s Hiking the PCT Show is bound to inspire me even more. I’m excited to listen to speakers Lauren Blackburn and Steven Cossin give a talk about their 2016 thru-hike of the PCT. For a lot of people, the only info they have about the PCT is from the Reese Witherspoon film Wild (or from reading Cheryl Strayd’s book of the same name that inspired the film). I am willing to bet that Lauren and Steve were a bit more prepared and have some practical advice and experiences to share 😉
I’m also looking forward to seeing the film Surviving the Fundy Footpath. I lived in Halifax for a few years and hiked a lot in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. While the Maritime provinces have less wilderness and smaller mountains than Western Canada, the bush there has a unique wild quality. The film follows Bruce Persaud, who has no hiking experience at all. This is something that most of us can relate to: we were all beginners once.
Live Art Show with Jessa Gilbert, February 10th-13th and 16-18th, The Centennial Theatre
If you go to any of the VIMFF 2017 shows at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre, be sure to check out Jessa Gilbert painting live in the lobby. Jessa is a Vancouver-based splitboarder, painter and all-around rad human being. Jessa likes to make sketches and small pieces while she is out on her backcountry adventures. She also paints larger canvases when she in her city studio. (Full disclosure, I have two pieces of Jessa’s art in my house). If you want to learn more about Jessa’s work before seeing her paint at VIMFF 2017, I interviewed her last spring about her #getoutoftownvibe project. There is also a new interview up on the VIMFF website or you can follow along on her Instagram.
I hope you found a show that inspires you among my picks. I realize they are mostly hiking and adventure related. If you climb, mountain bike, trail run, backcountry ski, stand-up paddle board, or kayak, don’t worry: there are shows for you too. Which VIMFF show are you headed to this year? Tell me in the comments.
Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. But like always, all opinions (and stoke for films) are my own. And no lie: I really have been attending the festival faithfully (and excitedly) since around 2004.