VIMFF Review: Ski Night

Ski movies are a truly magical breed of outdoor films. Not only is a good ski movie more than a pleasure to watch, it’s also an experience that gets you itching to hit the slopes. The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) gets the job done when it comes to bringing in some of the best ski movies from around the world and premiering them in a city surrounded by some of the best ski spots in the world.

The annual VIMFF Ski Night at the Frederic Wood Theatre showcased three very different but equally amazing ski films from both British Columbia and the world. The event was organized in association with the Varsity Outdoor Club, currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The first film, Triggered, displayed the daily efforts of the Fernie Alpine Resort avalanche technicians and rescue team. Fernie may not be the tallest ski station in British Columbia, but its five steep peaks leave almost all of its bowl area in direct threat from avalanches. Directed by Jonathan Hunwick​, the film showed the many different measures the Fernie team takes to keep the slopes safe, ranging from the use of explosives to cause preemptive avalanches, to training rescue dogs.

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The film might only be 20 or so minutes long, but it effectively showed everyone just how much dedication goes into making sure that terrain is safe for skiers. Some of the avalanche technicians featured in the film were in the audience and got treated to a rousing applause after the film ended.

The second film took many people by surprise. Directed by Chris Kitchen, Monumental: Skiing the National Parks showcased the adventures of a handful of world-class skiers as they searched for the best drops and pillars across the national parks of the western United States.

Considering the fact that places like Yosemite and Yellowstone are more known for rock climbing than skiing, it was especially amazing to see the runs that the skiers were able to pull off. They took advantage of amazing conditions, and discovered hidden gems that some skiers could only dream of.

The third and final film which was directed Ben Sturgulewski, entitled Rose and Ruin, took on a different approach. It presented a future dystopian world completely deprived of water and populated by only a handful of kids. In the film, one of the kids discovers a chest of old ski gear and a snow globe of a mountain called “Xanadu.” He sets out to find this mountain and save his group from dehydration.

While it's cool that some ski movies are taking a more dramatic turn, it probably makes more sense to have the kid not wander through the scorching hot desert that Earth has turned into on skiis, let alone a winter vest and ski pants. Had the film been on a smaller budget, I wouldn’t have been too judgemental. But with sponsors like Under Armour behind the project, you would have hoped that the level of quality would be just a bit higher. Still, the film did paint a dark picture of the catastrophic effects of climate change resulting from human ignorance.

Being the longest film to be presented at VIMFF — clocking in at 66 minutes — there obviously needs to be some actually skiing involved. The movie is accompanied by numerous flashbacks in between scenes, showing the protagonist in the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. These flashbacks sported a mix of backcountry and park skiing from world-class skiers from across the world. The grand finale was a multi-hour trek up a mountain in the wee hours of the morning to accomplish the absolute mother of all runs down its open face.

Overall, VIMFF Ski Night at UBC pulled off another year of great thrills and it has got plenty of the audience already excited for what's to come at next year’s event.