What Travel Writers Say

November Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Granddaddy of 'em all

By Debra Cummings
  No need to freshen up your little black number for this film festival. A faded fleece jacket and reusable coffee mug are the only chattels required to slink amongst the mountain players who jam the theatres in Banff, AB each fall. Every November, for nine action-wringing days, the lights go down in this absurdly picturesque Rocky Mountain town and the adrenaline shoots up.
     Like any indie film circuit, mountain films have their own annual loop, with major festivals in Telluride, CO (US), Trento, Italy and Kendal, England. But the biggest of the lot-the Banff Mountain Film & Book Festivals-begins here in the Rockies before taking its "Best Of" films to 30-plus countries.
     In the festival's 33-year history, the A-list of the rock world has trekked across the hallowed lobbies of The Banff Centre. Sir Edmund Hillary. Jon Krakauer. Catherine Destivelle. Lynn Hill. Reinhold Messner. Yvon Chouinard. Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Besides keynote speakers, the latest outdoor gear, yoga and dozens of readings are part of the book festival; not-to-be-missed are the white-knuckle demos from slack-lining to trials biking, the mountain crafts sale (perfect for pre-Christmas shopping if you're in the market for Tibetan prayer flags or hand-woven Bolivian toques) and workshops galore.
     But this festival is far more than sitting in the dark sweating over scaling a 5.13 pitch in Radical Reels or trawling booths for free bumper stickers. It's about stretching the definitions of mountain culture beyond high-octane expeditions and sports. Although the festival entertains six film categories (climbing, sport, culture, short, feature films and environment), one of the oldest and most popular is the environment category, first launched back in 1977 along with the climbing category. From the shrinking habitats of snow leopards to garbage removal on Mt. Everest, the "roster is significant and provocative," says Shannon O'Donoghue, festival director. "Worldwide awareness of certain environmental and mountain cultural issues have begun right here."
     While environmental issues are being screened, The Banff Centre actually practices them off stage. Of note: the festival is powered solely by green energy; carbon credits were purchased to offset travel for festival speakers; there's a "no bottled water" policy in place; all DVD cases are environmentally friendly; organic cotton T-shirts and stainless-steel water containers are the only products The Banff Centre sells.

After a false start as an entertainment writer, Debra Cummings spent six months kicking around Southeast Asia-trekking up mountains and mastering the multiple meanings of the head-wobble in India-before returning to Calgary, AB, to take up the travel beat. That was 20 years ago. Since then, she's worked as a newspaper features writer and travel editor, covered travel for CBC Radio and spent a year "voluntouring" around the planet with her husband and two children. Click for Banff Airport, Alberta Forecast

Photo Credits
An image from the "Northern Giant" presentation. Photo courtesy of the Banff Centre

If you go
This Destination
as seen on
The Banff Centre: http://www.banffmountainfestivals.ca/
Banff Mountain Film & Book Festivals: http://www.banffcentre.ca/mountainculture/festivals/2008/
Travel Alberta: www.travelalberta.com
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banff
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Banff

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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