Film screening, discussion on skiing and mental health in Beaver Creek on Tuesday |

Film screening, discussion on skiing and mental health in Beaver Creek on Tuesday

‘The Mountain in My Mind’ film screening will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
Courtesy photo
  • What: ‘The Mountain in My Mind’ film screening
  • When: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24
  • Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
  • Tickets: Free, but registration is required
  • More info:

After the Padillas lost their 15-year-old son to suicide, the family made it their mission to help ensure that Jack Padilla’s memory was not forgotten, and they try to save some lives along the way.

One way Jack’s older brother, John Padilla, did that was by producing the film “The Mountain in My Mind: Mental Health in the Ski Industry.” The approximately one-hour film screens at the Vilar on Tuesday, preceded by a 30-minute conversation about mental health in our mountain community.

Corey Levy, Vail Resorts director of wellness, Casey Wolfington, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health senior director of community behavioral health, and Nadia Guerriero, chief operating officer for Beaver Creek Resort, will lead the panel discussion prior to the film.

“There’s a ton of value in having these conversations … it will be a powerful evening,” said Rachel Levitsky, communication manager for Beaver Creek Resorts, adding that Vail Resorts has “committed to a renewed focus on our team members,” partially by expanding its mental health program, Epic Wellness, earlier this year.

The program offers free therapy for employees, dependents and roommates, as well as professional wellness coaching and a larger clinical network, which includes therapists who specialize in LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.

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The film

“The Mountain in My Mind” is the first film to showcase skiers across the “suicide belt” in the Rocky Mountain region. The film opens with a statistic that suicide, which is 2.9 times higher than the national average in the suicide belt, is the number one cause of death in the Rocky Mountains. A number of factors contribute to this, including the stigmatization of mental health and the “paradise paradox,” which seems to promise happiness but presents abundant challenges, such as cost of living, a transient population living away from family support and the simple fact that wherever you go, there you are.

The film features seven skiers, plus John Padilla himself, talking about their challenges and the solutions they have found, particularly within the skiing community.

It opens with a 20-year-old woman from Montana talking about her struggles growing up with a mother “wrapped up in substance abuse,” and how she wishes she hadn’t been so secretive about her problems when she was younger. Then, a man from Massachusetts talks about how he became addicted to painkillers, which spiraled him downward, after a ski injury.

“Skiing gave me something to be sober for, something I love,” he said in the film, adding that though skiing tends to be characterized by a party culture, skiers are very supportive when he says no to a beer.

Other athletes, like Clare Chapman from Alta, Utah, talk about developing an eating disorder and how, if she could give advice to her 12-year-old younger self, it would be to believe in herself, listen to herself and talk to others about her challenges.

A Connecticut man recounts his first manic episode in college and how skiing helps balance him throughout the winter, while another shares how lost he felt in life during the pandemic (and how skiing is an expressive outlet). Yet another athlete opens up about sexual assault and the denial, loneliness and self-blame that resulted from being assaulted by someone she trusted.

One of the most difficult, and healing, interviews John Padilla encountered while making the film came from California resident Forrest Coots, who also lost his younger brother to suicide. In the film, Coots encourages people to be kinder to everyone “because you don’t know everyone’s backstory or what might have happened 10 years ago.”

“It made me realize that I’m also not alone,” John Padilla said during a phone interview. “The take-home message that nobody’s alone in the ski industry hit home. The main message of the film is it’s OK not to be OK — please, please, please have a conversation with a friend about your mental health.”

John Padilla echoes that sentiment in the film, explaining how his 15-year-old brother, an empath, was on life support for nine days after the suicide attempt (which took place after a day of shredding on the mountain). He passed away Feb. 14, 2019.

“We have a duty as a society to look out for our empaths, because you better believe that they’re looking out for us, and I promise you, it’s a lot easier to have a conversation than it is to bury your brother,” he said, adding that, as a lifelong skier growing up in Colorado (he now lives in Montana), skiing helped get him through the loss.

The process

He initially began brainstorming about producing a 5- to 10-minute film in fall 2021, but as he began to talk to skiers throughout the nation, “everyone seemed to know someone who died from suicide,” he said. “I pitched (the film idea to ski) companies, and they were all over it.”

What began small rapidly grew into talking to over 100 people, with interviews ranging from 30 minutes to four hours. He soon realized that suicide prevention was “too narrow — the market is wider,” so, after 37,000 miles of driving throughout the nation to film, he eventually edited the project down to a handful of athletes showcasing different modalities of skiing, from park to big mountain, and encompassed mental health topics from assault and substance abuse to suicide and eating disorders.

“We really wanted to make sure it had a broad reach,” he said.

Throughout the film’s tour, he has heard from countless people about how it changed their lives, including people who told him: “You saved my life. I was thinking about committing suicide, but now I’m talking to my mom or I’m on meds or I’m going to treatment …”

“The film is not a downer,” he said. “The goal is to uplift (viewers) throughout. We emphasized pieces of advice in editing. I would like people to walk away with this sense of hope that the mental health crisis for skiers is something we can talk about and something we’re going to do together.”

In fact, John Padilla found more healing by making the film as he discovered a “community of folks in the snow industry that are really passionate about mental health.”

He is now raising money for his next film revolving around mental health and skiing, though the model will be slightly different, as it follows Olympians from four different countries, and is styled more to present skiing more artfully and in an even more uplifting manner.

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