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T-Ride touches down in Vail

Erik Vienneau

More than 20 years ago Ken Baily graduated with a film degree from the University of Colorado. Back then, Warren Miller was just ushering in a new breed of “extreme” ski flicks and Baily found himself proud to have just finished editing his short film Gravity Never Sleeps.From the drama of deep-powder free-skiing to the excitement of high-volume kayaking, his film was one of the first of its kind.Baily knew his film was good. But what he didn’t know is how to reach the people who were curious about the action that takes place in the Rocky Mountains.He attended his first Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride and found his answer.The following year he presented Gravity Never Sleeps and the film was bought by a distributor and shown by National Geographic around the world.He then went on to produce and photograph documentaries in locations ranging from the north face of Mount Everest to the Taymyr Peninsula in Northern Siberia. His work also has appeared on BBC television, ABC,and in large-screen IMAX theaters.And he owes it all to Mountainfilm, a weekend-long festival featuring the best in mountain-based filmmaking. Telluride has hosted the consistently sold-out film festival for the last 24 years and is now sending a “greatest-hits” compilation from the Memorial Day festival on the road.In a rare opportunity for Vailites to view independent, thought-provoking films, Mountainfilm is taking a small part of its show, and Bailys latest film, Ode to Avalanche, to the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14.Baily, along with a handful of other Telluride filmmakers, will be on hand to screen and discuss the films.”We knew in the beginning of the festival that the Holy Grail would be getting a camera on the top of Everest and catching an avalanche,” Baily says. Well, the IMAX cameras have since rolled at the top of Everest, and Baily has come through with stunning avalanche footage, featured in Ode to Avalanche in Telluride a few years back.”We were lucky enough to film one of the most dramatic avalanches that will ever be captured,” Bailey says.Besides Baily’s stunning film, the weekend will be packed with dozens of short films, plenty of guest speakers, and two feature-length films (not related to Mountainfilm), all guided by Denver-based film critic Walter Chaw.Select films, varying in length from 3 to 26 minutes, are from the States to Australia and all points in Europe, and include subject matter from amazing and upsetting to serious and sublime.If readers have never heard of Mountainfilm, a festival built around the culture, sports and beauty of the mountains (with an undertone of educationaimed at preventing further destruction of wilderness), there’s good reason.The festival has never done much marketing. And they’ve never had to.Since its inception, the festival has sold out through the best marketing there is word of mouth.”The films at Mountainfilm are educational and entertaining with a message,” says festival director Rick Silverman. “This is not fluff, and definitely not typical commercial movies.”He says that calling Mountainfilm the “NPR of the film world” is one good way to explain the quality and diversity of the films.”Like a good book or NPR spot, you feel delighted reading or watching something you thought you would never care about,” he says. “By dint of good storytelling you’re delighted to be in someone else’s slipstream.”He defines slipstream as the path behind a skier or bicyclist but also says the word is used to describe following someone’s intellectual message.He says Mountainfilm has become the type of festival where attendees have learned to trust eclectic offerings.”It’s like a great chef at your favorite restaurant,” he says. “You don’t know what to expect, but you say ‘bring it on.'”Telluride has had the benefit of the festival in its backyard for nearly 25 years, but Silverman says every mountain community can learn plenty from the films featured in the series.”Some films address the natural elements of living in an alpine environment,” he says, “while others address the challenge of keeping our mountain communities intact while living in an ever more challenging world.”Baily says he agrees the films are now more eclectic than ever.”The variety is the beauty of it,” he says. “It started as a climbing, skiing, adventure theme and has evolved through the years to include the cultural side of mountain communities around the planet.”You walk out of here after a festival bursting with ideas from seeing feats that seemed unattainable or impossible,” Baily says. “It’s great that the people in Vail can finally get a taste of what has been going on down here for years.”Tickets are $5 for each afternoon film, $15 for each evening of films (includes refreshments), and a weekend package for $75 includes an opening reception, both evenings of films, a breakfast panel discussion, cocktail parties and a dessert buffet.For info call the Vail Symposium at 476-0954. For tickets, call the Vilar Center at 845-TIXS.


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