The Mt. Baker Film Festival: A New Yorker’s Perspective

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Amidst the chaos of shredder parents chasing their four-foot-tall, Volcom jacket wearing children around, the mob of teenagers attempting to scope what WWS Boardshop has to offer at their stand, stoners looking to get their third free brownie at the Wake ‘n Bakery table and the rest of the unorganized swarm of roughly 1,200 people milling through the Mt Baker Theatre, there was a strong communal excitement buzzing in the air. With winter right around the corner, it’s about time to get stoked on the upcoming season, and to share that enthusiasm with fellow skiers and snowboarders in the community. The 15th annual Mt Baker Film Festival served as a perfect way to spread stoke and to get snow sports enthusiasts amped on what is soon to come.

I arrived in Bellingham from Albany, NY at the beginning of September. Prior to coming out west, I had never been to a snowboard video premiere. Since coming, I’ve been to three. At first it didn’t take a lot to impress me, I was amazed just to be seeing a snowboard movie on a big screen. But after going to the Mt Baker Film Festival, I think my expectations have now risen dramatically.

Enter the Mt Baker Theatre, a glamorously restored building that’s origins date back to 1927, an architectural cache in the heart of Bellingham, WA’s downtown arts district. The finely dressed ushers at the main entrance swap your ticket with a calendar poster of Mt. Baker’s upcoming season’s schedules of events and a picture of Cam Pierce throwing a burly miller flip in the powdery woods of the resort. Take a left and enter the Walton Theatre, a room which has been transformed into a ski and snowboard convention comprised of tables hosted by the area’s snow-related businesses: Northwest Avalanche Center, WWS Boardshop, The Baker Bus, Wake ‘n Bakery and more. At the middle of the convention there was a large-scale “Plinko” game that left no player empty handed, so everyone who attended walked away with at least one prize.

For those trying to escape the pandemonium of the convention center in the Walton Theatre, the festival coordinators provided a slideshow featuring skiing and snowboarding photography on the Main Stage before the film screening. A classical pianist played live music on stage. His robust and animato playing complemented the imagery, adding depth. The music started to drown out as more people found their way from the convention area to the main theatre, ready to find their seats and eager for the videos to start and their chance at $4,000 worth of raffle prizes.

The films at the festival were a pleasant mix of varying styles and approaches to filming and directing, as well as featuring a diverse array of subject matter. My favorite video was entitled, “Best In Snow,” a short documentary portraying the relationship between skiers and snowboarders and their dogs. Although the riding wasn’t as intense as 686’s video which featured the team going huge in the side and backcountry or the “People’s Choice Award” winning video, Sweetgrass’ “Afterglow” ski video segment, “Best In Snow” sent an awesome message about friendship, playfulness, compassion and “living in the now.” I felt that its theme spoke true to that of the festival: a gathering of folks who love to ride down mountains and share that experience with their extended group of best friends, canine or otherwise.


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