7 mountain film festivals worth checking out

Getting restless? Satiate your hunger for adventure with these excellent adventure film festivals.
David Lama atop Trango Tower.
David Lama atop Trango Tower. © Corey Rich/Kendal Mountain Festival
By Brendan Leonard

It’s officially fall, which signals plenty of beginnings and endings — the end of good climbing and biking weather, the beginning of snow falling in the mountains and looking forward to ski season. It also signals the beginning of mountain film festival season, or, as I like to call it, “Cinematic Stoke Season,” in which we get the chance to see the work of adventure filmmakers and athletes on the big screen. Sure, not every film festival starts in the fall and winter, but lots of the heavy hitters do, beginning in September and October. Here’s a list of our favorites in North America and Europe.

Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

You might call Banff the granddaddy of all mountain film festivals—it started in 1976 when local climbers and skiers were looking for something to do between seasons. Since then, of course, it’s grown into its reputation as one of the biggest and best, touring more than 600 locations on all seven continents (including Antarctica).

Banff, Canada, October 26 - November 3

Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

Tim Cope, Banff Mountain Film speaker © Banff Mountain Film Fest

Boulder Adventure Film Festival

Tent-bound during a storm in the Himalayas, climber Jonny Copp dreamed up the idea of a film festival in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado, writing notes on scratch paper for a community event based around outdoor films and activism. In 2005, with the help of friends, he put on the first Adventure Film Festival, which became an annual event. When Copp died on an expedition to Mt. Edgar in China in 2009, the festival carried on and grew, now showing in New York, Chamonix, Santiago, Chile, Sydney, and Asheville, North Carolina.

Boulder, Colorado, October 3 - 5

Boulder Adventure Film Festival

Reel Rock

In 2006, two of America’s top climbing filmmakers, Big UP Productions’ Josh Lowell and Sender Films’ Peter Mortimer, decided to start a climbing-only film festival called Reel Rock. It grew into a TV series that premiered in 2013, and now shows in more than 400 locations worldwide, reaching 100,000 members. Reel Rock launched in Boulder, Colorado, on September 19, and is now touring.

This year's festival features High Tension, the story of the brawl on Everest between climbers and Sherpas, as well as Spice Girl, UK climber Hazel Findlay's exploration of wild trad routes, and the Sensi, Yuji Hirayama and Daniel Woods' quest to establish what could be the highest, hardest rock climbing route in the world on Borneo’s Mt. Kinabalu. Check out the trailer below.

Currently touring

Reel Rock

© Courtesy Reel Rock

Kendal Mountain Festival

The four-day Kendal Mountain Festival brings together speakers, books, exhibitions, and adventure films into what it bills as “by far the largest and most varied event of its type in the world.” It’s also the venue for the awarding of the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. The festival kicks off in Kendal, England in November. Can't make it? Don't worry, you can catch the 'best of' film tour which plays at various European destinations in 2014.

November 14, Kendal, England

Kendal Mountain Festival

© Kendal Mountain Festival

International FreeSki Film Festival

ESPN.com called this Montreal-based ski film fest “the Cannes of the ski world,” if that is any indication of the caliber of films on tap. Started in 2007, the iF3 now shows in Annecy, Innsbruck, Santiago, Whistler, and Denver. The Montreal festival showed September 11-15, and the other tour stops will follow.

Currently touring

International FreeSki Film Festival

You're gonna have a good time. © International Freeski Film Festival

European Outdoor Film Tour

With more than 200 European tour screenings in its 13th year, The European Outdoor Film Tour can make a case for being the biggest adventure film festival in Europe. Kicking off October 12, the tour will make more stops in Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria. A highlight? Wide Boyz, exploring the world of off-width climbing.

Currently touring

European Outdoor Film Tour

Radical Reels Tour

Every year at the Banff Film Festival, one night of films is dedicated to adrenaline. From this tradition came the Radical Reels Tour, the traveling selection of short (mostly 30 minutes or less) biking, flying, climbing and skiing films from the current festival, stopping each year at more than 60 international locations.

Currently touring

Radical Reels Tour

read more about
Next Story