Backcountry Film Festival draws lively crowd

Eddy Mutch, left, is the happy winner of local artist and backcountry skier Phil Gallagher’s custom artwork, “Life in Plumas,” at the Winter Wildland Alliance Backcountry Film Festival on Jan. 24 in Quincy. Photos by Laura Beaton
Laura Beaton

  Winter sports enthusiasts received an infusion of energy and inspiration at the Outdoor Recreation Leadership-sponsored Winter Wildland Alliance Backcountry Film Festival on Jan. 24.

  A lively crowd including babes in arms, a man on crutches, students of all ages and friends of Feather River College’s ORL program thronged to the Town Hall Theatre to enjoy some amazing footage of magnificent backcountry ski and snowboard feats.

  Rick Stock, instructor in the ORL program, which is in its 13th year of operation, organized the second annual event.

  Darla DeRuiter, ORL and environmental studies instructor, spoke about the inspirational “eye candy” of the films that highlight human-powered snow and sports enthusiasts and conservationists.

  DeRuiter is teaching the telemark ski class that takes place this weekend, Feb. 1 – 3. She told the audience about other classes available this spring including whitewater rafting and kayaking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

  A Paddlefest and gear swap is scheduled for April 28, with proceeds to benefit ORL.

  The Boise-based Winter Wildland Alliance has protected nearly 2 million acres of wilderness and sponsors a national “snowschool” program that has taught more than 30,000 kids winter ecology and snowshoeing.

  The first of seven films was “Unicorn Sashimi,” featuring winterscapes of Japan and backcountry skiers in deep powder and hardwood forests, set to Taiko drumming.

  “Freedom Chair” was the next film, telling the story of a Canadian freestyle skier and instructor who was paralyzed when he missed a landing on a big jump.

  He learned to sit-ski at age 23 and went on to win medals at national Paralympics and other competitions.

  Wilderness skiing in Alaska was a big theme this year, with several movies being filmed in the steep, dangerous, remote, mountainous terrain of the 49th state.

  “The Denali Experiment” followed an expedition of skiers and one boarder who climbed Mount McKinley — the highest mountain in North America, 20,320 feet above sea level — in 10 days before skiing and boarding down.

  The film features Quincy-connected Sage Cattabriga, an extreme skier whose mom, Diane, was an ER nurse in Quincy and went on to obtain her nurse practitioner’s license. She now practices in the Bishop area.

  “Alaska Wilderness Ski Classic” and “Further” were set amidst rugged mountains in a state that boasts 14 major mountain ranges and 54 million acres of national park system land.

  “Skiing the Void” takes place in the Andes and highlights the exploits of three backcountry snowboarders.

  “Stories of Trust” was the one film that didn’t have a backcountry emphasis. Instead, the award-winning film focuses on the work of an 11-year-old Indian boy and environmental activist from Boulder, Colo., who is working hard to conserve and protect important ecological resources.

  To register for ORL classes go to or call Mary Erin Roth at 283-0202, ext. 292. Learn more about the film festival at

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