By April Short

In one weekend, roughly 1,400 people will ski the sparkling slopes of Switzerland, bike the botanic trails of the British Columbian Mountains, BASE jump in Germany, unicycle across Canada, climb a 450-foot sea stack of red sandstone in Scotland and kayak down rushing rivers of Italy, Canada, Norway and the Reunion Islands without ever leaving their red-cushioned chairs.

The exotic outdoor escapades of world-class athletes will be featured on the local silver screen as the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour visits the Rio Theatre.

“These films are not just adrenaline films — they are films about mountain culture: mountain areas, and cultures in places you never really get to go to,” said Kathy Ferraro, campus recreation supervisor and organizer of the festival’s local screening. “We have people who come who aren’t really into going out and adventuring, but they love watching these films. The films are great motivation to get out there.”

Jim Baker is the Banff Film Festival World Tour’s manager.

“In a typical year surveys show 55 percent or so of local screenings support some sort of charitable cause,” he said.

Approximately $8,000 of the film festival’s proceeds is used to fund 10 to 14 scholarships for the Wilderness Orientation program at UC Santa Cruz. The festival is the major fundraiser for the Wilderness Orientation program, which takes incoming college freshmen on a rigorous nine-day trek through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains each summer.

Travis Burdick was a Wilderness Orientation student in 1997, and directed the program from 2005 to 2007. “[The Wilderness Orientation] allows incoming students to make connections to each other in a way that strips away the usual barriers,” Burdick said. “It’s a hidden gem on this campus and it’s too bad more people aren’t able to experience it. For the students who do, it really builds a foundation for the rest of their college experience.”

“What’s so valuable about Banff is it gives us a lot of our scholarship money,” Burdick said. “And because of that, people who may have never considered an experience like [the Wilderness Orientation] get to do it.”

The Banff Mountain Film Festival began in 1976 and takes place once a year among the splendorous Rocky Mountains in the town of Banff in Alberta, Canada. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is the largest, and one of the most prestigious, mountain festivals in the world. It features more than 300 films containing exceptional footage of the world’s most celebrated adventure sports and athletes.

The films come from more than 35 countries and range from high-school productions to professional crews working with BBC and National Geographic. Each year the festival tours over 275 communities and 30 countries. The top films of the festival are selected to participate in the World Tour. Organizers in each toured region select from among these films to feature their favorite clips in local venues.

“As the World Tour manager I get to work with the rest of our team on planning and execution all over the world,” Baker said. “California is certainly one of the hot spots, but the films are shown all over … We even have a screening in the South Pole!”

Several films pertaining to the interests of many Santa Cruzans will be featured at the Santa Cruz Rio Theater. Seven short films will be shown at the first screening this Friday, including two Peoples’ Choice Award winners, Best Short Mountain Film, and Best Film on Mountain Sport.

The Friday night showing will highlight the film “King Lines: Es Pontas,” which features Chris Sharma, a UCSC alumnus, on his ascent of the Es Pontas arch in Mallorca, Spain. At 19, the Santa Cruz native and UCSC student was already on his way to becoming a climbing legend.

In April 1999 he won the Phoenix Bouldering Competition by more than doubling the second-highest score. Also at 19, Sharma won the gold medal for Bouldering at the X-Games in San Francisco. Sharma has broken several records for ascent completion. Now 26 years old, he continues to shine as a star in the rock-climbing world. He won first place in the Sport Climbing Nationals last month.

The second screening, this Saturday, features a separate collection of six unique films. This screening includes clips of snow-kiting adventures, a 24-hour mountain biking champion, two respected climbers of the treacherous gritstone in England’s Peak District, the cross-country skiing tale of a Nordic punk rock band the Black-Eyed Snakes, a BASE jumper in his pursuit of flight, and an animated film that catalogues an uncommon day in the life of a sleepy badger.

The Banff World Tour encourages audiences across the globe to experience the outdoors and develop appreciation for mountain culture.

“I saw [the festival] for the first time in about 1984 when I first moved to Banff, and I was absolutely thrilled and inspired by it,” Baker said. “I would say the best thing about it is the fact that it bridges together outdoor enthusiasts around the world in their own communities to share not only inspiring films on the screen, but to connect with each other and share their own adventures.”

The 2007/2008 Banff Mountain Film Festival will be at the Rio Theatre off Soquel Ave. on this Friday and Saturday. Tickets for the festival are currently on sale at Bugaboo, Pacific Edge, Sprockets and UCSC Recreation.

_For more information visit or call (831) 459-2806._