Photo credit: Oskar Enander

In the midst of winding down from this past winter’s Festival season and ramping up for our 2019-20 season (our 15th annual one!), we’re getting excited for the soon-to-be flood of film submissions from filmmakers near and far.

Whether you grabbed some sweet shots this winter but haven’t touched them yet, or you are in the editing room right now trying to finish your film from this season, or you’re still buried in snow and want to make the most of it: here are our tips on how to make a great, human-powered, backcountry film.

We hope to see your film submitted for next winter’s Festival season – our official call for films begins on June 19, so get to work filmmakers and mark your calendar now!

Tip #1: What does human-powered mean exactly?

At Winter Wildlands Alliance, we’re a non-profit dedicated to preserving and protecting spaces for human-powered winter recreation.

Human-powered means activity and energy produced from the human body.

Human-powered winter recreation means activities in snow without the use of motorized vehicles. Examples include: skiing, splitboarding, snowshoeing, belly sliding, fat biking, ice climbing, winter river-rafting, ice surfing… the list can go on and on!

Tip #2: Wait, what does backcountry mean?!

We typically define “backcountry” as a sparsely, if at all, inhabited rural area that you would have to trek in to experience solitude, silence, and simplicity. Backcountry experiences often happen on public lands and we encourage you to get familiar with your own backcountry backyard through any of our near-to-you grassroots organizations, SnowSchool sites, or backcountry partners.

Tip #3: What if I don’t have the best gear (or any at all)?

Don’t get caught up on what level of filming gear you may or may not have. We want to see great stories – as do our thousands of audience members each season. The difference between a film shot on a cell phone versus one shot on a very expensive camera is whether or not the story was told well and captivates an audience.

In no way is this a must-have list, but it’s a great place to start if you are thinking about investing in new or additional film gear for all of your backcountry adventures. Many communities have gear you can rent or purchase refurbished from your local camera store, university, or library as well.

Tip #4: How does one safely film in a winter backcountry landscape?

We’ll keep this answer short and sweet: be up-to-date on your avalanche training, take proper backcountry snow gear, plan your route, and consider weight limitations and your personal abilities.

Tip #5: What is and how do you tell a human-powered, backcountry story?

We can’t say it enough: a great human-powered, backcountry story focuses on the human element, not just the scenery. Being able to blend the two intricately and cohesively throughout a timeline that is intentional and effective is a delicate skill.

When thinking about the story you want to tell, start by looking at the people around you or who you are going into the backcountry with (including yourself!). What story is lingering behind and within the snowy adventure? How does the landscape contribute to the story? Has it taken anything away? Has the backcountry or has the human focus of your story been a source of peace or conflict for your local community? What context does the backcountry have in your community? What is unique about the story you’re wanting to tell and why do you want to tell it? Is your film a bunch of killer sends or did you actually send a story with it, too?

If you’re lucky to live somewhere that still has a mountain full of backcountry powder or are about to embark upon a late season trip, consider setting yourself up for cinematic success by packing light and with a story in mind. Preparation is useful and flexibility is key.

And remember – for as much time as you spend behind the camera, make sure to put the camera down every once in a while and enjoy being present in the moment with no cinematic strings attached.

If you’re looking for some backcountry inspiration, check out the film line-ups from our past season here and check out some stillshots from said films below.

Questions? Email us at

What a whirlwind of a season! We achieved a lot of wild firsts and continued many Backcountry traditions during our 14th annual year.

It’s our 14th Annual Festival season and we’re ready to dive deep into the powder with our film line-up announcement! As the backcountry community’s leading film festival, this year will host a variety of films focusing on education, advocacy, diversity, and environment.

Premiering in our hometown of Boise, ID on Saturday, Nov 3 at The Egyptian Theatre, the Backcountry Film Festival will then hit the road through the winter months to over 100 mountain towns around the world. The tour serves as a fundraising and education tool for local grassroots organizations and backcountry communities as well as travels the globe exploring themes connected to Winter Wildlands Alliance’s mission of promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands.

We’re stoked to announce the following films as part of our 2018-19 production:

Ode to Muir

Teton Gravity Research – Our exclusive Festival cut of Ode To Muir speaks the entire feature-length film as professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones joins forces with two-time Olympian Elena Hight to embark on a 40-mile foot-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness.

Ski the Wild West

In 2017 Drew Petersen sought to ski the 11 highest peaks in the American West on one epic road trip. Accompanied by filmmaker and Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, Thomas Woodson, this film is sure to be a pleasant walk down memory lane for anyone who has adventured throughout the West.

The Abbey

DPS Cinematic – A spiritual view into any snowbird’s head waiting for the season to start.

The Backcountry Snowsports Initiative

In this upbeat, Sunday morning op-ed of a short film we learn about the human-powered recreation advocacy organization, the Backcountry Snowsports Initiative, and their annual hut trip near Leadville, Colorado where they host a variety of stakeholders to ski, cook, and talk about winter recreation policy.


Another exclusive Festival cut focusing on Berthoud Pass, a crew of backcountry skiers set out to explore Colorado’s lost ski areas hopes to find adventure amongst the ruins.


Blue is a testament to the inherent creativity, innovation and strength forged in women of the north. In it we present a spectacle of winter innovation—the icy playground providing a visual journey as never seen before by bike.

I Am Here

“My parents never even thought about climbing a mountain.” Yesenia grew up living in a small farmer’s cabin in the apple orchards of Oregon’s Hood River Valley. Watch Yesi’s journey to climb Mount St. Helens, pursue her own American dream, and inspire Latinx outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Surfer Dan

Beyond the tale of his frosted beard, this is a story about Dan Schetter’s passion for surfing and how he credits the sport to saving his life.

Searching for Christmas Tree

A university teacher looking to break free from a life of routine in China and a mysterious frozen waterfall that no one knows the whereabouts, spins this story of seemingly futile quests and ultimately transcending climb.

Westward: Brennan Lagasse

An important message from Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, educator and athlete, Brennan Lagasse, on the significance and the impact of the backcountry.


We hope to see you this season and Keep Winter Wild together! Email Melinda Quick, Backcountry Film Festival Manager, with any questions about how to see the Festival in your mountain town:

Adventure with the Winter Wildlands Alliance in our hometown for our first annual “Wild Weekend” Friday, Nov 2 – Saturday, Nov 3, 2018.

Join the Treasure Valley backcountry community as we dive deep into the heart and soul of the winter human-powered experience and raise funds supporting the Alliance’s advocacy and education efforts – both local and national.

4th Annual SnowBall: A Ski Bum Gala

Begin your Wild Weekend dancing the night away at the 4th Annual SnowBall: A Ski Bum Gala on Friday, Nov 2 at 7:00 PM at the Linen Building. Benefitting SnowSchool and our local site at Bogus Basin, this event promises delicious food, drinks, silent/live auction items, and live music provided by Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats. Event page and tickets here.

14th Annual Backcountry Film Festival World Premiere

After you dance the night away with your fellow ski bums, join us the following evening, Saturday, Nov 3 for the 14th Annual Backcountry Film Festival World Premiere! Climate action, environmental preservation, natural resources, snow culture, and of course, POW SHOTS: you’ll find it all in the award-winning line-up. Films, drinks, raffle and auction prizes galore – this is the traditional event of the winter season you cannot miss! Pre-party at the North Face store in downtown Boise from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM featuring local band, Red Light Challenge. Film Festival doors open at 6:00 PM and films start at 7:00 PM at the Egyptian Theatre. Event page and tickets here.

We can’t wait to see you there! Email with questions.

Did you hear?! The 2018-19 Backcountry Film Festival video trailer is live! Thanks to our friends at Backcountry Magazine, we were able to kick off this season of snowy cinema featuring films on backcountry adventure, climate action, environmental preservation, natural resources, snow culture, and of course, POW SHOTS!

Looking for a screening near you? Check out our tour landing page throughout the season to find an event in your area! Lucky enough to live in our hometown of Boise, ID? Join us at the World Premiere on Saturday, Nov 3 – or even better, join us for the entire Wild Weekend and get your tickets to SnowBall and the Festival World Premiere.


Check out the trailer below and read some highlights from Backcountry Magazine’s interview with Backcountry Film Festival Manager, Melinda Quick. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Thank you to our film editor, Kori Price!


Backcountry Magazine: What are you excited for in this year’s festival?

Melinda Quick: What’s unique about the 2018/19 Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is that we’re starting to expand more internationally. We’ve got a lot of events already lined up for Australia next summer—their winter—in addition to Canada, Chile and a few European screenings.

The festival tour brings backcountry communities around the world together, so it’s wonderful that it’s expanding outside of North America in our 14th year. We want this to be a networking event that also serves as a mode to connect—and, of course, as a great form of entertainment.

BCM: How can people become involved as hosts and as viewers? 

MQ: Each November, we premier in our hometown of Boise, Idaho. From there, the festival goes on its international tour. Anyone can host and we also work specifically with our grassroots organizations, backcountry partners and SnowSchools. Screenings serve as a fundraiser for either a local nonprofit that a host works for, with, or wants to support charitably. Typically the festival is the non-profit’s fundraiser of the year with our national sponsor swag and the host’s local sponsor swag up for a raffle or auction. It’s a really great way to bring everybody together and raise funds for local nonprofits and backcountry adventures.

We hope that hosts use their screening as an opportunity to build relationships with local outdoor gear shops, outfitting guides and other local business that may share the same passion for the outdoors.

Special thanks to our media sponsor, Backcountry Magazine, and writer Louise Lintilhac. You can read the article in its entirety here.