It can easily be said that Mountainfilm in Telluride is without a doubt, the professional highlight of my year. Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, the festival screens groundbreaking independent documentary films from an inspiring community of athletes, activists and adventurers and for the past four years, I’ve been proud to host Outside Television’s coverage of the event alongside pro skier and all around badass, Lynsey Dyer (that’s us filming on Main St. this Memorial Day weekend).
So what makes Mountainfilm so great? How about the opportunity to interview some of the most influential explorers of our time for starters. For example, I had the honor of chatting with Jim Whittaker, the first American to successfully summit Mt. Everest in 1963. Now 84-years-young, Whittaker told me all about his historical climb up the world’s highest peak, which without fixed ropes, waterproof boots and fancy modern equipment was a very different place than it is now. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Erden Eruc, a Turkish American citizen who circumnavigated the globe under his own power. Yes, you heard right: For five years and 11 days Eruc biked, hiked, climbed and rowed his way around the Earth—an accomplishment never before achieved.
Of course, so much of Mountainfilm’s energy revolves around the films and this year was no different—but Cannes, this is not. Mountainfilm was originally started by climbers who wanted to climb by day and watch movies at night. Eventually the drive of the festival became one of conservation: If you want to enjoy the great outdoors then you must preserve the great outdoors. So with another outstanding lineup of socially aware documentaries and mind-blowing adventure films this year’s festival had some clear favorites. The climbing film High and Hallowed: Everest 1963 had crowds buzzing, since it brought Jim Whittaker’s historical summit and Tom Hornbein’s gutsy ascent of the West Ridge, to life. And I absolutely adored Maidentrip, a documentary that follows the youngest person in history to sail around the world, 16-year-old Laura Dekker, whose trip took just over two years. As I Tweeted the night I watched the film in the Palm Theater: I hope I have the courage to allow my children to be as audacious as that young girl.
Finally, no trip to Telluride would be complete without a little R&R. The spring and summer months couldn’t be a more beautiful time for mountain biking and the good folks at Bootdoctors by far, have the best bike rentals in town (try the Galloping Goose trail for an intermediate level downhill and Penelope for a kickass climb). Food and drink gold stars go to The New Sheridan for brews, bourbon and burgers; the Steaming Bean for coffee and karaoke; and The Brown Bag for the best sandwich on the block (the Snapshot with turkey, swiss, avocado and sriracha; yum!). And yes, the aforementioned spots are all winners, but for creative versions of Asian street food (think steamed duck buns or koke beef skewers with horseradish cream) coupled with the most well executed cocktails in town (blueberry jam gin drinks, anyone?), don’t miss There, by far the greatest restaurant in all of Telluride.
Big kudos to The River Club for a comfy place to stay (plus complimentary cookies, coffee and rides to town in its fancy Cadillac Escalade) and of course, to Festival Director David Holbrooke and the good folks at Mountainfilm, who without, this festival would be nearly as inspiring every Memorial Day weekend.
Telluride, I can’t wait to see you again next year.