Sweetgrass Productions’ "Valhalla," featuring Matt Evans, above, is one of 10 films that will be screened during the Backcountry Film
Sweetgrass Productions' "Valhalla," featuring Matt Evans, above, is one of 10 films that will be screened during the Backcountry Film Festival that will presented by the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Backcountry Film Festival)
Jamie Kent loves the Wasatch backcountry and wants to protect the areas, which aren't within ski-resort boundaries.

"We have seen a lot more people going into the backcountry," said Kent, the president of the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance. "The amount of people that venture into that terrain aren't just skiers. They are split boarders, snowshoers and winter hikers."

The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose main goal is to provide a unified voice for human-powered winter users in the Central Wasatch, he said.

"One of the things we recognize is that we have a unique balance in the Wasatch between ski areas and the backcountry," said Kent. "We want to see these areas maintained to preserve that balance, so we will take a critical look at anything that encroaches on those areas."

Another goal is to become a go-to resource for resorts and other organizations when they need feedback regarding their development ideas, said Kent.

"It needs to be clear that we're not anti-ski resorts," he said. " All of our members learned to ski at a resort and still take our families to them. We appreciate resorts and think they are world class and, in no means do we want to see them go away. What the alliance wants to do is protect the backcountry that neighbors the existing resorts."

To raise awareness, the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance will host the Backcountry Film Festival on March 6, at the Jim Santy Auditorium. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the screenings will begin at 7 p.m.

The festival is made possible by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that is also dedicated to promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands, Kent said.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance developed the film festival and offers it to organizations around the country for fundraisers and to raise awareness, he explained.

The film festival will serve as a fundraiser for the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance.

"All of the money we raise will go to the survey that we're going to conduct in a few weeks," Kent said. "The research is being done by the University of Utah, and the survey that will analyze how many people use these areas and what kind of economic impact they have on the communities that surround the Wasatch Mountains."

The festival will feature 10 films:

  • "Valhalla," Sweetgrass Productions. This film is about a man who sets out to explore the northern mountains to get in touch with the freedom of his youth.

  • "Trail Break," Powderwhore Productions. This black and white film examines deep powder skiing.

  • "Morning Rituals," by Chris Dickey of Orange and Purple. The film is about a day in the life of an undercover ski bum.

  • "Youth," by Corey Rich. The film shows that backcountry skiing is a great family activity.

  • "Bolton Valley," which is a story of how a small community fought to save their beloved ski area.

  • "Nokhoi Zeekh: In search of the Wolverine." A group of five Americans embark on a month-long expedition in northern Mongolia.

  • "Bigger Braver," by Luc Mehl. Mehl documents the courage and strength involved in big-mountain excursions through the eyes of a young female athlete.

  • "Strong," by Fitz Cahall at Duct Tape then Beer. The film examines Roger Strong's thoughts about getting on with life after surviving a tragic avalanche.

  • "Poor Man's Heli," by Mike Douglas at Switchback Entertainment. Skier Antoine Boisselier comes up with new and unique ways to get to the top of the mountain.

  • "Take the Ride," by Jason Thompson. He asks, "When you have a dream will you buy the ticket? Will you take the Ride?"

    Kent said one of the films has a connection to the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance.

    "'Trail Break' was directed by Noah Howell, who is the president of a local production company called Powderwhore," Kent said. "This is a short telemark, black and white film, and Noah happens to be one of our board members as well. So it's exciting for us."

    In addition to the screenings, the fundraiser will include opportunity drawings.

    "We have items from local and national companies that we will give away," Kent said. "Locally-based Black Diamond have donated skis, and White Pine Touring has donated an avalanche course that has a $250 value."

    Another local company, Soul Poles, which is a partner with the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, have donated a pair of ski poles that can be customized, Kent said.

    "The Park City Institute has also given us some tickets to upcoming performances," he said.

    In addition, Cole Sports has donated two gift certificates for ski tune-ups and The Mine, a new bouldering gym, has provided two-day passes.

    Other sponsors include Ramp Sports, YakTrac, Patagonia and Voile.

    "We have wonderful support, which is very much appreciated," Kent said. "Our organization is run by nine board members, and we're all volunteers and we don't have a paid staff."

    Still, Kent is familiar with hard work and perseverance.

    He was one of the hundreds who was part of the Stop SkiLink movement that opposed building a gondola connecting Canyons and Solitude resorts and was also involved in the Friends of Flagstaff — another group that worked to stop developers from installing a chairlift up Flagstaff Peak across from Alta.

    His mission with the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance is similar to those projects.

    "We're focusing on getting a feel for who is using the backcountry, and we want to know where they come from, if they're local or if they are out-of-state," he said. "The amount of people who are exploring the backcountry is increasing and many don't know how to respect it or know about safety. More awareness needs to be raised. Backcountry requires experience."

    Membership to the alliance is free and people can join by visiting www.wasatchbackcountryalliance.org.

    "We have about 1,000 members, and it takes 20 seconds to enter their name and email," Kent said. "It's a way for us to find out who is willing to fight for the backcountry. becoming a member, you show you are doing that."

    The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance will present the Backcountry Film Festival at the Jim Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library and Education Center, 1255 Park Ave., on Thursday, March 6. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting www.wasatchbackcountryalliance.org or at the door.