‘Ready to Fly’ reveals how Lindsey Van made women’s ski jumping an Olympic sport at this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival.

‘Ready to Fly’ reveals how Lindsey Van made women’s ski jumping an Olympic sport at this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Every year, organizers of the adventure-sports-themed Banff Mountain Film Festival were asked over and over: “Where are the women?” This year, they decided to do something about it, making it a top priority to highlight the risk-taking of  edgy female athletes around the world.

Perhaps no one is more excited about the inclusion of some kick-ass female protagonists in this year’s lineup of films than Kathy O’Hara Ferraro, the producer behind the Banff festival’s annual run in Santa Cruz. Ferraro, through the UCSC Recreation Department, picks which films from the festival will show in Santa Cruz, tailoring the program to local audiences. This year, she’s curated a lineup that emphasizes diversity, both in terms of gender and featured sports.

“Even if you only go one night, you’re going to get a flavor of the festival. There will be some films with environmental themes, culture, women athletes, male athletes, kayaking, mountaineering—and this year, surfing, which is something we don’t normally get.”

Ferraro is also especially excited that a couple of  films showcase stand-up paddle-boarding, a sport that’s becoming increasingly popular in Santa Cruz. Here are her picks for six not-to-be-missed films coming to this year’s festival:

READY TO FLY: This film tells the story of how Olympic athlete Lindsey Van tried for 15 years to make women’s ski jumping an Olympic sport. “I feel like my future is in the hands of a bunch of old dudes,” Van said of the experience. She eventually was successful in her pursuit, which she says was a dream of hers from the time she was a young girl. This year’s 2014 Olympics in Sochi are the first in which women’s ski jumping is a recognized event. Ready to Fly won the Best Feature-length Mountain Film Award at the 2012 Banff Festival.

KEEPER OF THE MOUNTAINS: This short, 16-minute edit of an original film profiles Elizabeth Hawley, a 90-year-old woman who in 1960 defied convention by settling alone in Kathmandu and working as a chronicler of expeditions to Mt. Everest for The Himalayan Database. She is still working, updating the records, and serving as the “keeper of the mountains” for anyone hoping to climb Everest.

HEAVEN’S GATE: A group of wingsuit pilots set the goal of flying through a sacred site at Tianmen Mountain in China, an archway carved out of rock known as Heaven’s Gate. The film stars Jeb Corliss, who Ferraro describes as a “really engaging, crazy athlete. He brings people in and captures their imaginations.” In the film, Corliss faces the decision to either pull the parachute on his suit before he has a chance to go through the archway, or run the risk of crashing into the mountain. At the time this adventure took place, nearly a half-billion people gathered in front of TV sets and streaming websites worldwide to watch his undertaking.

SPICE GIRL: This rock climbing story is another film that defies traditional gender stereotypes. It is set amongst the highly competitive, machismo-fueled UK climbing scene and tells the story of Hazel Findlay, a young, blonde-haired woman who becomes the first female to climb a particularly dangerous British route. “Men have to take crazy risks in order to attract a mate,” says climber Alex Honnold in the film. “Women don’t. But Hazel does anyway. I don’t know why.”

NOTBAD: This 10-minute Canadian film follows seven mountain bike riders from all around the world, including Santa Cruz’s own Cam McCaul, as they venture to New Zealand for 30 days of trick riding.

NORTH OF THE SUN: This People’s Choice Award-winning film tells the story of two young Norwegian men who venture to a unique beach north of the Arctic circle, which has at once great surfing waves and lots of debris. They spend a winter there, surfing, snowboarding, and collecting the debris, which they build a shack out of and live in. “Santa Cruz will especially like this film,” says Ferraro, who calls it her favorite film from this year. “There’s friendship, there’s adventure, there’s surfing.”


Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will be presented Fri-Sun, Feb. 21-23 at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.