The most anticipated ski movie of the Revelstoke 2015 premiere season is Jumbo Wild, co-starring Revelstoke big mountain skier Leah Evans.
The film by Sweetgrass Productions explores the Jumbo Glacier Resort controversy, taking a journalistic approach to the ski film genre as it highlights the 20-plus year controversy surrounding the proposed resort.
Briefly, Jumbo Glacier Resort is a proposed ski resort west of Invermere in the East Kootenay. Its proponents have been working on the concept since the early 1990s, and it has created considerable controversy in the neighbouring communities. The pro-development camp feels it’ll be a world-class, year-round resort that will bring jobs and prosperity to the area; the anti-Jumbo camp, which includes environmentalists and the Ktunaxa First Nation, say it’s an environmentally destructive, impractical and unnecessary folly that will impact grizzly habitat and mar backcountry wilderness held sacred by the Ktunaxa with new, permanent development.
Recent chapters in the include the B.C. government creating a municipality and appointing a municipal council to oversee a town where nobody lives. After that, the proponent got a slap-down for laying foundations for the proposed village partially in an avalanche path, and then got a thumb’s down from the B.C. environment minister for failing to get started on time as required in an environmental certificate.
(But if you think obstacles like that would bookend the story, come sit over at the fools’ table with me. The project enjoys deep political support from key players in the current provincial government, and has hurdled showstoppers before.)
It’s been staple fare for news outlets in Southeastern B.C. for over 20 years, regularly spinning off news updates several times a year, like this one and this one and this one in the Revelstoke Mountaineer alone in 2015.
Like anyone growing up in Southeastern B.C., Leah Evans has lived with the ongoing story — in her case most of her life.
I caught up with Evans on a scratchy cell phone call as she was boarding a flight to a screening of the Patagonia-sponsored film, off to spread the message of Jumbo Wild on the film’s promotional tour.
“It has a really special energy up there,” Evans said of her journeys back to Jumbo, and her experience filming for Jumbo Wild. “I think when you go up there there’s just this feeling of it being huge, and the only place you get that hugeness is Northern B.C. on the coast or in Alaska. There’s just like a whole different element of these big structures — these mountains. Going back there it’s so wild. You go back there and you’re afraid of grizzly bears at night if you’re there in the summer, or of avalanches in the winter.”
The big mountain freeskier and Revelstoke resident is probably most well-known here for putting on the Girls Do Ski camps here, which teach empowerment of young women through freeskiing group sessions.
Evans told me she wrote her first persuasive essay on the controversy while she was herself a young woman, in grade seven while attending school in her native Rossland.
Inspired by her activist stance, her parents took her up to the Jumbo area, where they were stunned by its beauty and rawness, and were taken aback that it wasn’t protected — a provincial park, at least. Over a dozen years since she took that trip at age 14, she’s still committed to the conservation cause.
Combine her passion with her freeskiing and backcountry experience and she was a natural selection by director Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass for the project.
The director took a journalistic approach, spending months on the issue last winter, exploring the backcountry for a ski movie and the issues in the surrounding communities.
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Evans says the film — which from all outward appearances is an anti-development polemic — does provide access to diverse views.
“I think that’s the magic of the film and that’s why it really important for people to see it because there is a way of putting out the message fairly,” she said.
The filmmaker sought out views from proponents, such as key development proponents Oberto Oberti and Grant Costello, and others amongst a significant pro-development camp. And they spoke with the opponents mentioned above, and also lead environmental groups opposing the development, such as Wildsight.
Of course, there’s lots of backcountry skiing and visuals to highlight the natural area.
“It was a dream come true,” Evans said of the experiences in the snow last summer. I have had [Jumbo] in my life around the dinner table since I was a small kid. To have a bigger voice and contribute my voice to the project — it’s amazing I can do it through skiing.”
It’s pretty clear from the promotional material that the Patagonia-sponsored film takes an anti-Jumbo stand. (After all, the title of the film is the slogan adopted by Jumbo opponents. It’s been a bumper sticker staple on Subaru Loyales and Mitsubishi Delicas for years and years in the Kootenays.) But, Evans said, to get the overall approach of the film, you’re going to have to go see it.
Evans, for one, wants the area protected and hopes this film will be a window to view the natural beauty for those who haven’t seen that part of the Purcell Mountains.
“This is a wild space that needs to be protected,” Evans told be just before hanging up to board her airplane. “If you’ve never been up there you may not get the feeling.”
Family Show: 4:30 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.) Tickets: Youth under 18 $6 for this showing only and Adults $12
Evening Show: 7:30pm (doors open at 7 p.m.) Tickets: $12