Banff Mountain Film Festival – First Night

I’ve been hosting the Banff Mountain Film Festival for Alpine Shop in St. Louis for quite a few years now and there’s always something amazing each and every time we do this.

A lot of people think we get to see all of the films beforehand and hand pick which ones we think will work best. Well, there’s some truth to that; but the whole truth is a lot more interesting. You see, we get about two minute clips of each of the films. So, you can imagine with a film like Red Gold last night, it’s impossible for us to tell whether or not an hour-long feature film will be any good based on that clip. It’s kind of like a film critic writing reviews based on trailers instead of the actual movie. No, what’s great about Banff is that I’m seeing these films for the first time alongside everybody else. That’s not to say that there isn’t work done by a bunch of people to select which films we think will go over best; but we just never know until the lights go down each year.

The Red Helmet kicked off the show with the tale of a youn,g timid boy coming to grips with his fears after he finds a red helmet in the forest. After experiencing the lives of a number of adrenaline sport athletes (kayaker, climber, mountain biker, etc.) through the helmet, the little man faces his own fears and takes the plunge, literally. Good start to the show.

Papiroflexia (Spanish for origami) was an animated feature. Dealt with the dream to get rid of all the noise and pollution of our lives and get back to nature. Will it be the most popular animated film of the year? We’ll have to wait till tonight to see The Cable Car to find out?

Now for the most controversial topic every year at the Banff Mountain Film Festival… did the feature film live up to your expectations? Red Gold dealt with a proposed mine at the headwaters of two of the largest remaining sockeye salmon runs on the planet near Bristol Bay in Alaska. I’ll just say that I loved the film. The cinematography was gorgeous. The story resonated with me. I know there were people that thought it was too long. But I’d be interested in what some others thought. What did you think of Red Gold? (For conversation’s sake, I think the best feature we’ve ever shown was Alone Across Australia during the 2004 tour.)

The Sharp End: Eastern Europe was hands down the funniest movie of the night. “We don’t drink a lot, a lot. I mean 8-10 beers a day is standard.” That pretty much sums up this group of Checzk climbers’ philosophy. Not that this film was all drunken play. Some of the climbing was pheonmenal. A little humor never hurts, though.

One of the fascinating things about this festival is an almost 50-50 split among our audience as to why they’ve come to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Half of them come strictly for the adrenaline. The other half are there for the culture and nature. Maybe I’m generalizing that a little much, but I can tell you each year I hear from numerous people after the fact “Why didn’t you show more of this?” or “Why did you pick that?” and it always has to do with the cultural/adrenaline split. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of our audience loved Shikashika and half hated it. This was the story of a Peruvian family that climbs into the Andes, hacks enormous blocks of ice from the mountain glaciers and brings them down to the valley on the backs of mules to shave off and sell as snowcones (or as they call it- shikashika). Can you imagine the TroMo kids having to bring down the blocks of ice from the mountains to give Kirkwood it’s snowcone fix? That’s what I kept thinking anyways….

The last two films, Under the Influence and Seasons, both showcased the adrenaline rush with two of the best production groups in the business today. Teton Gravity Research’s Under the Influence had some absolutely unbelieveable powder footage from last year’s massive storm system in Jackson, Wy. Seasons comes from a group called the Collective. Every year that they have a film in the tour, I’ll pick it. They’ve been on the cutting edge with their style in all three films they’ve produced starting in 2004 with their self-titled DVD, The Collective, and continued with ROAM and now Seasons. Their work features some of the most innovative use of zip-line cinematography, super slo-mo and helicopter footage you’ll ever see. So, in the future, just so you know, don’t miss a mountain biking film from the Collective.

So that was night one. Tonight, our feature film is Journey to the Center, and we’ll move from sockeye salmon to BASE jumping. That’s Banff for you. It’s why I love the festival so much and look forward to it all year round.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did last night. All of us at Alpine Shop have loved hosting this festival for the past 20 something years and look forward to doing it in the future. Leave a comment on what you liked or hated…

By the way, funniest Banff Mountain Film Festival ever: Xtreme Tramping II: Lord of the Springs.

Share Your Adventure: Photo Competition


For those of you who have visited our new Chesterfield location since its grand opening in October of last year, you’ve seen the future look for all Alpine Shop stores. The images which span the walls include those our own customers have taken as they’ve explored the world.

This spring, all three Alpine Shop locations will take part in the fun as our Kirkwood and Columbia shops put up frames to showcase their customer’s adventures.

Simply put, we don’t want stock photos of models from California in our store. We want images of you, our Alpine Shop customers.

We will be choosing as many as 25 images for each of our stores, so please indicate which store (or stores) you shop at when you submit the images. If your photo is selected, you’ll receive a gift certificate for $25! From all the photos selected, we will select first, second and third prize winners for each store and a final grand prize winner chosen from those contest winners.

If you have a great photo of you or your family on an adventure anywhere throughout the world, please e-mail a high-resolution version of the shot to adventure@alpineshop.com. Please also include the names of everyone in the shot, the photographer and the specific location (as close as possible) where the photo was taken.
A Few Notes & Fine Prints…

Please understand that these images will need to be increased in size to 24″ tall or 48″ wide (and for front window photos up to 72″ tall). Mobile phone photos will simply not make the grade. For those of you with some experience with photography, your photos should still be over 80 dpi when height is set (not enlarged) to at least 24″ tall. Only a total of five photos may be submitted by each family. If you have questions, please contact the e-mail address above.

Please do not send single e-mails with over a total of 3 mb of files. If you a number of high-res photos you would like to send, please contact us at the e-mail above so we can give you our ftp access.

Images will be placed in our stores during the middle of May.

NOTE: $25 gift certificates will be given for total number of photos selected. (E.g. Family “A” submits 5 photos from three different e-mail addresses and 3 photos are selected for the walls. Family “A” would recieve three (3) $25 gift certificates.

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour Returns

For those of you who have been there before, I know you’re hearing the voice in your head right now at the end of the intro: “Welcome… to the Banff Mountain Film Festival…” For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, well, watch this:







As the host once again for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, we’ve got TWO nights of shows this year, Wednesday, April 1 and Thursday, April 2 back at the Moolah Theatre and Lounge at 7 pm both nights.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning, March 6 at 10 am. $10 for either night or come both nights and get the second night for half price: $15 total. Drop in to any Alpine Shop location or call us at 314-962-7715 to pick up tickets before we sell out once again.

We hope you’ll join us for a pair of nights dedicated to the mountain life, to culture, to adventure and to a little fun.

Final film selections will be up on alpineshop.com soon.

Orienteering at Rockwoods Range, February 21

As many of you remember Saturday morning’s weather for this weekend’s orienteering course at Rockwoods Range was a little poor: windy, cold and snowing. But, as it has been said: “there is no bad weather, just bad gear”, so I geared up and headed out. As I had planned, I chose the green course and electronic scoring.

One thing I noticed was that the clue sheet was covered in some sort of hieroglyphics. Apparently on the green course they use the IFO symbols, I probably should have learned those.

Off I went. I felt pretty good, a little cold as I left but from my two previous events I knew I would soon heat up. Down the road and past the playground, over the hill and then halfway down the gully and bingo!

Oh yeah, I forgot the 45 minutes of fruitless searching, then looking for #2 and backtracking to #1, then bingo…

It had not started well. #2 was easy, because I had already been there. It was up the opposite side of the creek, then back down to the creek and back up the other side for #3, I think there must be some sadistic tendencies in those who set these courses. From #3 to #4 I really used my oxygen deprived brain. I could just follow the contour of the hillside, with the creek to my right, at a nice cut-in with a large rock, bam! Well not really, it was more like head down to the creek, jump over the water and try to land on the opposite bank, well it looked like bank. It turns out it was just some snow covered leaves and sticks that swallowed my left leg up to my knee.

A few moments later I was crossing the same creek when I landed on a rock that bent my foot like a horseshoe. Then I twisted my ankle, got a twig snapped on the side of my face, then took a whipping twig strike to the giggle-berries, tripped over a branch and found #4!

From this marker to #5 was just follow a creek, halfway back up the hill and around the bend and there it should be. According to my clue sheet marker 169 would be on top of a small knoll. There it was, right where it should be, except it was marker 166. I spent the next 45 minutes looking back and forth. I climbed to the top of the ridge, found the trail (called a handrail) followed it over a hill then cut back down the side of the ridge and found marker 166, again.

I’d been in the woods for two hours at this point and I wasn’t even halfway done.

I couldn’t for the life of me find the fifth control. The sun had melted the snow on the western side of the gully, my feet were soaking (but still warm thanks to Smartwool’s new PhD socks with WOW technology) my legs were wet, my ankle had a nice twinge and I had had enough. I checked the map and looked for the most direct route back to the start and the car.

As you probably know, while creeks are the roads of the forest the ridge-tops are the highways, really cold and windy highways. I pulled my hat down swallowed my pride and headed home, then to add injury to insult I of course got a cramp in my right quad. I got back without too much trouble, turned in my SI card and asked where marker 166 was on a map so I could see how far off I really was. Oh wait! the course setter had made an error on the clue sheet; I was supposed to be looking for 166. He was really sorry, and apologized profusely.

I got in the car, cranked the heat on my feet and headed home to think of how I could spin this in some sort of positive light, at least I had an Alpine Shop driclime jacket on. Don’t worry kids, only 33 days until the next one!

Grand Canyon Adventure at St. Louis Science Center

I took two of my kids and my nephew to see Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk at the St. Louis Science Center Omnimax Theater this weekend. There are some places in this world that are just made to be featured on a wrap-around screen like that if you can’t be there in person, and the Grand Canyon is one of those places.

I have been smitten with the Grand since I got my first awe-inspiring look at it years ago. Four years out of college, I made the decision to get out of my chosen profession of sports journalism. I planned a two-week trip spanning the continental U.S. and drove my trusty little beater Chevy truck for almost 4100 miles across swampland, plains, mountains and desert. And this was how I came to be driving up the road from Flagstaff completely unprepared for a hike in the high desert. Working for an outdoor retail company now, I realize just how lucky I was not to suffer a serious case of dehydration. But at the time, I was just exploring and my mind was not on water in my camera case. It was on the thin sliver of river running a mile below through the canyon.

And I’m not sure my mind has ever left that river.

Many of us have a “life list” or as the recent movie featured, a “bucket list.” Well, paddling the Colorado River through the entire Grand Canyon has been on my list from that day. And I can say this after the movie this weekend: I think I may be closer to getting my family on the river than I have ever been in my life. The first words out of the kids’ mouths to my wife and me after the movie were: “Can we go?”

Oh yes we can.

Now I’ll be the first to concede that this might not be happening for a few years, but I can’t help but get excited about this now. Thanks to this movie my family is getting excited about an adventure again. My kids are the ones pushing for an adventure now. I guess that means we have been successful in instilling a sense of wonder and a sense of exhilaration at being in some of the world’s most gorgeous locales.

I can just picture it now: my family’s faces as we hit a massive wave in the middle of Lava. I can’t wait.

What’s on your life list?

Midwest Outdoor Lovers & Lovers Outdoors

For our first date, my wife and I went on a hike. I guess, looking back, it obviously wasn’t the usual “meet for coffee” or “dinner and a movie” get together; but for us, it seemed to be a perfect fit.

I picked a place neither of us had been before, a small section of the Castor River near Fredericktown, Mo., named the Amidon Conservation Area. From what I had read in Steve Henry’s 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of St. Louis, Amidon was home to Missouri’s only pink granite shut-ins. It was supposed to be an easy hike and I figured it should make for at least a pleasant first date.


A major storm system earlier in the week had scoured the pink granite walls clean of moss when we visited. The Castor was running clear and fast through the shut-ins and we were both captivated by the place.

Recent pscyhological studies have shown that nature can actively reduce our stress levels. So, maybe it was no mere coincidence that our first date was largely free of any awkward silences or horrible nerves. Instead, our first date was filled with laughter, enjoyment and anticipation of our next hike together. A little over a year later, we were married on that same spot. It has become one of the most cherished locales in our – and our kids’ – lives.


We’ve gone back many many times since that first date, but I don’t think it’s ever been that beautiful again. The pink walls have never been so clean and the water has never been so blue since that first time. I don’t know if that’s just my memory of the place, of that first date; or if that’s the honest to God truth. I guess it really doesn’t matter. It’s still beautiful no matter what time of the year you go. (And so is my wife.)

So get outside this weekend. I highly recommend Steve Henry’s 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of St. Louis. You can find it at our Alpine Shop locations in St. Louis. And using it, you can find a place that you and your loved one (and ones) can cherish. Find a place to fall in love. It worked for me.

Get Outside, Missouri

Here we are, the first full weekend of February, and the weather folks are telling us to expect temps in the 60’s.

I’ve only got two words for you: Get Outside.

Late last year, a bunch of the higher ups here at Alpine Shop got together to discuss the future of the company and which direction we wanted to go. Part of that discussion included what our vision was as an organization. And as we went back and forth about what we stood for, the conversation turned into something completely different than what I think our moderator expected. We began to talk about how each of us worked at Alpine Shop because we had experienced some deep fundamental change in our lives due to a discovery we made about ourselves while we were outdoors.

For me, it was my first trip to Yosemite National Park in California. My backpacking trip there changed my life. What did I discover about myself? I realized that I could go far beyond what I believed my physical capabilities could handle. I discovered that there are places – and perspectives – in this world that you truly need to earn your right to experience. And once I had experienced them, I have never been the same again.

So what can you do this weekend to change your life? What can you do to discover a new and improved You? There are more options than you can possibly imagine. Discover the Ozark Trail (www.ozarktrail.com) and its more than 350 miles here in Missouri alone. Take the kids for a hike through a local park. Even just walk through Forest Park and take in the St. Louis Zoo.

You already know what’s in your apartment, your condo or your house. Discover something new this weekend. Get outside.

Great Canoe & Kayak Event Moved to March

In the best interests of the company, Alpine Shop made the decision to move the 9th Annual Great Canoe & Kayak Event from February 7-8 at the Kirkwood Community Center to March 27-29 on site at Alpine Shop Kirkwood.

We hate to mess with these schedules as much as anybody; but in this economic climate, it doesn’t make much sense for us to concentrate on paddling during the first week of February. There’s still too much skiing and boarding to do. So we’ve pushed the paddle event to the last weekend of March. For all of you that have offered to host clinics and trip reports, we hope you can make it back with us then. If you can’t, we surely understand why not.

For our customers, we hope we haven’t inconvenienced you too much. And we promise we won’t be moving the dates – or the location – on this event for the next few years.

Alpine Shop Adventure Racing Team Ranked #4 in Nation

Our congratulations go out to the Alpine Shop Adventure Racing Team, which won the Berryman Adventure Race on September 27. They are currently ranked fourth in the nation in the United States Adventure Racing Association Rankings.

Consisting of Jeff and Carrie Sona, David Frei and Doug Nishimura, Team Alpine Shop finished eighth in the nation in 2007 and has consistently performed at some of the highest levels in the country since its inception.
Want to perform like Team Alpine Shop? Better start training really, really hard. Want to look like Team Alpine Shop? Official team jerseys are on sale at Alpine Shop Kirkwood now!

Alpine Shop Chesterfield Grand Opening

Last week, Alpine Shop’s Chesterfield location kicked off the official beginning of our fall season with five days of celebration. Celebration about what, you ask? The Grand Opening of our new location at 1616 Clarkson Road.

Featuring the bold and original prototype design that all Alpine Shops will eventually boast, this new location – right next to Barnes & Noble Booksellers near the intersection of Chesterfield Parkway and Clarkson Road – is perfect for a new generation of adventurers.
We’re also rolling out a new marketing campaign based on the look and feel of the Chesterfield store. Titled: “i” can do that!, this new campaign ties in with our inclusion of posters on the shop walls of our customers doing the things we sell. We want to make sure the Midwest knows we can help them accomplish anything to do with outdoor recreation through instruction, expertise and through the right gear. It’s pretty simple… we want our customers to say, “Hey, I can do that!”