Photo courtesy Telluride Mountainfilm
“The Time Travelers,” one of a dozen films on the Saturday program at the upcoming Mountainfilm Festival in Mazama, takes viewers along as members of the U.S. Rafting Team attempt to set a speed records as they row the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

By Karen West

The fifth annual outdoor Mountainfilm Festival is expanding to three nights at a new, larger venue.   

The festival, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 27, will include two nights of feature-length documentaries and one night of short subjects, according to Paul Smotherman, who first brought a one-night festival to the Methow Valley in 2013.

He also announced the festival’s move to a large field at the Mazama trailhead adjacent to the Mazama Ranch House, a more spacious site than Winthrop’s town park, where it was held previously.

Smotherman, owner of North Cascades Mountain Hostel in Winthrop, personally selects the films. He said he used to choose from catalog descriptions but has attended the “inspiring” Telluride Mountainfilm Festival in Colorado the last two years. He said he tries to see as many of the short-subject films as possible. This year he also screened two of the feature-length films to be shown in Mazama.

Documentary films are submitted to the annual Telluride festival held each May. Following that festival a selection of films becomes available for tour to events worldwide.   

“We were just looking for traveling film festivals,” Smotherman said of the original idea to start the local Mountainfilm Festival in 2013. He liked what Telluride offered because it “seemed to be a little different and included cultural, enviro, and human interest films, not just sports.”

Thus an annual event was born, more local sponsors signed on, the audience grew and one night has stretched to three.

The following program notes describing the films to be shown are condensed from more detailed information available at

Friday, Aug. 25

“Fishpeople,” a Patagonia film, tells the story of surfers, a photographer and a swimmer, among others, who’ve found their purpose in the sea.

“Into Twin Galaxies” follows a trio of Arctic explorers who cross 600 miles of glaciers and crevasses in Western Greenland to run an Arctic river that spits them into the Arctic Ocean.

Saturday, Aug. 26

A dozen short films will be shown. The selection focuses on individuals and groups passionate about their pursuits. Single adventure stories include those of a pilot who flies in Alaska, a mountain biker, a free skier and a falconer.

Collaborative stories include those of a Russian scientist and his son who are trying to recreate Ice Age habitat and animals to help reverse climate change, and the attempt by members of the U.S. Rafting Team to set a new speed record by rowing 277 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 34 hours.

Sunday, Aug. 27

“No Man’s Land, a “rigorously nonjudgmental” film directed by David Byars offers an inside view of the 2016 occupation by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and their supporters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Byars was embedded with the occupiers. His film answers the question: Why did a group of heavily armed, self-described patriots occupy the refuge?

Festival gates will open at 7 p.m. each evening. The films, which are projected onto an 11-by-20 foot screen, start at 8 p.m.

Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets, warm coats, chairs, picnics and sleeping bags to bundle up the kids. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be on sale “and maybe even popcorn,” Smotherman said.

The festival coincides with Methow Trails’ popular Cutthroat Classic, an 11-mile run to be held Saturday, Aug. 26. Smotherman added that the Mazama Country Store will be having its summer weekend Beers and Brats nights both Friday and Saturday. 

For ticket price details and advance ticket purchases go to