Vernon Search and Rescue member Nikki Sims enjoys the view from the National Geographic photo “booth” at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in November.

Vernon Search and Rescue member Nikki Sims enjoys the view from the National Geographic photo “booth” at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in November.

Making the best out of the Banff Mountain Film Festival

Vernon Search and Rescue members head to the Rockies to do ‘research’ for annual Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

They are photographed, skied down, hiked and climbed upon, jumped off, and celebrated for their sheer power and beauty.

Those massed heaps of rock formed by tectonic force, mountains are hailed by outdoor enthusiasts around the world.

That is no more apparent than in the Rocky Mountains mecca of Banff.

Every year adventurers, extreme athletes, photographers, authors, and mountain lovers gather in the Albertan city for the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

A regular to the festival is Vernon Search and Rescue member Nikki Sims, who is coordinator of the local unit’s annual screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which arrives for two different screenings at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Dec. 29 and 30.

This is the 22nd year Vernon Search and Rescue has brought the festival to Vernon as its only major fundraiser, with ticket sales helping the unit purchase new equipment, update existing gear and for on-going training upgrades.

The world tour usually arrives in Vernon two weeks after the Banff festival ends in early November, however, this year the festival was pushed back by a week, ending Nov. 10.

“There were no showings in B.C. for two weeks after the Alberta show due to B.C. having their own licensing of the films (many films are not licensed to be shown in B.C. prior to their Alberta showing),” said Sims. “This pushed the festival into the heart of the Christmas season with very slim venue availability, leaving Dec. 29 and 30 as the best dates for the festival.”

In November, Sims hobbled her way – with a damaged foot – to Banff with fellow Vernon SAR member Coralie Nairn, where they met some of the world’s most respected adventurers and saw some of the films submitted by filmmakers from around the world for the annual competition.

“Coralie and I watched about 52 films this year out of about 75 or so that made the cut into the festival (about 300 are submitted). I think about 25 to 30 are on the world tour this year. Once we get more feedback from our Banff film festival road warrior, we will choose our films to show so that we show the best,” said Sims.

The women were also able to rub elbows with many athletes and filmmakers in attendance, including Canadian ice climber and paraglider pilot Will Gadd as well as National Geographic and North Face professional photographer Jimmy Chin.

One of the highlights of the trip was a photo walk with Chin, which Nairn was able to attend (Sims’ foot was only just out of a cast so she wasn’t able to participate).

“The photography walk with Jimmy Chin was great, according to Coralie. National Geographic put it on and Jimmy was overwhelmed when more than 100 people showed up for it. He said he thought maybe 20 would show,” said Sims.

National Geographic also had a large yellow border people could have their photos taken in and then encouraged people to post on social media with the hashtag #nineepicdays. There are some great shots of people on it.”

Also in attendance at this year’s festival was U.K. climber Hazel Findlay, whose film Spice Girl was shown as part of the world tour in Vernon last year.

“The time we spend in Banff at the festival is so great. We meet so many amazing and exciting people from all over the world, the athletes, adventurers, writers and filmmakers alike,” said Sims. “I love the passion,  drive and visions they all have. I recommend to anyone and everyone to go to the festival.”

Those who were not able to make it to this year’s festival in Banff can experience the next best thing when the Banff Mountain Festival World Tour returns to Vernon. Both the Monday, Dec. 29 and Tuesday, Dec. 30 shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets usually sell out, so it is recommended to purchase them early. Cost is $25 each at the Ticket Seller in the Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or order them at