I am a skier in a ski town. I count the days until the mountain opens and then I count my days on the hill. When the opportunity arose to watch some of the best ski movies of the year at Sun Valley’s The Gathering film festival, I cleared my calendar, grabbed my kids and prepared for a two-hour mental vacation to some of the freshest powder and most spectacular winter scenery imaginable.
The Gathering, a weekend-long celebration of mountain lifestyle attracted a wide cross-section of people, with the common denominator of simply loving to play in the snow. When I arrived Saturday evening, the crowd gathered outside the Opera House broke down as follows: 40 percent middle and high school students (identifiable by their ubiquitous flat-brimmed caps emblazoned with trendy logos), 30 percent families (identifiable by parents and kids sitting together, enjoying the barbecue put on by Sun Valley) and 30 percent 20-somethings (identifiable by the PBR beers in their hands – there was a special, two for $5). Many of my fabulous 25-year-old babysitters were in the latter group, also identifiable by their continuous subtle scan of the crowd in search of pros and filmmakers.
The group was unified, however, in its enthusiasm for the event. I heard the same comments again and again. People appreciated that the festival was geared toward locals, that it appealed to both skiers and snowboarders, that kids wanted to come and that is was so affordable.
Inside the theater, as the first of the night’s feature films rolled, The Gathering’s appeal to the younger generation became even more apparent. On the big screen, a snowboarding film by Burton featured in-your-face footage of athletes sliding anything but a regular run. Rails, buildings, downed branches and tunnels all served as terrain.
When the festival’s main attraction, “Sunny,” started the audience ballooned and its composition shifted. Suddenly, the crowd was comprised of about 80 percent middle and high school boys. With this influx, came noise, enthusiasm, a smattering of bad language and whole lot of energy. Everyone was swept up in the epic feats of the athletes on the screen and mentally inserted themselves into those scenes. The brainchild of Josh Berman and Level 1 Productions, “Sunny” was cutting edge enough to please a 16-year-old boy – and his father.
Only about seven weeks remain until the arm of the detachable quads attach and whisk me up the mountain. I can’t wait. My kids can’t wait. Neither can the hundreds of others who attended The Gathering. The countdown has officially begun.