Field Notes from Mountainfilm Festival


A great story can move mountains. For 20 years we’ve partnered with Telluride Mountainfilm Festival to share stories that celebrate life, tackle global issues and offer creative solutions. That’s what happens when art meets activism. Each Memorial Day Weekend, artists, filmmakers, athletes, scientists, activists and curious citizens descend upon the Telluride Valley for four days of problem solving.  Every year Mountainfilm focuses on a timely and compelling theme with a series of presentations, panel discussions and break-out sessions. This year’s theme was all about climate change, calling it “The New Normal.”

“We realized that the litany of scourges from climate change are already happening all too often. Whether it’s Zika virus in Miami or winter rain in Telluride, climate change and its terrifying impact has become The New Normal,” Festival Director David Holbrooke said. The New Normal has grown far beyond the symposium theme: It has evolved as a community-wide, grassroots effort to battle climate change and help bring the Telluride region to carbon neutrality. “We believe that The New Normal can be a reset in the way we live our lives here in Telluride,” Holbrooke said. “So for us at Mountainfilm, The New Normal is to work assiduously — and collectively — toward reducing our impact by using the power of story to fuel innovation and community building.”

Our CEO, Gordon, and our VP of Design and Sustainability, Kate, headed to Telluride with their families to represent Toad and report back on the lessons gleaned  from four days of frank and inspiring discussion about climate change. They learned that raising ocean temps just 2°C is the literal boiling point of our planet (check out Chasing Coral to dig in more). They learned about the benefits of evolving from industrial to regenerative farming (watch the short film One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts for an in-depth look). They met Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez’s oft-overlooked partner and co-founder in the farmworkers rights movement, and they learned that one of the most impactful solutions to climate change is the education of girls across the globe. Gordon and Kate came back inspired by indomitable folks like Eduardo Garcia (who survived 2400 volts of electricity in the Montana backcountry), Fred Beckey (one of the great OG climbing dirtbags), and a couple of groovy owls. Hearing the stories of people who have truly walked the walk is immeasurably inspiring and, take it from us, will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. Now that’s powerful storytelling.

Mountaifilm’s 2017 New Normal Tour kicks off this August, touring the world with the best films of 2017. The 2016 tour is currently on tour, promoting last year’s theme, National Parks. Check out a few of our favorite short films from the current tour and keep your eyes peeled for official Mountainfilm selection films coming to Netflix and wide release later this year.

Johnnie Jameson is a working man, a postal employee, a Vietnam vet, and a member of the Legacy Runners of the LA Marathon. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in creativity – running backwards, dribbling a basketball – and gumption. Mile 19 conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes.

In 2015, Leal Wilcox competed in her first bikepacking race, the epic 2,745-mile Tour Divide, from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. She shattered the women’s record by 2 days. Fast Forward follows Wilcox as she pushes her limits in the Arizona desert.

Mark Twain said, “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting.” In 1952, David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first executive director, launched a fight against two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. 62 Years follows Brower’s son, Ken, as he rafts Colorado’s Yampa River reflecting on his father’s legacy and the future of the American West.

Every year Mountainfilm hits the road with the best of the best on an international tour. Click here to see when they’ll be in your neck of the woods.

Featured photo credit: Kristofer Noel


The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Telluride

Downtown Telluride, Colorado

20 years ago we got our start making fleece hats out of a garage in Telluride, CO. We’d go from the slopes to the office, climb a waterfall on our lunchbreaks  and end the night at one of Telluride’s best watering holes. So ya, we’ve got a soft spot for this little box canyon town. With 14,000-ft mountain peaks rising in the distance, nothing makes you want play hookie like a sunny day in the San Juan Mountains. And trust us, nothing is better for the soul than giving in.

Beautiful views await in Telluride, Colorado.Beautiful views in Telluride, Colorado.Rhonda Johnson

We call it the Trail to Tavern lifestyle. Spend a few hours getting your feet dirty outside, then kick ’em up with a cold beer at the end of the day. It’s easy to do in Telluride – since it’s a box canyon, every trail naturally leads you back to the taverns (no matter what the season). Here we’ve paired our favorite trail excursions with our favorite local bars. You’re in good hands – it’s a craft we’ve been perfecting for years!

Jud Weibe Trail + The Last Dollar Salloon (aka “The Buck”)

The Jud Weibe Trail starts and ends downtown, so it makes for a perfect trail to tavern experience. Named after the man who built it, the Jud Weibe is a go-to hike for Telluride visitors and locals alike (when the trail does not have snow) generally June through October. Start at the Aspen Street trailhead, where you’ll find a map kiosk next to a trio of boulders. Hike up and enjoy the 2,000 feet of elevation gain, which allows for beautiful panoramic views back toward town. You’ll cross Butcher Creek, walk through beautiful aspen groves, and be rewarded with a killer view at the trail’s high point of about 10,000 feet. Conveniently, this view and the bench to enjoy it comes about halfway through the 3-mile hike. Take a minute to soak it all in because it’s all downhill from here.

The Jud Weibe Trail is easily accessible by foot from downtown Telluride.The Jud Weibe Trail is easily accessible by foot from downtown Telluride.Ondrej Kavka.

At the bottom of the trail, you’ll pop out on North Oak Street, just a few blocks from what locals call “The Buck.” Officially known as the Last Dollar Saloon, this iteration of the local watering hole has been open since 1978, but the original saloon dates to 1899. With tin roofs and creaky wooden floors, the classic victorian building doesn’t hide its long history. The Buck doesn’t serve food; you’ll want to brown bag it, or have your name in for a table at the neighboring Brown Dog Pizza (more on that below).And don’t spend your last dollar, because you’ll want to put a couple in their jukebox (and as long as you don’t play “Don’t Stop Believing”, you’ll be welcomed back).

Telluride Ski Resort + La Cocina de Luz

Telluride ski resort has amazing skiing no matter what your skill level, but it’s known for diverse terrain, steep shots and deep powder. With over 300 inches of snowfall annually, you’re likely to get some good fresh snow, but you’re also likely to see a bluebird day, since Telluride gets an average of over 300 days of sunshine.

Even if you’re not visiting during ski season, you can ride up the gondola, a memorable part of any Telluride trip, and then hike or ride a bike down the resort’s network of trails.

The gondola at Telluride is a memorable experience in any season.
The gondola at Telluride. Ken Lund.

There’s nothing quite like a cheesy, spicy Mexican meal to help you recover after a full day of skiing or hiking. Finish your day (or get the evening started) at La Cocina de Luz. This restaurant focuses on whole foods and  a menu that will please every diner–whether vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. If you’re there to recharge, try their organic juices. If not, start with a pitcher of house-made margaritas.

Bridal Veil Falls + Brown Dog Pizza

If we had to choose a single hike in Telluride, we’d be hard-pressed to find one that offers as beautiful a payoff as Bridal Veil Falls. The trail is actually an old jeep road heading up Black Bear Pass. The payoff we mentioned is the beautiful waterfall you’ll see, as well as the stunning views of the valley. This is no ordinary falls; Bridal Veil is Colorado’s largest free-falling waterfall at 365 feet. Round trip, the hike is only four miles.

Once you head back down into town, stop by Brown Dog Pizza, owned by Chef Jeff Smokevitch. Jeff knows pizza; he has studied at the International School of Pizza and has been rewarded for his hard work by winning top honors at the World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy. Ask for the pizza that won the competition, or choose from deep-dish Chicago pizza, Detroit style pizza, classic American (round) pizza, as well as calzones and stromboli. So pretty much everything is awesome. Brown Dog offers a full bar and a fully-stocked tiramisu that may single-handedly convince you to move to T-Ride.

Wasatch Trail to the Falls + Smugglers Brewpub

If you’re looking for something a little more technical and challenging, Wasatch Trail will also give you fantastic views of Bridal Veil Falls. Start at the Bear Creek Trail, join the Wasatch and then go up and over the saddle between the Bear Creek drainage and Bridal Veil Basin, just above 13,000 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado.
Bridal Veil Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado. Wikimedia Commons.

You’ll hike past evidence of Colorado’s mining history, wildflowers when they’re in season, and breathtaking views of Bear Creek Canyon. You’re in for a big day if you do the entire loop; be sure you have enough water, proper gear, and navigation tools (the guidebook always helps).

You’ll deserve a cold one when you’re done. Head over to Smugglers Brewpub for craft beers and farm-fresh Colorado meats. Nearly everything in the kitchen is made in-house. This careful attention to detail is carried over to the bar, which features house-made bitters and delicious spirit infusions. If cocktails aren’t your thing, award-winning brewmaster Thomas Daly creates a variety of seasonal beers and classic lagers.

Smuggler's Brewpub in Telluride
Smuggler’s Brewpub in Telluride. lulun & came.

Valley Floor Trail + The Butcher & Baker Cafe

Our last pairing is for those who are already familiar with Telluride’s classics and want to try out two of the newer additions to town. The recently-protected Valley Floor Trail offers amazing ski trails, biking, hiking, and trail running; while the relatively new Butcher & Baker Cafe has a variety of food options.

First, the trails: In the winter, the Valley Floor has a network of beginner-friendly groomed Nordic ski trails, easily accessible from town. You can run the trails in the winter, as long as you are on the designated multi-use trails. When the snow melts, the entire area becomes a playground for trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. With over 500 acres in preservation, this area offers about a dozen miles of singletrack trails, all flat or rolling. As you move around this open valley, you’ll get a different view of the box canyon that makes Telluride so special. To get there from town, just take the San Miguel River Trail west.

When you’re good and tired, head back east to the Butcher & Baker Cafe for killer fresh-baked pastries. If you must have some protein, they’ve also got a full selection of breakfast staples like omelets to complement the pastries. Check their schedule online for specials and events. They have liquor tastings and the occasional prix-fixe menu (the “Birds and Bubbles” dinner pairs homemade organic fried chicken and a flight of champagne. YUM). While these two haven’t been around all that long, we think they’ll become classics in due time.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Jared Skoviak


Filmmaking That Changes the World

This is Mountainfilm. It’s thought provoking, gut wrenching, jaw dropping and inspires us to protect the world that we love. Telluride Mountainfilm Festival has been making people feel this way for nearly 40 years. Starting in 1979 in Telluride, CO (where we happen to have roots, too), Mountainfilm has grown from a weekend film festival to a 4-day cultural and environmental symposium that breaks down global issues and offers up solutions. This is storytelling at its finest.

A great story creates compassion and understanding, and that’s where change is born. We’ve been moved by the stories we hear at the Mountainfilm Festival. That’s why we’ve been partnering with Mountainfilm for over 20 years. From feature films about land conservation to short films about quirky thinkers, we’re moved to see the world differently. Even if it’s a 10 minute film, the message can stick with you forever. Now that’s poweful.

Each year Mountainfilm picks a symposium theme and this year’s is National Parks, to coincide with the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. Speakers and films will focus on the substantial challenges facing the parks, ranging from access restrictions to development threats, funding questions, crumbling infrastructure, engagement with younger generations and climate change. And of course, there will be a considerable amount of eye candy too. We’re looking forward to seeing what this year’s festival has in store and which films will make it onto the Mountainfilm world tour.

Mountainfilm Festival will take place 5/25 – 5/30 in Telluride, CO. Beginning in August, Mountainfilmn hits the road with the best of the best on a world tour, committed to inspiring audiences around the globe. Check here to see when Mountainfilm will be coming to your town. Here’s what we’re looking forward to seeing this weekend…


Ace and the Desert Dog
Ace Kvale, a veteran photographer, and Ghengis, a blue heeler “dogger” (that’s canine for “blogger”), live together in the Utah desert. Their backyard: 2 million acres of canyons, redrock cliffs, dry washes, empty landscapes and desert wilderness. For his 60th birthday, Kvale decided to go on a 60-day backpacking trip. Kvale and Genghis are living proof, plodding along to spectacular places only reachable by foot, following the cycles of the season and learning lasting lessons from one another. Namely: Slow down, spend as much time with your best friends as possible and don’t forget to play.


62 Years
Mark Twain said, “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting.” More than half a century after David Brower, environmentalist and the Sierra Club’s first executive director, traveled down northwest Colorado’s Yampa River with his sons, Twain’s observation still rings true. The same year of the river trip, 1952, Brower led the successful fight against two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument by raising awareness and creating a constituency of conservationists. 62 Years follows Brower’s son, Ken, as he recreates the river trip from his childhood and reflects on his father’s legacy, as well as the future of the drought-plagued American West.


Mile 19
Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time. And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing.


Elk River
For many of the elk herds that summer in Yellowstone National Park, home is outside the protected park boundaries the rest of the year, as far as 70 miles away. Scientist Arthur Middleton joins photographer Joe Riis, artist James Prosek and filmmaker Jenny Nichols in this documentary that captures the migration of elk in the Yellowstone area. Mirroring a similar expedition undertaken in 1871 that fused science and the arts, this modern band of explorers trek from Wyoming’s rangeland through snowy mountain passes and treacherous river crossings to the rugged beauty of Yellowstone’s high-alpine meadows. Along the way, they meet backcountry guides and cattle ranchers whose lives are intricately tied with the fate of the elk and other migratory species that call the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem home.

20 Years at Telluride Mountainfilm

Every Memorial Day Weekend we pack a bag that’s ready for anything: sunshine, snow, ice cream socials, happy hours, rock climbing, snowshoeing, early-bird coffee, late-night pizza and films. Lots and lots of films. We’re off to Telluride Mountainfilm Festival for a long weekend of good company, great films, tasty beer and one really sweet gondola.

In 1979 a group of ski-bums-turned-cinephiles gathered to screen their favorite mountaineering docs. But the program quickly evolved to encompass stories about the people who move mountains, not just climb them. Inspired by dogged determination and incendiary storytelling, Mountainfilm is a celebration of the indomitable spirit and the global issues that matter. So don’t let the name fool you, Mountainfilm isn’t really about mountains at all – it’s about people who are working to positively change the world. And that’s what drew us to Mountainfilm 20 years ago. We go outside to be inspired, so we have an interest in keeping the wilderness wild, supporting conservation and encouraging the people who are putting in good work across the globe.

This year marks our 20th year sponsoring Mountainfilm and we think the festival is just getting better with age. In addition to showcasing documentaries and filmmakers from around the world, the four-day festival now includes symposia and panels (this year’s theme was Afghanistan), gallery exhibits of art and photography, book signings, coffee talks, student programs, live music, outdoor programs and street parties. Oh, and a spectacular gondola ride to ferry you between High Camp Theater and town.

With a program like that, Mountainfilm is much more than a film festival – it’s a meeting of the minds. Pioneers from all fields – athletes, environmentalists, scientists, artists – come together to talk global solutions and share a box of popcorn. This year’s special guests included a group of Afghan photographers who risk their lives for the sake of free speech, climbing sensation Tommy Caldwell, cartoon editor of The New Yorker Bob Mankoff, Austrian alpinist Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, big mountain snowboarding star Jeremy Jones and Rwandan genocide victim and activist Frederick Ndabaramiye.

And the buck doesn’t stop there. Mounatinfilm on Tour takes the best of the year’s films on a year-long trip around the world. Partnering with local organizations in over 100 locations, Mountainfilm on Tour reaches nearly 60,000 people every year. That’s 60,000 impressions and 60,000 new adventures worth pursuing. So thanks Mountainfilm, for keeping us informed and inspired. Here’s to the next 20 years!

For information on Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, visit

For information and tour dates for this year’s Mountainfilm on Tour, visit