Seeking the snow less traveled

Backcountry Film Festival showcases outdoor films for a good cause

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

We tend to enjoy the outdoors here in North Idaho, and why shouldn’t we? Surrounded by mountains, pristine wilderness, as well as rivers and lakes showing colors we might otherwise only see in a dream, North Idaho is indeed an outdoor paradise.

Show your appreciation for the outdoors by attending the 18th annual Backcountry Film Festival, hosted by nonprofit Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education. This annual event takes place Friday, Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. at the historic Panida Theater. Advance tickets are available for sale at for $7/youth or $12/adult, or at the box office the day of the show for $10/youth and $15/adult. A special $30 donation ticket is also available, which includes admission to the festival and three raffle tickets.

Still frames from the many awesome winter sport films to be screened on Friday, Jan. 6 at the 18th annual Backcountry Film Festival at the Panida Theater. Courtesy photos.

As it approaches the two-decade mark, the Backcountry Film Festival continues to be not just a fun way to celebrate the outdoors, but a fundraiser as part of SOLE’s annual Reach & Teach Kids Fundraising Campaign. This program helps raise awareness and essential funds so under-served local schools can experience SOLE’s award-winning and nationally recognized SnowSchool Experience program at their Mountain Field Campus at Schweitzer. This year will be of special importance as SOLE celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Since its inception in 2012, SOLE’s place-based experiential education program has put well over 3,000 local youth on the snow each winter to explore and learn in (and about) their winter wildlands from the mountains to the lakes. This represents over 24,000 hours of hands-on, on-the-snow outdoor education for the youth in our region who might not otherwise be given the chance for such activities.

Educators and their students have been afforded the opportunity to engage in fun and intentional outdoor education lessons on outdoor living travel skills, snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness and conservation literacy. 

Over the past decade, every fifth-grade student in the Lake Pend Oreille School District has been given access to this educational opportunity each year through funds raised during the Backcountry Film Festival and other partnership opportunities from organizations like the Panhandle Alliance for Education.

By supporting this event, you’ll allow SOLE to reach and teach over 600 under-represented rural youths this winter, as 50% of SnowSchool participants are currently living in poverty and 70% will experience snowshoeing in our local winter wildlands for the very first time.

Along with entertaining outdoor films, the Backcountry Film Festival will also feature a raffle and silent auction, so bring your four leaf clovers as well as your checkbooks — hopefully you’ll win some fun prizes, but you’ll end up supporting a good cause either way.

Produced in part by Boise-based nonprofit Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Backcountry Film Festival began with a single showing in Boise in 2004 and has grown to its current status as an international film festival. After making its annual premier in Boise, the festival embarks on a tour with more than 100 stops around the world, including Sandpoint.

The award-winning and juried films all celebrate the human-powered experience. With a mix of professional and grassroots films, there’s sure to be something to appeal to everyone. 

This is a family-friendly event and all are welcome. There will be limited capacity due to the Panida’s COVID-19 policy, but vaccination status and proof of negative tests are not required.

Backcountry Film Festival • Friday, Jan. 6; 6-9 p.m., $7-$10/youth (advanced/day of show), $12-$15/adult (advanced/day of show), $30 donation ticket; Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave., 208-263-9191. Purchase tickets at and learn more about the Winter Wildlands Alliance at

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