Switchback, the Movie, Premiers Jan. 5 in Ouray
by Peter Shelton
Dec 30, 2010 | 3737 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OURAY – A new documentary on “Colorado’s avalanche problem,” featuring local snow gurus Susan Hale and Jerry Roberts, will be premiered next week at The Main Street Theater in Ouray.

The first-time showing of Switchback will be on Wednesday evening Jan. 5. The event is a benefit for the Red Mountain Pass Area Chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club, which will use the money to help fund a U.S. Forest Service snow patrol on Red Mountain Pass (and other area winter recreation sites), according to Debbie Wheeler, RMPAC event director.

The movie will screen at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). Tickets are $15, and include beer from Ridgway and Ouray breweries.

Switchback was filmed over the last couple of winters by Ben Sparling and Adam Babcock. Babcock, who is on the pro patrol at Bridger Bowl in Montana, met snow scientists, and authors, Richard and Betsy Armstrong (The Avalanche Book) at a RMPAC meeting in Ouray and decided to make a film which “chronicles the unique problems that Colorado’s snowpack presents,” said Wheeler in a release. “And [looks at] the inherent difficulties in avalanche prediction, mitigation and rapidly increasing recreational exposure.”

Babcock filmed all over Colorado – on Loveland Pass, at Arapahoe Basin, Chicago Ridge and Camp Hale. For the segment on Red Mountain Pass, he hooked up with now-retired Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Jerry Roberts during a storm to drive the slide-prone highway over Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes.

He also spent time with current CAIC and Colorado Department of Transportation forecaster Susan Hale who examined with Babcock the San Juans’ fragile snowpack.

In addition to Switchback, the evening will feature a number of shorts from the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival, including: Deeper from Teton Gravity Research, Desert River from Sweetgrass Productions, Whitebark Warrior from TreeFight and SnazMedia, and Austalis: An Antarctic Odyssey, by Aspen-area extreme skier Chris Davenport.

For more information, call Wheeler at 729-0753; or go to CMC’s event website: http://www.cmc.org/events/eventdetails.aspx?EventID=2309. (Be forewarned, the website has the date wrong; the screening is Wednesday, Jan. 5.)

The Red Mountain Pass Area Chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving non-motorized winter recreation on Red Mountain Pass and North Sneffels. They have been helping to fund the USFS winter patrol for the last “three or four years,” according to Wheeler. The patrol is “primarily to minimize conflict on the pass,” she said. “He mostly does education, hands out maps on where the private property is, and which sections of the pass are open to motorized use. On Yankee Boy Road he checks climbing permits. And up at Elk Meadows (Ouray County Road 5 where the plowing ends) he is mostly enforcing speed limits for the safety of cross-country skiers.”

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