CREATIVE PEAKS: The War on Wild

By on November 24, 2015

Film delves into debate, captures the beauty of one of this world’s most cherished and endangered natural places.

AT LEFT: Jumbo is a wild area one company wants to turn into a ski resort, while backcountry skiers and environmentalists want to protect the open space.  AT RIGHT: The battle for the Jumbo area has raged for 25 years with stakeholders on all sides of the issue fighting for and against a new ski development. (Photos: Garrett Grove)

AT LEFT: Jumbo is a wild area one company wants to turn into a ski resort, while backcountry skiers and environmentalists want to protect the open space. AT RIGHT: The battle for the Jumbo area has raged for 25 years with stakeholders on all sides of the issue fighting for and against a new ski development. (Photos: Garrett Grove)

Jackson Hole, WY – The Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, are a place you have to see to understand. Peaks jut to the sky, the chain broken only by massive glaciers.

“I don’t think there is a comparison to that level of wild in the Lower 48,” said Nicholas Waggoner, a film director who has skied across the United States including Alaska. “It’s massive, massive country. Until you are there and standing in that place, you don’t know what it’s like.”

It is in this wild place a battle has raged for 25 years. The players? A company that wants to develop a massive ski resort; environmentalists who want to protect the land; biologists who worry about the loss of grizzly bear habitat; native people who view the land as sacred; and backcountry skiers and snowboarders captivated by the area’s solitude and rugged nature.

Waggoner tells the story in the film “Jumbo Wild,” which screens at the Pink Garter Theatre Tuesday thanks to the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Wyoming Wilderness Association.

The film is meant to be a voice for the landscape and the communities trying to protect it, but Waggoner also wanted to show the nuances of the story. Like many public land cases, there are a variety of arguments on multiple sides.

“Jumbo is a textbook case of development and land use and ecology and environment and protection for wild places,” Waggoner explained. “It’s not a clear picture. That’s what makes it a textbook case. These issues are complex. They are never black and white and they are never easy to decide on.”

To make the film, Waggoner had to navigate 25 years of bureaucracy, as well as interviewing people across a variety of value systems.  He wanted to depict the humanity in all the characters involved in the issue.

Though a daunting task, he also wanted to transport people to this incredible place. “You can never, ever do justice for a place like that,” he said. “Cameras can’t capture that type of beauty.”

But viewers will decidedly get a taste of just how special the area is through images Waggoner captured of the landscape, and through the passion that translates on the screen from the myriad people who treasure this special place.

“Jumbo Wild” screens at 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m., featuring Patagonia athlete Alex Yoder, who has been touring with the movie. Tickets are available for $10 at pinkgartertheatre.com or $12 at the door. PJH

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