The annual Cold Smoke Awards at the Emerson.
Every April folks from around the state gather at the Emerson Cultural Center to celebrate the winter that was. They come dressed in old-school ski garb and quickly fill the historic theater. Short films made by friends and fellow shredders are shown on the big screen, a lot of beer is consumed, just as many bottles end up rolling down the aisles, and inevitably much hooting and hollering ensues. Fledgling filmmakers receive awards for their submissions, with some garnering recognition for shooting “The Best Pow Line” or “The Best Jib,” and others finding their way to the podium to accept awards for filming more dubious achievements like “The Best Chunder Session.”
Welcome to the Cold Smoke Awards, a grass-roots film festival established to honor all pursuits involving powder. This year marks the third anniversary of the event, which will be held on April 7.
“It’s just a celebration of what we do here in Montana,” says Jonas Grenz, cofounder of Cold Smoke. “Plus, it’s a chance for young filmmakers to showcase their work.” Grenz and a few of his ski buddies came up with the idea for the event while working construction. Grenz and fellow powder-junkies Jeremy Mistretta, Brad VanWert, and Anjin Herdon decided the shred community needed an event that provided aspiring filmmakers with a chance to show off their shooting and editing skills.
“We all agreed there was no real venue for the little guys, those dudes doing it without any sponsors or big budgets,” Mistretta says. “So we thought it be a great idea to try and get all these people together.”
An Event for Powder Hounds by Powder Hounds
“Yeah, we just wanted to create something for the core ski community,” explains Grenz.
And it seems that’s exactly what they’ve done. Check out their website, www.coldsmokeawards.com, click on the “Our Friends” icon, and the long list of local sponsors should be evidence enough of how Bozemanites have embraced the event.
“It’s honestly such a community-oriented thing it’s not even funny,” Grenz says. “This thing wouldn’t happen without all the help from our volunteers and sponsors, and you know they all end up doing it for no good reason other than a love of skiing and the culture of the sport.”
So, it seems it takes a village. And one that enjoys a good party. As anyone who has attended the event will attest, although the Cold Smoke Awards are certainly a great opportunity to witness the gnar that others shredded and documented during the season, it’s also a good excuse to hang out with a lot of like-minded individuals, share a drink or two (or six), and recount tales from the past season: the powder slashed, lines pointed, and memories made in the mountains around Montana. “It’s just something to help fuel the stoke level,” Mistretta says. “It’s really just a way to cap-off the season.”
And with a majority of the profits being donated to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center and the Big Sky Youth Empowerment Project, it’s a socially-minded gathering. Last year the event raised $1,800, according to Grenz.
As with most well-intentioned endeavors, the event is proving to be more of a success than its organizers could’ve ever imagined. Powder magazine wrote about the homespun awards ceremony, a writer from Men’s Journal recently interviewed Grenz about his brainchild, world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker has been a judge and presenter, and earlier this year Skiing magazine listed the Cold Smoke Awards as one of “The Top Five Mountain Film Festivals.” Not bad for a bunch of ski bums from Bozeman.
And with all the publicity, Grenz imagines he’ll find a lot more submissions sent his way. Last season judges watched films from all over the Rocky Mountain West, California, Canada, Alaska, one from the East Coast, and of course quite a few from Montucky. Grenz and his fellow cold smokers said they’d like to see the event develop into a week-long festival, and maybe one that they eventually take on the road—perhaps something similar to the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
But, while Mistretta and Grenz say they’re stoked to see how the Cold Smoke Awards evolves in the coming years, both are quick to reiterate their hope that it remains first and foremost an event for the local shred community. “We just want to give something back to Bozeman," Grenz says, "and the community that’s given us so much.”