Home > Events

The Most Adventure You Can Have at the Movies: Guide to Telluride Mountainfilm Festival

Telluride Mountainfilm Festival draws the outdoor industry's most engaged thought leaders, activists, and athletes to the box canyon for 4 days. Here's how to join.
Telluride Mountainfilm bannerThe annual Telluride Mountainfilm is loaded with documentary films and in-person meet-ups; (photo/Ben Eng)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

It’s hard to imagine spending much time outside during a film festival. But somehow, that’s exactly what Telluride Mountainfilm manages to pull off. Surrounded by one of the most majestic mountain settings imaginable, festivalgoers flock to Telluride, Colo., to indulge in collective screen time and face-to-face connection.

Founded 45 years ago, the inspiring program keeps drawing outdoor creatives and industry leaders back for more. The 2024 Memorial Day weekend event might even set a new benchmark for excitement. Here’s why.

Why to Go: Telluride Mountainfilm

Nearly 100 documentaries are on deck with today’s most hard-hitting educational and inspirational global narratives. With run times ranging from 4-minute shorts to 100-minute features, the films cover everything from climate change and human rights to environmental causes and badass adventures.

Festivalgoers jumping up at the annual ice cream social at Mountainfilm
Festivalgoers enjoying the annual ice cream social at Mountainfilm; (photo/Melissa Plantz)

The clock doesn’t stop between films. Folks hike (or take a gondola) from one venue to the next — once you arrive, the festival is car-free — to attend prescheduled book signings, coffee talks, social hours, parties, and panels.

Attendance ranks well among professional athletes, influencers, and political leaders. The odds of meeting one (if not many) of your outdoor heroes is absurdly high.

A few of the most noteworthy mountain celebrities and pioneers on the docket this year include mountaineer and U.S. Senate candidate Caroline Gleich, environmental and LGBTQ+ activist Pattie Gonia, and Luis Benitez, Trust for Public Land CIO. There are always surprise appearances, too.

“Our mission is to inspire audiences to create a better world [with] documentary films celebrating indomitable spirit, speakers, special guests, professional athletes, influencers, hikes, climbs, and incredible events all in a magical setting. Mountainfilm creates a special opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the coolest and most badass humans on the planet,” said Shae LaPlace, marketing manager of Telluride Mountainfilm.

Special panel in remembrance of professional mountaineer and Telluride local Hilaree Nelson; (photo/Ben Eng)

What to Expect

More than a dozen venues are sprinkled throughout Telluride and the Mountain Village for Mountainfilm gatherings and screenings including six theaters.

This year, the festival schedule kicks off on Thursday, May 23, at 8 p.m. Events commence daily from 8-10 a.m., and films extend well into each night. The event ties up with the May 27 closing picnic and awards ceremony at Town Park (ticket required) and a final nightcap presentation.

What’s catching our eye? For one, Pattie Gonia will be throwing a climate-inspired drag show and disco dance party on Saturday night (free, open to the public).

“Festival-goers should expect an action-packed weekend of films, conversations, art, hikes, climbs, outdoor happy hours, humans who change the world, and to leave feeling galvanized to create change. Festival Guest Director Wade Davis will be participating in the Minds Moving Mountains Speaker Series and is said to be one of the greatest speakers in Mountainfilm’s epic history,” said LaPlace.

Some of the venues are rather roomy like the Palm Theater, which has 586 seats, while others are more intimate like the Sheridan Opera House, a 238-seat theatre.

At night, attendees get bundled up and bring camp chairs to the Base Camp screen in Town Park, which are complimentary shows.

Base Camp outdoor venue for Mountainfilm screenings at Telluride Town Park
Base Camp is an outdoor venue for Mountainfilm screenings at Telluride Town Park; (photo/Bash Jelen)

How to Get Tickets

Festival passes are available on the Mountainfilm website. The best part? A range of passes are available to meet different budgets. A ton of events are free and open to the public, as well.

Keep in mind, a festival pass lets you reserve a seat, which comes in handy for popular screenings.

  • Wasatch Pass ($210): Admission to six films/programs, online registration opens May 20
  • Palmyra Pass ($400): Full access to all films/programs, closing picnic/awards ceremony, online registration opens May 13
  • AMA Dablam Pass ($2,000): Palmyra Pass benefits plus filmmakers’ dinner, online registration opens May 8
  • Patron Pass ($5,000): AMA Dablam Pass benefits plus priority entry to all films

“The Wasatch Pass is a great option for dipping [your] toes into Mountainfilm, checking out a few programs, and still having lots of time to get outside. The Palmyra Pass gives you complete access to a 360-degree festival experience. Our two donation pass options are for folks who are over-the-moon to be involved and contribute to the organization’s mission,” said LaPlace.

Suzan Beraza and Lucy Lerner at the awards ceremony for Mountainfilm
Suzan Beraza and Lucy Lerner at the awards ceremony; (photo/Ben Eng)

Lodging: Where to Stay

A handful of local accommodations offer nice discounts for passholders:

  • Mountain Lodge Telluride: 20% off
  • Element 52: 20% off
  • Madeline Hotel: 20% off
  • Alpine Lodging Telluride: 15% off
  • Telluride Luxury Rental & Real Estate: 10% off
  • Camel’s Garden Hotel & Condominiums: 10% off
  • Hotel Telluride: 15% off
  • The Peak Resort & Spa: 20-30% off
  • Hotel Columbia: 20% off
  • Accommodations in Telluride: Fourth night complimentary
  • Curate Telluride: 10% off
  • Lodging in Telluride: 10% off
  • Victorian Inn: 10% off

If you’re looking for a budget approach, look into availability at the Bivvi Hostel (which is offering 10% off for passholders).

Even more casual? Check out the surrounding U.S. Forest Service (USFS) campgrounds. We love the USFS interactive map, which lists the number of dispersed sites at each campground, as well as if it’s paved and RV-friendly.

Most of the sites in this area are not reservable: Please camp responsibly. If the campground is full, relocate.

Reservations are available for the Telluride Town Park Campground. The Gondola Parking Garage in the Mountain Village also offers overnight parking ($60) for an RV or trailer.

Professional mountain athlete and adaptive athlete Vasu Sojitra skateboarding at Telluride’s skatepark at Town Park between films and networking; (photo/Bash Jelen)

Make the Most of Your Visit

Mountainfilm always dishes out a jam-packed, energy-rich itinerary. “We definitely recommend hitting as many films and speaker series events as you can. But, catching the films in Town Park at Base Camp theater is a must!” said LaPlace.

But beyond the stimulation, outdoor adventure is at your fingertips in Telluride and the Mountain Village.

“If you are needing to stretch your legs and wanting to get outside, The North Face offers incredible opportunities to get outside with world-renowned athletes with their Free Range programs,” noted LaPlace, which are viewable in the online schedule.

A few popular hikes that you can start from the valley floor include Bridal Veil Trail (and Road), Bear Creek Preserve Trail, and Jud Wiebe Trail. The River Trail, which is relatively flat, is a nice cruise for walkers, trail runners, or mountain bikers. (The Telluride Bike Park and trail system, managed by Telluride Ski Resort, doesn’t open until June 22.)

But don’t overthink it. If you love spending time in the outdoors, meeting and learning from intellectuals, and communing for a cause, don’t miss Telluride Mountainfilm Festival.

San Juan Magic: A Skier and Snowboarder’s Guide to Telluride

That exceedingly rare ski town magic still exists in Telluride, Colorado. Read more…

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!