A NEW snow sports film set in the Cairngorms and produced by US outdoor wear company Patagonia is set to have its Scottish premiere in the Highlands next month.

The documentary Thrawn will be shown in Fort William, Aviemore and Portree on Skye on February 16, 21 and 25 respectively, and will be accompanied by panel discussions with the filmmakers.

Director and Aviemore local Hannah Bailey said the film is an “ode” to the Highland snow sports community. On its title, Bailey said: “This term captures Highlanders for me more than anything. They are resilient, opportunistic, interesting, passionate, and altruistic. These are virtues of this community in Aviemore, and even more so the snow community.”

The National: Film is ‘an ode 
to Highland 
snow sports’

Bailey’s work has taken her around the world, from documenting skateboarders in Afghanistan to prior work with Patagonia Films in Albania. However, Thrawn is her first major film project on her doorstep featuring her “home hills”. For that reason, she wanted to create “something with a lot of meaning”, not “an action-based, clickbait snowboard movie”.

Bailey praised the dedication of her cinematographers, Rachel Sarah, Rupert Shanks, and Brodie Hood.

She said “The biggest challenge we had was the weather, of course! The Scottish snow season was our main obstacle. We were always ready to go at a day’s notice. You need to be that way to film something like this in the Highlands.”

The National: Lesley McKenna

The film stars Lesley McKenna (above), Scotland’s three-time Winter Olympic athlete for freestyle snowboarding. McKenna and Bailey had known each other for more than a decade before making the film, and Bailey added that the Super 8 cinematography of McKenna’s grandfather, Chic Baxter, was a major inspiration for her own film’s aesthetic.

McKenna said the snow sports culture in the Spey Valley has “strong roots” going back to the 1950s and is deeply connected “to the landscape and weather”.

While the rise of Alpine ski holidays and budget air travel has had a big impact on the community’s development, McKenna said “there is still a core community, and the backcountry and touring scene in Scotland is growing all the time”.

McKenna praised Highland Council’s financial support for a school skiing project which allows P7 pupils in Badenoch and Strathspey to learn to ski, adding that in sports education, we should prioritise “experiences and collaboration through doing difficult things in difficult circumstances” rather than the medal table.

The National: Film is ‘an ode 
to Highland 
snow sports’

Throughout her career, McKenna has worked hard to address the gender gap in Scottish snow sports. Over the past 20 years, she says she has “seen progress and the conversations now are far more meaningful and effective”.

However, she wonders now if the community needs to “prioritise different ways of doing things”. adding: “If we just have more women and the systems stay the same, in that they have developed to suit the status quo, then any kind of diversity will find it difficult to flourish.”

The film also discusses shifting environmental challenges and

the effects of climate change on

the Highlands.

As an Aviemore native, McKenna said she has “noticed and felt changes” in her lifetime: “More extreme swings of temperature and weather, less reliable snowfall in winter, a general feeling of unease.”

She described changing weather conditions as “something I live with every day” as a mountaineer.

Bailey added: “Collaboration is key to making a film like this. We worked as a local team to capture the film in March last year.

“It was important to us to keep it local, with those who know Lesley and the hill. I think it brings another layer of authenticity.”

McKenna added: “If you’ve

not tried Scottish snow sports

and you like the outdoors and a

bit of adventure, then you should give it a try.

“A trip to Aviemore and the Spey Valley by rail or road is an experience in being open to what the weather will support you to do, which is a nice way to live and gives a deeper connection between yourself and nature.”

The film is available to view for free on Patagonia’s website. Further details regarding its Scottish screenings can be found online.