The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has announced its winners for the 2021 season and a Kootenay-based scientist and author has won the grand prize for literature.

“Finding the Mother Tree” by Nelson, British Columbia-based professor and author Suzanne Simard has won the grand prize in the Banff Mountain Book Competition and “The Rescue,” has won the grand prize in the Banff Mountain Film Competition.

“The Rescue” was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and her husband Jimmy Chin (both of “Free Solo” fame) and the grand prize win at the festival comes with a $4,000 cheque. The film shares the story of 12 young soccer players and their 25-year-old coach who were trapped by monsoon floods inside a cave in northern Thailand in 2018. The world watched for 16 days as reporters gave updates from outside the rescue zone. The Rescue gives a perspective that no reporter could ever capture, through the eyes of the Thai and international rescue divers, and never-before-seen footage from their cameras. “The live footage of weeks of the rescue mission in dark subterranean caves, against a ticking clock before the onset of the next rains, knitted together with archival footage, enactments, and interviews, make for documentary as gripping cinema,” said Kesang Tseten, a jury member of the 2021 Banff film competition.

Tseten is a filmmaker from Nepal and his fellow jurors included Suzan Beraza, the festival director of Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado, climber, writer, and filmmaker Paul Pritchard from Australia, writer Devyani Saltzman of Toronto and filmmaker Bachar Khattar from Lebanon.

Other category award winners in the Banff film competition include:

Creative Excellence Award
“The Magnitude of All Things”
(Canada, 2020, 86 mins)
Director: Jennifer Abbott
Producers: Jennifer Abbott, Henrik Meyer, Shirley Vercruysse, Andrew Williamson

Best Film: Exploration and Adventure
$2000 – Sponsored by Monod Sports
“Exit the North Pole”
(Norway, 2021, 57 mins)
Director: Ole-André Lagmandokk
Producer: Svein Haaland

Best Film: Climbing
$2000 – Sponsored by Arc’teryx
(USA, 2021, 70 mins)
Director: Blake McCord
Producer: Justin Clifton

Best Film: Mountain Culture
$2000 – Sponsored by Helly Hansen
“Horse Tamer”
(France, 2019, 85 mins)
Director: Hamid Sardar
Producer: Vivien Lemaignan

Best Film: Mountain Sports
“The River Runner”
(USA, 2021, 86 mins)
Director: Rush Sturges
Producers: Rush Sturges, Thayer Walker, Aidan Haley

Best Film: Mountain Environment and Natural History
$2000 – Sponsored by Bow Valley Power
“Tigre Gente”
(USA, 2021, 93 mins)
Director: Elizabeth Unger
Producers: Elizabeth Unger, Joanna Natasegara

Best Film: Snow Sports
$2000 – Sponsored by Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
“Learning to Drown”
(USA, 2021, 40 mins)
Director: Ben Knight
Producer: Travis Rummel

Best Short Film
$2000 – Sponsored by Backcountry Lodges of BC Association
“From My Window”
(USA, 2020, 19 mins)
Director: Frank Pickell
Producer: Christian Silberbauer

Best Feature Length Film
(USA, 2020, 91 mins)
Director: Max Lowe
Producers: Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Max Lowe, Chris Murphy

Special Jury Mentions:

(Canada, 2020, 34 mins)
Director: Jay Macmillan
Producer: Jay Macmillan

“Reel Rock 15: Black Ice”
(USA, 2020, 44 mins)
Directors: Zachary Barr, Peter Mortimer
Producers: Chris Dean, Zachary Barr

The Banff Mountain Book Competition Winners


The grand prize for writing at the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition went to Finding The Mother Tree, written by Suzanne Simard, a Nelson, BC-based professor and author who we have featured in Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine as well as on this website in our story “A Kootenay Professor Has Proven Trees Communicate With One Another.” Simard’s win comes with a $4,000 prize purse sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada and this year’s jury members said of her book: “It’s wonderful when a book can change the way we perceive the world around us. Throughout Finding the Mother Tree, Simard alludes to the awareness of indigenous first nation peoples for the wisdom of the forest — the caring networks of trees and other organisms, including humans. She has used the scientific method and her own inspirational grit and determination to make us remember this forgotten knowledge. Moreover, in discovering and explaining at an ecological, biological and chemical level, she has substantially enhanced this knowledge. By relating it in a manner our industrialized world will understand, Simard is showing us the reasons why we need to change our ways. Simard has tied cutting-edge science, decades of hands-on research, and expert storytelling with a powerful personal story. It’s an unbeatable combination that renders complex science approachable and beautiful.”

The 2021 Book Competition jury members included Heather Dawe (writer, artist, and founder of Little Peak Press in England), Bernadette McDonald (award-winning Canadian author of 11 books, and former VP of Mountain Culture at Banff Centre), and Pete Takeda (American writer, and professional climber).

Other category award winners in the Banff writing competition include:

We debuted the 20th anniversary issue of KMC at the Banff Film Festival November 4, 2021.

Mountain Literature (non-fiction) – The Jon Whyte Award
$2000 – Sponsored by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Structured Chaos
Victor Saunders, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2021)

Mountain Fiction & Poetry
$2000 – Sponsored by the Town of Banff
Dammed If You Don’t
Chris Kalman (USA, 2021)

Mountain Environment and Natural History
$2000 – Sponsored by Canadian Mountain Network
Finding the Mother Tree
Suzanne Simard, Allen Lane Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2021)

Adventure Travel
$2000 – Sponsored by World Expeditions
Two Trees Make a Forest
Jessica J. Lee, Hamish Hamilton Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2020)

Mountain Image
$2000 – Sponsored by Banff Culture Collective
The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland
Guy Robertson, Scottish Mountaineering Press (UK, 2020)

$2000 – Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
Irish Peaks
Mountaineering Ireland (Ireland, 2020)

Mountaineering Article
$2000 – Sponsored by Rab
Letters to a Young Climber
Doug Robinson, Alpinist Magazine (USA, June 2021)

Climbing Literature
$2000 – Sponsored by Mountain Life
A Feeling for Rock
Sarah-Jane Dobner, Dob Dob Dob (UK, 2021)

Special Jury Mention
More than It Hurts: And Other Stories of (Mis)Adventure by Womxn Who Climb and Mountaineer
Wendy Bruere, Climb and Wine (Australia, 2020)

For more information on the 2021 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival and to view the live and virtual schedule for the closing weekend (November 5 – 7), visit

The Banff Festival World Tour hits the road following the Festival, bringing Banff to audiences in over 40 countries, with more than 1,000 screenings annually around the globe.