Historic Silent Film, New Documentary Featured at Rollins Pass Mini-Film Festival at Colorado State University on Nov. 3

The fascinating story of Colorado’s historic Rollins Pass, from ancient times to its current state, will be told at the Rollins Pass Mini-Film Festival, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Behavioral Sciences Building Auditorium on the Colorado State University campus.

The festival features a rare showing of “The White Desert,” a classic 1925 silent film, and the new documentary “Stone and Steel at the Top of the World.” Both films tell the story of Colorado’s Rollins Pass, the 11,660 pathway across the Continental Divide near Winter Park ski area.

“The White Desert” was last shown in Colorado in 1978 and depicts the epic struggle to save the residents of a railway construction camp caught in a winter avalanche in the Colorado high country. Based on the true story of a train stranded in a blizzard on Rollins Pass, the film will feature a live accompaniment by silent movie pianist Hank Troy. Only one 35 mm film copy remains of “The White Desert” and it is stored in the archives of the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. The audience at CSU will see a high-definition digital copy of the film made from the original negative.

The 20-minute documentary “Stone and Steel at the Top of the World” investigates the 19th century mystery of who built miles of stone walls along Colorado’s Continental Divide and why they were constructed. Produced by CSU professors Jason LaBelle (Anthropology) and Pete Seel (Journalism and Technical Communication), the film explores how the “stone” walls were used by ancient Native Americans to hunt game on Rollins Pass and similar sites over thousands of years. The documentary features Colorado archeologists recording hunting artifacts found on the high passes and decoding the mystery of the stone walls and their use.

The “steel” segment of the film illustrates the remarkable story of the construction and operation of the Moffat Road railroad over Rollins Pass from 1904-1928. It features rare photos and film of trains and their passengers struggling to cross the summit in 30-foot winter snowdrifts that occasionally closed the railway for weeks at a time – the source of the story line for “The White Desert.” The film also illustrates how Denver citizens made summer excursions to escape the city’s heat and play in the year-round snow drifts on Rollins Pass. The film concludes with a segment on the need to preserve the fragile environment on the pass and the remnants of the Moffat Road with its unique contributions to the state’s railroad history.

The event is sponsored by CSU’s Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Fund, CSU’s departments of Anthropology and Journalism and Technical Communication, the James and Audrey Benedict Endowment for Mountain Archeology, Friends of the Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology, and the collection of the George Eastman House.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $5 (those with a CSU ID will be admitted free), and adjacent parking is free.