Emily Ford sets out with Diggins, a borrowed Alaskan Husky sled dog, to become the first woman and person of color to thru-hike the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail in the winter. As the 69-day journey through subzero temperatures tests her physical and mental endurance, Emily and her canine protector develop an unbreakable bond as they embrace the unexpected kindness of strangers and discover they’ve become figureheads in the movement to make the outdoors more accessible for everyone. What begins as an extraordinary physical and mental challenge, becomes a spiritual adventure.
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As the first woman and person of colour to thru-hike Wisconsin’s 1200 mile Ice Age Trail in winter – and a particularly brutal winter at that – Emily Ford broke through social and historical barriers. She challenged deep-rooted racial inequities, and helped redefine what is and should be possible for everyone in the outdoors. She also showed the power of vulnerability and of discarding stereotypes, refusing to be fearful and keeping her heart open to everyone she met along the way. In a world beset by division and strife, this is an inspiring and hopeful film. The award for the Best Mountain Culture Film goes to Breaking Trail, directed by Jesse Roesler.
— Maria Coffey
Jesse Roesler is an Emmy and James Beard award-winning filmmaker whose work has moved millions via The Travel Channel, Food Network and The New York Times. His debut feature film ‘The Starfish Throwers’ was named “The Most Heartwarming Film of the Year” by The Huffington Post and won the James Beard Award for Best Documentary in 2016. His original web series, ‘Comfort Nation,’ for which he served as show runner and director helped Food Network launch their Facebook Watch presence in 2018 and earned nearly 20 million views on that platform. Recently, Jesse won a 2020 Daytime Travel and Adventure Emmy for his work as a writer on Discovery’s The Zimmern List and earlier in his career, was also a television writer for food icon Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.