The challenge set by Arc’teryx this year had an added degree of difficulty this year. A lack of fresh snow in the 72 hours allotted for shooting their finest work meant the 5 photographers had to do a little lateral thinking.
The result was a more diverse show than previous years – using lighting and thematic schemes, rather than relying on pow shot after pow shot. If anything, it demonstrated how versatile each photographer had to be in order to even bat in the big leagues.
We started with Mike Helfrich, a 2nd-time entrant. He used his show to play with a horror-story theme about the Abominable Snowman, with shredder Lukas Ouellette as his protagonist. (3rd place)
Adam Barker eschewed the usual music accompaniment for a compelling speech – We Are Family, a poem/essay he wrote himself about what binds us as a skiing community. Truly an amazing composition, I smiled all the way through. A Whistler local – one of the rare born and raised – told me she fell back in love with her hometown again. High praise indeed. It’s hard to believe he’s an outsider from Salt Lake City.
Ben Girardi took a Latin flavour to his show with a one-two punch of Buena Vista Social Club’s Chan Chan, and his friend and crazy good shredder Mauri Cambilla. “The Townies and the Traveller” was an apt representation of people from all over the world becoming friends through their love of skiing.
Next, both the only female and the only local in the competition, Ashley Barker. Local love prevailed with her knowledge of secret spots, and unique angles. “Phantoms and friends” was stoic at times, and showcased the pain and frustration of no fresh pow. (1st place).
Finally, and perhaps most interesting, was Tal Roberts. He was at a severe disadvantage from the others, having never visited Whistler before, nor did he know anyone to photograph that lived nearby. So he flew his friend along up from Ketchum, Idaho to take some pictures. Maybe the most talented of the five, since he eventually picked up 2nd place.
The photography game is tight in the ski community – a distillation of the finest shots you can produce means some stellar work in many homes in many ski towns. I myself have one of Mike Helfrich’s pieces in my room. These events are a reminder of why we all choose to live here, and the expression of living life.