Social Distancing in Powder: An Athlete and a Photographer Share Tips

Braving the Storm: Brett Tippie’s Prescription for Success

words :: Brett Tippie.

Braving the storm is something we all must do sometimes. In the midst of this extended pandemic era, I recommend a few key survival techniques: laughter, exercise, and social distance.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but does that apply to something as serious as a global pandemic? Most psychologists would say yes—humour helps instill a sense of control in a powerless situation, and forges connection with others… two things we have lost recently.


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Tippie knows where the crowds don’t go. MARGUS RIGA


Laughter also increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances our T cells (which are at the core of adaptive immunity). A chuckle here or there can help strengthen our immune system, and it’s easy—anyone can do it! (Just remember to respect the bacteria; it’s the only culture some people have.)

Exercise is also crucial. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a tan from the light inside my refrigerator. Every time I try to eat healthy, along comes Christmas, or Easter, or summer, or a Friday… or a two-week indoor quarantine! You have to be very careful because chocolate ice cream shrinks Gore-Tex! I need to social distance from my fridge… and the best way to do that is to go shredding.

Speaking of social distancing, it’s a wise and essential thing to do. It’s recommended to stay six feet apart… but that’s generally not enough, because most guys who stand 5 feet 8 inches will say they’re 6 feet. Err on the side of get-the-hell-away-from-me.


You have to be very careful because chocolate ice cream shrinks Gore-Tex! I need to social distance from my fridge…


And you definitely need more than a six-foot buffer if you’re looking to rip powder turns. I prefer and recommend staying 600 feet from anyone just so you can get those fresh, untracked turns all to yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I love people… it’s just that I love pow turns more! Margus Riga, the photographer/backcountry maniac with three lungs who took this shot of me, usually prefers the six-mile social distancing style to ensure he never crosses a track.

How you weather these crazy times is all up to you, but if you follow these guidelines, the only thing you’ll catch is some healthy mountain air!

Solo Shot: Pow Selfies with Photographer John Entwistle

words :: Todd Lawson.

As the old saying goes, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”

Using COVID-19 social distancing as the inspiration for an idea he’s been brewing for years, Whistler photographer John Entwistle took that adage to heart. After scouting an ideal location—identifying hazards, assessing snowpack and planning the line—he grabbed his camera gear, hit the ski hill and went chasing the knee-deep self-portrait of his dreams…

Mountain Life: Other than a wide-angle GoPro shot from a selfie stick, this is the first winter action sport selfie that’s ever been submitted to ML. What went into capturing this shot?




John Entwistle: It’s been quite the learning curve. I set my camera up on a tripod with a remote receiver, framing the shot as I would with any athlete, selecting my focus point to where I will ski through, and then begin breaking trail uphill. Once I reach the start point, I transition from walk to ski, tuck my skins in my jacket and attach the cable to the trigger button in my pole. I then mutter “drop,” even though nobody is around, and ski down through my focus point while triggering my camera from the trigger in my pole.

ML: The ultimate in social-distancing photography! Was this a direct result of the COVID-19 free time and restrictions?

John: COVID has definitely been a catalyst in pushing me to pursue this project. I’ve seen some amazing examples of this being done on mountain bikes and I wondered what it would take to translate that over to skiing. Throw deep snow in the mix and it’s a slightly more complex ball game, especially when you are shooting pow and trying for untouched snow every shot.



ML: How many takes does it usually take to nail a selfie of this magnitude?

John: With this project, there are so many moving parts that can go wrong. I’d say I get the technical aspect right 80 per cent of the time, and the skiing about 50 per cent of the time. When those two things come together, I get twice the satisfaction as nailing a shot when I am only the photographer.


I mutter “drop,” even though nobody is around, and ski down through my focus point while triggering my camera from the trigger in my pole.


ML: Travel restrictions are not making life easy for photographers; it will be interesting to see what kind of creativity those challenges inspire. Maybe this kind of self-portrait will become a new trend.

John: I’d be stoked if more people were out getting after this type of project! It requires a pretty specific blend of skills, desire and patience to spend a lot of time alone in the woods. It’s definitely not for everyone. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the incredible projects that are released in the coming months from other local athletes and photographers.

ML: What’s been your silver lining during the pandemic?

John: Let’s be honest… it’s been a hard time for everyone. I’ve really put a focus on connecting directly with people, and less focus on pretending everything is awesome on social media. It has been a refreshing change. Oh, and spending a ton of time outside.

Articles excerpted from ML Coast Mountains, winter-spring ’21.