Into the deep once again 

Four photographers head into the heart of Whistler Blackcomb terrain in search of the perfect shot


What: Deep Winter Photo Challenge

When: Thursday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m.

Where: Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Cost: $15

Current weather forecasts are calling for another 50-centimetre dump of snow to add to the 217-centimetre base on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. And while there are loads of skiers and snowboarders who are chomping at the bit to ride the fresh stuff, none are quite as excited as the four photographers who are competing in this year's Deep Winter Photo Challenge.

This is the fourth year for the photo competition, which is held as part of the Gore-Tex Deep Winter Experience, a weeklong event that also includes avalanche training and ski and snowboard clinics. But the photo competition has proven to be the pinnacle portion of the experience, selling out each year. It's so popular that organizers have actually decided to move it into the Macdonald Ballroom at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a venue that can accommodate 1,000 people.

"This event's going into its fourth year, so we're certainly excited to give it a higher profile this year," said Amber Turnau, spokesperson for Whistler Blackcomb.

Deep Winter is an invitational event with five photographers selected to compete each year, although only four will be competing this year. The roster features two-time winner Jordan Manley facing off against Paul Morrison, who captured the title of King of Storms the first year of the competition. They'll be competing with Nicolas Teichrob and Colin Adair. The fifth competitor, Ashley Barker, had to drop out of the competition due to a scheduling conflict.

"This year, I think we're going to have a really interesting mix of people," Turnau said. "We've got some traditional photographers like Jordan and Paul who like to shoot the traditional concept, and then Colin and Nicolas are sort of new to it, so they'll bring a different perspective."

The competition features a unique format, with photographers heading onto the mountain for just three days with their chosen riders, skiers and a small crew, searching for the ultimate abstract, landscape, action and lifestyle shots.

"Anything that's inbounds at Whistler Blackcomb is fair game, so this year we've got 100 per cent terrain open and they'll have a lot of terrain to choose from," Turnau said.

Each team will be given one set of Fresh Tracks tickets to give them first crack at powder. Then, they have to edit their shots and create a mind-blowing three- to five-minute slideshow that will be played to the crowds and a judging panel of industry professionals. The first-prize winner will walk away with $3,000 and the King of Storms title, while second and third place win $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.

"People are in the heart of storm season, they're out there riding and skiing pow and the photographers really capture that and it's really current, as well, because they've just been out the previous three days shooting so everyone knows what the conditions have been like," said Turnau.

Manley is no stranger to photo competitions. In the past two years, he's won the Pro Photo Showdown at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival and been crowned King of Storms - twice. One of the keys to his success thus far has been organization.

"All the images come from the three days prior to, so it helps to have some planning in mind, some shots in mind, and you just have to be making sure that you're efficient the whole time," Manley explained.

And while he focuses on getting an assortment of images in those three days of shooting, he also aims to present a "coherent show" that tells a story rather than simply collecting random shots.

"I think people respond a lot better to something that tells a story, so that requires some foresight and some planning."

Of course, conditions play a big role in what the photographers are able to accomplish. Last year, only about one-third of the terrain was open. But Manley found that the limited terrain actually encouraged him to be more creative with his shots. This year, he'll again be working with skier Chad Sayers and snowboarder Dave Short, looking for a balance of lifestyle, action and landscape shots for his show.

Tickets are available through Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations locations and by calling 1-800-766-0449. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. There will be a cash bar inside, and people can go to the Mallard to get a drink before and after the show.

"In true Whistler fashion, everyone does tend to get their tickets a little bit later, but we just want to remind people that it does sell out!" Turnau said.



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