Snow Shooter: Photographer Cody Downard

Home Mountains: Teton Backcountry/Grand Targhee/Jackson Hole
Gear He Can’t Live Without: 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
Superpower: “Flying. Then I wouldn’t have to buy a really expensive drone. I could just fly around and take my camera.”
[Photo] David Rocchio

Having grown up in Kansas, Cody Downard loves mountains like only those once deprived of them can. In 1996, after receiving a degree in Natural Resource Management from Kansas State University, Downard escaped to the heights of the Rockies, and he has called them home ever since. Downard has worked as a photo editor for BCM, Alpinist, SKI and Skiing, and his work has been published in many, many other publications.

We caught Downard in between shoots for advice on photos and life. His suggestion to single guys in their 20s? Get a Pomeranian.


Backcountry Magazine: How did you get into photography?

Cody Downard: When I was a young kid my dad ran races and triathlons. He gave me his old Canon AE-1, set the exposure and just handed me the camera. He would take off on his race and I would snap shots. I didn’t touch the camera through college, but then I moved to Yellowstone to do an internship right after school and started taking photos. I haven’t stopped since.

BCM: You shoot a wide variety of subjects from fine art to food and skiing is just one of them. How did you get your start in snow shooting specifically

CD: I lived in Vail, Colorado in 1999 and was taking nature photos. I started helping out Jack Affleck, the director of photography at Vail. At that point I was skiing 100 days a year, and I just started snapping shots when I was skiing. You should shoot as many types of photography—don’t just limit yourself to skiing. I feel like a lot of ski photographers just try to go shoot skiing, and you can tell. You just learn a lot by trying all different types of photography.

BCM: What goes into making a great shot and where does your inspiration come from

CD: First of all, you need someone who looks good on camera. A One one-thousandth of a second shutter speed is fast, and you can capture a lot of different people with it, but you need to have somebody that is a good skier. I set up a ski photo primarily like I would a nature shot. I look for a pretty photo, and then the skier adds to that.

My inspiration comes from my love for the mountains. I try to capture something to show people that weren’t lucky enough to be there. Not in a cocky way or to one up people, but to say, “Hey look. Check this out.”

BCM: What are some defining moments in your career?

CD: When I got hired by Backcountry Magazine to be the photo editor. Also, my very first publish was in National Geographic Adventure Magazine from a backcountry skiing hut trip in Colorado, so I guess that was pretty much my defining moment, really.

BCM: What’s the sketchiest experience you have gotten yourself into?

CD: This winter up in Jackson there was a moment when I had a guy cut two different slides loose above us. We got out of the way for both of them, but that was a little spooky. We were definitely like “Whoa!” but nothing too major. I’m pretty safe—I’m 41 and I have a wife that yells at me.


When asked what he would want with him on a deserted island, Downard replied, “My wife, my Pomeranians and beer.” The man’s got priorities. [Photo] Tara Picklo

BCM: Tell us about the funniest thing that has happened to you lately.

CD: I was shooting in Mammoth. We were inbounds, but it was steep, and it was gaper central. The snow was just littered with people, and we were trying to get this shot. So here comes this older guy, sort of a big dude and he kind of fell in—he didn’t really drop in. He was just rag-dolling down this mountain and things are just popping off. His helmet breaks off of his head and it’s like a cannon ball—it’s just shooting down. This damn helmet is coming at like 50 miles per hour. We jumped away just in time, and proceeded to watch this helmet go all the way to the bottom of the mountain. The guy piles next to us, face bloody, the whole bit. He was fine, laughing actually. Needless to say we were like, “We’re out.”

BCM: Outside of photography what takes up your time?

CD: I’m building a house, mountain biking, skiing, fishing, drinking coffee with my wife Colleen, growing a garden, playing with my Pomeranians, Nugget and Luna. I love stressing my Pomeranians because guys are like, “Oh you have those little shit dogs, those lap dogs?” I’m like, “Yup, they’re awesome too.” I highly recommend Pomeranians to any single male in his 20s looking for ladies. They are definitely chick magnets.

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