I like this image because it’s completely unique from the typical photo shown on the cover of ski magazines. One look, and you can see the intensity, feel the frigid air and really get an intimate look at a true backcountry skier. This image is like no other cover I can remember, which makes it my favorite. I like something totally unexpected and uncommon, and it keeps me engaged and thinking.
The February 2010 issue of Backcountry Magazine is my all time favorite. Biased maybe, but it was such an epic day of shooting. We had hiked up to the Heart of Darkness couloir expecting to be in the shade the whole day. We were a little behind on time, but that worked out for us because the couloir is only 12-feet wide and only gets a sliver of light in it each day. We lucked out with light. But not only that, the colors of the rock, sky and his outfit just made the image pop.
To me this photo represents the pinnacle of backcountry skiing: climbing to the top of a mountain or couloir and skiing down in deep powder with aesthetic mountains in the background. It showcases a photographer and athlete unknown outside of their local community, climbing and skiing powder under their own power, sans hoopla, which makes it more inviting and attainable to readers. Therefore, to me, it depicts the essence and integrity of what inspires Backcountry Magazine and Couloir and the sport of backcountry skiing in general.
This was the first issue that we finally branched out from our stagnant orange or red banner. Just look at it in the library, and you finally see green among the black spines. And the sell line ‘Catching A Ride’ in a font that became part of our style brought us into the contemporary age of design and in the snow industry. And yes, it sold really well.
Of the covers I shot, I probably like the one of ‘Grom’ from Haines the best. The shot was taken near or in Glacier Bay National Park on a plane-drop trip that took off out of Haines in May 2000. It certainly wasn’t the earliest plane-drop ski trips, but there were few people doing it compared to nowadays. Dave Richards sent the fall line on a good pitch, and the rimed background screamed coastal AK.
I was looking over covers I worked on more than a decade ago, and the 2004 Photo Annual caught my eye. Not sure if it’s because of the photo of the guy catching air or typography—I think it’s the mix of both. Also, at the time, Backcountry didn’t have a ton of air shots and, if I remember right, using this photo added some tension between art and editorial departments (not that there ever was tension…).
From 1994 through 2003, my brother Carl had nine cover photos in Backcountry Magazine, more than anyone else, ever. Each of those shots displayed Carl’s knack of placing a skier in a setting that made you want to be there. My favorite is the photo of Brian Sato on Mt. Baker in Issue 24. It’s a picture that—in the Lower 48—could only have been taken in Carl’s beloved Cascades.
The cover that means the most to me is not from while I was Photo Editor but from when I was a freelance photographer. I was on my first assignment ever with Backcountry Senior Editor John Dostal. Matt Mancini “Johnny Bravo” is the cover boy. We were doing a story for Skiing Magazine about the slides on Whiteface, and the snow looks better than it was in this photo—good thing there was no audio because it was loud.
With just a few minutes digging in the basement, I unearthed a box of old BC Mags. I laid out the covers with the old design on my dining room table and was surprised to see that I was only missing three. They brought back lots of old, good memories (Backcountry started just a couple years after I started backcountry skiing, and my first article was in Issue 8). Some of the shots are funny, some just bad. Some have that super-staged look, where all I can think is, “What the hell were the shooter and skier and editor thinking?”
I was still in high school at the time in Eastern Washington and was completely obsessed with skiing. That cover really defined that area of steep skiing in Alaska and was something that I only dreamed about getting to experience someday. Little did I know at the time that two years later, I would move to Bellingham, Wash., and meet Carl, who became a mentor of mine, and Dean, who became one of my closest friends and mentors. After several seasons learning the ropes from Carl and Dean, my own photography started to take off and I scored my first cover, on the December 2003 issue.