Must Love Powder

This profile appeared in the the November 2016 Family issue of Backcountry Magazine

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The two days before the April 2015 storm had been perfect—sunny skies, stable snow and endless Tordrillo spines. On the third day, the wind began to blow and the skies grew overcast. Spouses Zach and Cindi Grant, along with longtime friend Kelly Gray, went to work, digging a cave and building walls around camp, later taking turns shoveling and listening to avalanches when the snow began to fall.

 

On the sixth day, an aircraft was dispatched to retrieve them, but there was a problem—the soft landing and takeoff conditions required a lighter plane, a Super Cub, with room for only one passenger. And in this case, there was only time for one trip during the break in the weather. At first Kelly insisted Cindi go, but when the bush plane lurched upward into the clouds, Kelly was aboard, leaving Cindi committedly standing beside Zach on the Triumvirate Glacier, hoping the weather would hold.

 

“They’ve been like that ever since the beginning,” says Sheila Roller, Cindi’s mom. In 2001, when Zach and Cindi, met as high-school freshman in the Salt Lake suburbs, Sheila was concerned with how inseparable they were. Over time her concern has faded as she’s realized just how aligned they are. And what started as a friendship became an affair that revolved around snowboarding.

 

The duo began exploring the Brighton and Snowboard sidecountry in high school, but their interest in riding backcountry lines became ignited while attending Salt Lake Community College.

 

One of Zach’s first bigger Wasatch descents was the Northwest Super Couloir on Box Elder Peak, a 2,700-foot, 50-degree line that he brought Cindi to the same season for one of her first tours. “I felt like I had been snowboarding with blinders on,” Cindi recalls. “With a splitboard my peripheral vision opened to all the possibilities.”

 

Over the next few years the couple took avalanche classes, gained experience and ticked off lines in the Wasatch and across the Intermountain West almost always together. Then in 2011, after a 10-year courtship, they tied the knot below the peaks of the northern Wasatch and began dreaming and living bigger, driving from Utah to Alaska the following March to ride around Haines, Valdez and Anchorage. “That trip put the Wasatch in perspective,” Zach shares. “We realized that there’s so much out there and that we needed to travel and explore more.”

 

Back to the Wasatch the couple settled into careers – Cindi as a programs director of a guide service and Zach signed on to a trails and grooming crew at a local resort – that maximized their time on snow. In summer 2012, they purchased a backcountry cabin that was in bad shape and had no running water but was located in a basin surrounded by backcountry terrain. With the help of friends and family, they rebuilt. “Someone once told me that if your marriage can survive a remodel, then you have a solid relationship,” Cindi says. “It was definitely a test,” admits Zach, “that took us back to the fundamentals where we had to focus on communication and working as a team.” Four years later their simple shed-frame home, nestled off unimproved roads, has running water, is filled with natural light and beckons visitors to rethink their city lives.

 

copyright 2016 Louis Arevalo

Make It Look Like…

Moon Star camp, Stough Creek Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

“Louie, you should try and make it look like you’re actually doing the activity. If it’s camping make it look like you’re actually camping, if you’re running make it look like you’re really running…” Five years ago I received this advice from a friend who had been working in the outdoor industry for nearly 30 years. I believe he was talking about authenticity and not suggesting my work was too staged, unbelievable, and ultimately, shallow… err, at least I hope he wasn’t.

Kaitlyn Honnold and Chris Call explore Stough Creek Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Fast forward to July 2016. The Scarpa North America team had hatched a plan to create new backpacking imagery for their 2017 season. Being big proponents of authenticity the plan was basic – go backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and make photos of people using their products in the field.

Backpackers Alexa Ault and Kevin Luby explore the Stough Lakes area of the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Fully loaded for a night out under the stars five of us set out for the 9-mile hike. We wandered through scenic meadows and vibrant forests before being deposited into Stough Creeks Basin – a lake-filled canyon hovering near tree line with the summits of Atlantic Peak and Roaring Fork Mountain towering along the continental divide above. Stough’s was a fantastic mountain setting that we called home for a day and a half and also the perfect place to, “make it look like we were actually backpacking…”

Above it all. Backpackers Chris Call and Kailtyn Honnold soak up the view of Stough Creek Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Colorado National Monument May 2016

 

Why Am I Lost?

Kissing Couple Spire (Bell Tower), Monument Valley, Colorado National Monument.
Kissing Couple Spire (Bell Tower), Monument Valley, Colorado National Monument.

Desert sand, springtime lightning, rolling thunder, hail, then cold rain.

Shiho Kobayashi enjoys the view from the summit of Independence Monument, Colorado National Monument.
Shiho Kobayashi enjoys the view from the summit of Independence Monument, Colorado National Monument.

Dirty hands, sore muscles, and big smiles. Hairy scorpions, collared lizards, then injured macaws.

Northern Desert Hairy Scorpion, Colorado National Monument.
Northern Desert Hairy Scorpion, Colorado National Monument.
Ariel the macaw out for a walk in Colorado National Monument.
Ariel the macaw out for a walk in Colorado National Monument.
Collared Lizard, Colorado National Monument.
Collared Lizard, Colorado National Monument.

Blueberry pancakes, PB&J sandwiches, and red wine. Confusion, clarity, then execution. Aching bones, endless thirst, and circling contentment.

Shiho Kobayashi jumars back to the rim after climbing spires in Colorado National Monument.
Shiho Kobayashi jumars back to the rim after climbing spires in Colorado National Monument.

Silent sunrises. Whispering sunsets. I’m tired to the bone and it’s time to go home.

Sunrise over Monument Valley from Window Rock, Colorado National Monument.
Sunrise over Monument Valley from Window Rock, Colorado National Monument.

Spring Break – More Transitions

Jacki Arevalo skis springtime corn snow from the summit of Mount Tumalo, Cascade Range, Oregon.
Jacki Arevalo skis springtime corn snow from the summit of Mount Tumalo, Cascade Range, Oregon.

At the beginning of May Jacki and I traveled to Bend, Oregon where we rented a small bungalow near downtown. Having been in ski mode since December I’d been struggling with the concept of actually doing other activities. It sounds funny, but by nature I am a one sport focus kind of a guy and only by extreme effort am I able to mix things up. A vacation was the perfect time to help in the transition. Taking the lead, Jacki orchestrated each day in Bend for a different activity. Tuesday we skied, Wednesday we climbed, Thursday we mountain biked, and Friday we ran. Sounds somewhat busy right? Actually it was the exact opposite. The key was that other than those activities we had nothing else planned. This allowed for plenty of reading, writing, walking, talking, visiting friends, exploring and sleep.

The Crooked River runs through the heart of Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
The Crooked River runs through the heart of Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

Of course when I go on vacation there’s always a little work tied in. Since we were going to be doing all these activities I knew it would be a great chance to create new images of a place I’d never been and add to my stock archive. What do I consider a little work? It began with research and talking about some likely possibilities with Jacki, scheduling the outing for ideal lighting, doing the activity (anywhere from 2-5 hours), shooting a few frames, returning to the bungalow, downloading the files while enjoying dinner, editing, and repeating the process. Not too stressful since there was no client involved. Shot less than 100 images per outing, closer to 50 each, which for me is way low, but makes editing easier. Will any of them be money makers? Who knows? This was a great way to break away from my winter routine, which allowed Jacki and I to slow down and discover new things. – More t

Jacki Arevalo riding the Funner trail near Bend, Oregon.
Jacki Arevalo riding the Funner trail near Bend, Oregon.
California Benedict. Thinly sliced turkey breast, bacon, spinach and avocado with a bowl of fresh fruit. Victorian Cafe, Bend, Oregon.
California Benedict. Thinly sliced turkey breast, bacon, spinach and avocado with a bowl of fresh fruit. Victorian Cafe, Bend, Oregon.
A woman runs along the boardwalk on the Deschutes River Trail, Bend, Oregon.
A woman runs along the boardwalk on the Deschutes River Trail, Bend, Oregon.

The Importance of Narrative.

Lloyd Johnson, Alta, Utah.
Lloyd Johnson, Alta, Utah.

I believe in the power of good stories. In my opinion a good story trumps all else. If you don’t have a story then it’s fluff, empty words on the page, and/or just eye candy. In the world of outdoor pursuits we are inundated with mesmerizing visuals and unlimited narcissistic tendencies that have the tendency to leave us temporarily entertained, but ultimately empty. Most of it lacks depth, heart, and a good story.

I want to share stories that have something more to them. I want to move past my shallow attempts that try to pull meaning from nothing, but end up doing very little in the end.

Last fall I was asked to create a video profile of an Alta Ski Area local. I immediately thought of Lloyd Johnson. I was first introduced to Lloyd over ten years ago and was immediately intrigued. In his seventies he was telemark skiing and actually dropping his knee, something not all who have tele skis do. Lloyd is a Chicago native who began skiing at the age of 40 when he moved to Salt Lake City. When her retired at the age of 65 he picked up telemarking. He has been an annual pass holder at Alta since 1983 and skis about 115 days a year. Not bad for a guy well into his 80’s. I knew he would be perfect for this project.

We filmed two days. Actually two mornings at Alta. The first was a seated interview in front of the camera. The second morning was a stormy day on the slopes. I then whittled the interview audio down to 2 minutes, a process that was extremely time consuming, then found the music, and finally paired them with the motion clips from the second day.

Nothing fancy here. The result is a simple narrative. There is no drone footage, super slow motion, speed ramping, or death defying action, just a good story. You be the judge. Does a good story trump the rest?

Alta Profile – Lloyd Johnson

 

All About the Powder

One of the things I can’t seem to stop doing is photographing skiing while it storms. Those of you who ski know that some of the best days ever have been storm days. More nuance than exact details the textures of the scene are subtle, but very, very telling. Chris Smith emerges from the white room.larevalo_emmamarch_0316_0012

Winter Backcountry Photography.

Splitboarder Maxwell Morrill boots his way to a wintery summit in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
Splitboarder Maxwell Morrill boots his way to a wintery summit in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

I had an idea about ten years back, “it would be easier to get great ski and snowboard imagery if I just shot the places I was backcountry skiing with friends.” No lift lines, no tracks, no crowds. Simple, just bring the camera along and watch the bank account grow from all the money rolling in from sales of my work…
That’s not exactly what has happened, not even close, but there is something rewarding about getting out into the wild and coming back with something that isn’t recycled.
With each passing winter season in the Wasatch I am always amazed with new discoveries. A different approach, a new zone, a new line I either didn’t know about or hadn’t visited yet. The exploration seems to be never ending…

Strawberry Point

Last May/June I had an assignment to travel to and document, both words and photos, 44 separate locations across Utah. On one had it was a dream gig, on the other hand I had about 44 days to meet the deadline. It was kind of crazy. Days began well before sunrise and finished after dark. Somehow I managed to slow down enough each day to meditate and try not to miss the beauty around me… and I made the deadline.
This image was created on the edge of the Virgin River Rim. The location is out a nondescript dirt road. I would have never in a thousand years discovered this without my work…

Strawberry Point, Dixie National Forest, Utah. Strawberry Point is the beginning of the Virgin Rim Rim Trail and the headwaters of the Virgin River.
Strawberry Point, Dixie National Forest, Utah. Strawberry Point is the beginning of the Virgin Rim Rim Trail and the headwaters of the Virgin River.