Top 10 Backcountry Photos : Andy Wright
Words/Photos: Andy Wright
The snowboarding season is always broken up into two parts for me streets and mountains. I often get asked which I prefer shooting and it’s almost impossible to avoid giving the Captain Lame-O answer: both. It’s true though, but there’s very different reasons behind it. In my last post, I broke down my 10 favorite street photos of 2015 a little overview of what I like about this environment. This round is all about the backcountry and although it’s a bit more challenging making shots look different (blue sky, white snow, green trees anyone?), this aspect has one thing that is really lacking from it’s urban counterpart: SOUL. Snowboarding was born in the mountains and it’s in this environment that the majority of daydreams live. There exists a lot more options to capture that will appeal to the dreamers than strictly stunts. Deep powder, slashes, ollies and straight airs often carry more weight here then the trick of the month. “The less spins the better” is often my answer if a rider asks me what do, meanwhile, the filmer standing next me cringes. There’s definitely a fine line between inspirational awesomeness and underwhelming mediocrity. Style helps sway things to the former, and a few sizable airs mixed in always helps it all real.
Here’s my Top 10 Backcountry photos from 2015.
Chugach Mountains, Alaska
This was supposed to be Ben Ferguson’s first trip to Alaska and Red Bull was going to document it as such. Only problem is that Ben had been in Haines the week before this shoot getting his legs under him. Technically he hadn’t gone home between then and this shot, so yes, it was his first trip to AK. The focus of the trip was hitting a giant kicker Kurt Heine masterminded, but once that was over it was time to freeride. This natural feature was my favorite of what turned out to be a one-day shoot, as well as my last day shooting for the whole season. Thanks for closing it out with a bang. I look forward to more Alaska missions with this newbie. I’m sure he feels the same.
Areches Beaufort, France
I hadn’t shot a jump all year and my first few days in France we moved heaven and earth to create this monster. It was cloudy, mostly flat light, so I didn’t have a super good idea of what we were working with during the build, but one thing is for certain is that I thought there’s no way it could be worth the effort. Boy was I wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever shoot a better jump than this, but I’ve probably said that before–more than once even–but I’ve had some of the best times of my life trying. I know it’s about the journey, but this day I can’t help but think was destination reached.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
First day, first run in Saas Fee. Right off the run at the top. These were heli-grade pow turns and we hadn’t even gotten our heart rates up, let alone broke a sweat. Switzerland might be the most expensive country on earth, but she’s worth every penny.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
I saw Keegan Valakia hit this jump in an old Burton movie and pretty much made up my mind that I really need to go to Saas Fee someday and shoot it. Incredibly this jump is off a cat track, in-bounds and the only hiking required is minimal after you land. Oh and if you hook it too far right off the jump, chances are you’ll end up in a bottomless hole never to be found. Just getting this angle got my eriely close to the abyss. I can’t imagine what Eric Jackson is seeing from his vantage. A couple of days later we came to this spot and Eric hit a section just out of the left side of the frame. On his final attempt he tumbled and disappeared and we thought he was a goner. Everyone’s heart stopped, but he popped his head up just before a group panic. He confirmed first hand just how deep and dark the hole is.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
I’d only been to Saas Fee once before this year, and it was in the summer, several years ago for a park shoot on the glacier. I couldn’t believe how incredible the terrain looked and it was always a goal to get back here in the winter. As luck would have it, the opprotunity came up very last minute while I was alreday in France finishing another shoot. A couple of train rides later and was getting a tour of the mountain from the unofficial mayor of this postcard-esque Swiss village, Fredi Kalbermatten. There is no better guide in the world for navigating the ice fields and crevices of this incredible mountain. Whenever we’d go through a sketchy section Fredi’s only warning would be to “stay inside my track”. You’d never know there was more than one rider on those slopes as I never veered a measurable unit outside outside his line.
Monte Rosa, Italy
With all due respect to all of my French, Swiss and Austrian friends, but Italy wins as the best country in Europe. Even if the snow sucks, you know you can always count on the best meal of your life everytime you pull up to the dinner table. Fortunately the snow did not suck and it made the pizza waiting at the bottom of this run even that much better. Pat Moore stretching thee ole back mid-air on the last hit of long day just a ‘short’ walk off the lift.
There’s been no shortage of internet accolades and agruments in recent times about who has the best method in a snowboarding. I’ve come across far less chatter about who’s got the best turn in the game. Without a doubt Blair Habenicht gets my nod. If there’s ever a vote, I’d be shocked if he didn’t win in a landslide.
We had been waiting for what seemed like weeks for a day of sunshine, unfortuantely the winds tried to play spoiler. Luckily our pilot was able to drop Blair and the crew on this peak before all hell broke loose. This was probably the most intense windstorm I’ve ever tried to shoot in. My eyes were watering, my hand was frozen from covering the lens until it was go time and communitcation with the riders up top was almost impossible. I had no idea where Blair was headed, I just tracked him the best I could and I remember seeing a faint image of him launching a frontside 3 through the tears. I had no idea if I’d gotten anything at all, and I was so cold and windblown I didn’t much care at that point.
First day, first run in Alaska. John won the rochambeau and was the lucky one who got to test the snow for the crew. He found stability and powder, but unfortuantely days like these were few and far between as the weather had us grouned for all but a few days in the weeks to follow.
I had just spent a week in Italy with Kazu, who I had never shot before this year. The Alps are a lot more dynamic than the mountains he’d been riding all season at home in Japan. He quickly destroyed every option in the resort we were staying and I could kinda tell that had lit his fire for Alaska. Upon arrival he wasted absolutely no time picking up where he’d left off a few weeks earlier.