I recall stumbling upon a video on Vimeo earlier this winter titled simply "Late 2010," by a user named Andrew Whiteford. The link spread quickly around the office via iChat, and collective "oohs" and "ahhs" filled the air. The same thing happened months later when another video, "Mid Wintahhhh 2011," landed in our inboxes.
Each edit was filmed exclusively POV style, and each one featured Whiteford shredding at Jackson. So who is the man behind the camera? How did he orchestrate his rise to internet stardom? We checked in with him this week to find out.
Waldo Whiteford? P: Tristan Greszko
FS: Where are you from? Where do you currently reside?
AW: Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I spent several years in Vermont for college and I've been living in Jackson, Wyoming for close to 5 years now.
How long have you been skiing?
This winter in Jackson marked my twentieth ski season, having started at age 8 back in Connecticut.
Who are your current sponsors?
I'm happy to receive support from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Line Skis, Smith Optics, Dakine, Orage, Full Tilt, Avalon7, and GoPro.
Jackson saw some serious snow this season. Did you have to ski with a snorkel? Where did this season rank amongst the rest for you?
As of the beginning of June we've received over 720", which is amazing. There were plenty of days when a snorkel would've been practical, but it's hard to cheer on or call out your friends with a tube in your mouth. It's tough to rank seasons because they all have their highlights. In fact, my first year in Jackson was a stand out despite barely receiving 300". That said, this year is tough to beat. We started off skiing powder in autumn, I caught first tram and last tram of the season and had far more pow turns than firm ones.
A longtime skier, it wasn't until this winter that your name really came into the spotlight. How much of your success do you attribute to the videos you released online this winter, some of which received more than 50K views?
During college in Vermont I filmed a bit with Meathead Films, and here in JH with StormShow Studios and KGB Productions. I did some still shooting with my friend and photographer, Tristan Greszko, when I first moved to JH which helped me connect with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which in turn helped open other doors.
The reach of my GoPro videos has far exceeded my expectations and that has certainly helped me take a big step forward. Creating a strong following on the internet has helped spread my content further and faster than any other avenue I have been involved with. With each edit I'm trying to portray to others why skiing is such an important part of my life and I'm honored and stoked by how well they've been received.
You mentioned you have GoPro as a sponsor, is that a partnership that started prior to the release of your edits, or did they take notice of your mad-skills and get in touch with you?
I purchased my first GoPro HD at retail during their initial sale to the public. I filmed and taught myself about editing for about a year before I really started getting the hang of it. This season I finally contacted GoPro after my "Late 2010" video started making serious rounds online. With the release of their HD camera I felt really lucky when they responded to my inquiry. I'm extremely excited to be involved with them and looking forward to growing our partnership.
Everyone and their mother seems to be capturing their adventures these days on one or another POV camera. Do you shoot exclusively with a POV style camera? In your case, just the GoPro? Do you see any advantages to taking filming entirely into your own hands?
I've always wanted to share with my friends and family what it feels like for me to take a run or just be in the mountains. When I was 16 or so I duct taped a HI8 camcorder to the side of my helmet on a family vacation to Park City; upon reviewing that footage, I realized how easily a video can be filled with nauseating bounciness and a bunch of heavy breathing. Lucky for me as my skiing progressed, so did POV technology.
This winter I shot a lot with my GoPro, but I also tried to get out and film with others whenever possible. Many days were devoted to shooting photos and I had the opportunity to fly back east in March to film with Meathead Films for their 10th anniversary film. That trip was a blast and we scored pretty well up in the Chic Choc mountains of Quebec. The only downside was flying out of Jackson on the day the resort set it's record for most snowfall in 24 hours.
My overall goal is to produce something that will pull viewers in and hold their attention for more than ten seconds, which is a daunting task now that everyone has a camera. With online sports media becoming saturated, you have to stand out in one way or another. I aim for high quality shots in terrain that enhances the viewer's perspective, so the focus is on the skiing, not the fancy editing.
While I love filming with others, the biggest advantage to using my GoPro comes from having my own footage to review and post as I want. I study my helmet cam footage obsessively, checking out my technique and body positioning as well as the terrain I'm skiing. In addition, if I have some cool footage to share, I can get it online ASAP as opposed to waiting for people to see the footage at a premiere in the fall.
In the age of DIY, you've embraced some of the platforms that are at our disposal, and done it quite well. Is this something you'd like to continue doing, or do you aspire to shoot with some of the major film companies out there, and to be a part of a full-scale flick?
I'm going to continue to put out POV edits. I enjoy it, and it's also forced me to learn some new skills so I can properly edit footage into something that stands apart from everyone else. That said, I hope to have the opportunity to film with some of the production companies that have influenced me and the direction of my life has taken. Who doesn't dream of filming with the big guys like TGR and MSP? If I were able to fully support myself through skiing, I would love to do something like Pollard and the Nimbus Independent crew. Their webisodes are extremely well done, and inspiring.
Has your increased recognition opened any doors for you?
Definitely. Prior to my POV videos, I only had a couple of sponsors and was trying to make a name for myself through freeskiing competitions. Once I started making my videos, I found a new outlet to ski the way, and the lines I wanted and to get recognized for it. It has opened doors for me to make my connections with companies whose gear I am truly excited about. I'm also excited that my sponsors are receptive to my input. Line recently brought me to Mt. Hood to help with the R & D for their new big mountain skis. It was a fun, productive trip I was honored to be a part of.
We saw you huck some serious cliffs, and ski some gnarly chutes, things that might make a lesser man quiver in his boots. Is there anything you're afraid of?
Coming from the East Coast where obstacles and conditions define your skiing experience, the sheer size of terrain in Jackson was intimidating. Rollovers, exposure, and avalanches are not to be trifled with. I've taken some heavy hits and become more patient in waiting for the right conditions on serious lines. I try to study up on the terrain and conditions of anything I might ski so that I'm confident when I make my decision to hit it. Otherwise, the thought of trying to 450 onto a steep multi-kink urban rail makes me quiver in my boots.
Backflips or double-twister-spread?
Backflips. Unless it's April 1st, when I throw a spraffy approximately every 10 seconds. Come to think of it, I like to throw sprays daily, all season long.
Shred on a shitty day, or session the hot tub?
Shred for the morning, keeping yourself honest by skiing hard and honing your skills. That's also a good time to explore the terrain. In the afternoon, reward yourself with hot tub time.
Plans for next season?
I'm still working out the details, but I've got some project ideas for next winter that I'm very excited about. I'll be out shooting photos and video with others as much as possible. I will also continue to produce my own edits, and hopefully do a bit of traveling. Already looking forward to it.
How about the off-season? What do you do to keep yourself occupied?
I love mountain biking, so as soon as the snow melts my focus switches to that. My POV videos have opened up doors with bike sponsors as well, so expect to see some two wheel videos popping up. I find mountain biking to be an awesome crossover sport for keeping my skiing skills honed – staying fluid, looking ahead, finding ways to add style to the trail, etc.
My girlfriend and I will be traveling around extensively this summer racing our mountain bikes and discovering new places to ride. Back in Burlington, VT, I used to do a lot of cliff jumping into water… I'm still looking for good places around Jackson to get that fix. On top of playing outside, I'll be working on my website and schedule for next winter, as well as editing, doing trail work, and working full time.
What are three noteworthy things that our readers might not know about you?
I have attended and coached at Eliteam, a dryland ski camp in Vermont, for 14 years. Eliteam has been a huge influence in my life. I'm almost finished building my website, andrewwhiteford.net, and my feelings on this go back and forth, but I like summer more than winter [gasp].
Any shout outs?
My family and my girlfriend, Courtney. My wonderdog, Willie. My friends from Longmeadow and UVM. The UVM Ski and Snowboard Club, Meathead Films, EarlyUps.com, BackcountryRacks.com, all my sponsors, and all the people I look up to around Jackson for balancing their lives to spend a healthy amount of time outdoors. Oh, and everyone that "liked" and shared my videos online. Thanks!
"Mid Wintahhhh 2011" by Andrew Whiteford on Vimeo
"Late 2010" by Andrew Whiteford on Vimeo