WORDS | DONNY O’NEILL
A sense of community. It’s one of the best parts of being a skier. Knowing that there are like-minded people in towns across the world that share your same passion for winter-fed dances with gravity feeds the addiction. That camaraderie is magnified for those that live, work and play in those ski towns year-round.
I bore witness to this familial atmosphere firsthand during one of Jackson Hole’s most historic storm cycles this past February. In town for the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy and the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event, I spent a week among it—the people, the mountains, the bubble—skiing powder from sunup to sundown, befriending locals that make up the lifeblood of one of North America’s most storied ski towns and staying out much too late in celebration of deep powder snow.
Serendipitously, the Jackson Hole Exposed photo competition coincided with the storm cycle, and captured a fragmented moment amongst a seemingly never-ending winter as only photography can. Part of the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy, the contest challenged six professional photographers to capture the essence of backcountry ski culture in Jackson Hole over a three-day span. Each sharpshooter then had 24 hours to edit a five-minute slideshow that was presented to a packed audience at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. The first-place finisher, voted on by a panel of local judges, would take home $3,000.
Aaron Blatt, Elise Sterck, Sofia Jaramillo, Greg Von Doersten, Trevor Lyden and Jared Spieker all produced incredible work, aided in large part by the massive snowfall, but also by the hard work of their friends, the skiers and subjects of the slideshows. These dedicated skiers, some local, some visiting, rose before dawn and slept sparingly over three days, doing their part to make magic among the Tetons.
The efforts didn’t go unnoticed. What was palpably evident during the presentation of each slideshow was the investment the people in the crowd, the Jackson community, had in their fellow neighbors that appeared on the screen. It didn’t matter who it was—Dave Van Ham, Blaine Gallivan, Sam Schwartz, Amy David, Kara Munsey, Mark Carter or the countless other star skiers and riders—the crowd would erupt when one of their close friends or respected community members made an appearance. It was an event defined by love, passion and companionship, a definition it shares with Jackson’s ski community, you could say.
Aaron Blatt took home the grand prize, thanks to a presentation that featured incredible shots of Michelle Parker and Mark Carter, set to a soundtrack of an original song penned by Blatt and Parker. Ultimately, however, everyone in town won. And for someone like me, just passing through, I was just happy to be included and a part of something special, an incredible moment in time in a place held so close to so many hearts.