A Women-Led Photo Workshop Steals the Show at the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy

A Women-Led Photo Workshop Steals the Show at the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy

Featured Image: Jenna Mahaffie | Skier: Lucy Sackbauer

On Saturday, February 24, we were really in the swing of things at the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy. On a trip of this caliber, days are jam-packed with educational seminars, on-snow clinics with a number of interesting focuses and some seriously fun skiing.

We started the day bright and early with an all-woman photo clinic by the Arc’teryx Senior Photographer, Angela Percival. Percival and Lucy Sackbauer (our ski model for the day) joined us the night prior for dinner, so we had context about their bright personalities and career backgrounds going into the day. I’ll say this: there’s something incredibly humanizing about understanding who know someone is before taking a photo of them. These people are brand superheroes, but our conversation that night proved that whether you’re an athlete, designer, writer or just another human on the street, we’re all looking for the same thing: truth, authenticity, and the innate curiosity of what comes next.

Jenna Mahaffie and Michelle Parker twinning.

Percival’s clinic was especially eye-opening–I’m a writer, but I’m also a graphic designer, and I work almost daily with brand photography. There’s a lot that goes into making a banger shot and a lot more that goes into being the person behind the photo. Percival has a long precedent with the brand, almost 20 years! She started with Arc’teryx when the marketing team was just six people. National Geographic called her one of the top 10 female adventure photographers, but her charisma and easygoing nature speak just as loud as her photos. Though her clinic could have probably lasted three days, she fit a ton into a span of seven hours, and I certainly learned more than I was expecting and came out with some pretty killer shots of Sackbauer.

Lucy Sackbauer and Julia Niles at the photo clinic. | PHOTO: Jenna Mahaffie

I think sometimes it’s nice to meet someone only to later learn of their insane successes–something I’ve been trying to implement this week as I immerse myself amongst some of the best skiers and creative minds in the biz. Though much of this specific clinic was photo work (read: not as much skiing), we still had guide Julia Niles by our side. Similarly to Percival and Sackbauer, Niles had a calming, easy presence that immediately made me feel like I was speaking to an old friend, especially as we chatted through our East Coast upbringings and time spent living in Jackson Hole. Later that night at dinner, fellow media participant Greta Close turned to me and said, “Did you know Julia [Niles] holds the first female ski descent of the Grand Teton?” I didn’t know, and I chuckled to myself at the metaphor actualized in that. This week has been all about accessible mountain education from the people who bring us outside and, moreover, the people who make us want to stay. Niles, Sackbauer, and Percival were exemplary of that in their humility and charm, and while I learned a ton, I also felt like I had just spent a really good day in the mountains with new friends.

PHOTO: Kyle Gibson

Once the seven-hour clinic concluded, we paid the ReBIRD area at Vendor Village a hello. ReBIRD is Arcteryx’s initiative to design for circularity, where consumers can get garments repaired, learn about how to take care of their gear and also upcycle used apparel. The area consists of three pillars: ReCare, ReGear and ReCut. ReCare informs consumers of how to take care of their gear, ReGear puts used gear back in action through refurbishing and upcycling, and ReCut utilizes rescued scrap material and textiles to make unique, different pieces. Dominique Showers, the program’s Vice President, spoke to the initiative: “ReBIRD represents our platform for circularity: keeping gear in play, out of landfill and reducing our climate impact. Our pop-up booth at Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy brings ReCARE services to our community, bringing their well-loved gear to our team for assessment, care and repair as needed. We also feature a curated assortment of our beloved used gear via our ReGEAR program, made available to shop in person.”

The ReBIRD booth at the Academy further exemplified Arc’teryx’s commitment to sustainability, authenticity and originality, something we had seen in droves just days prior when we toured the design center. Dominique explained further: “The in-person experience at the Backcountry Academy allowed guests to select from past-season styles and unique colourways, all expertly assessed and brought back to their best. We saw a huge response from the Whistler community, and we’re excited to bring elements of our ReBIRD platform into future academy experiences.” 

PHOTO: Kyle Gibson

We concluded the day with a celebration of the four films on the Arc’teryx film tour: “Unlikely Duo” starring Eric Carter and Tom Peiffer, “Darkhorse” starring Joe Lax and Joel Loverin, “Space Craft” starring Sam Kuch and Cole Richardson, and “Continuum” starring Michelle Parker, Elena hight, Spencer O’Brien, Lucy Sackbauer, Robin Van Gyn and Tatum Monod. And to round out an already great day, Arc’teryx brought the tunes and closed it out with a party.

Between skiing, photos, conversations, exploration, new friends, art and dancing, I think I lived my best life in a span of 24 hours. 

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